Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
This is the second in a series of four farewell posts from the ISJL’s 2013-2015 Education Fellows, who will all begin their new adventures this June.
In the 1950s, there was a radio soap called Our Gal Sunday which opened every episode with the question, “Can this girl from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?” Recently, a rabbi introduced me to his congregation by referring to these lines, asking if a young Jewish woman from Medfield, Massachusetts, has been able to find happiness and success as a Jewish educator in the South.
The answer is unequivocally yes.
First of all, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Rabbi Matt Dreffin, Rachel Stern, and my fellow Fellows in the ISJL Education Department. We do a lot of serious work, but it is always fun. I love the fast pace of our brainstorms, and the silliness that ensues when we try to come up with the “worst ever” way to do something as a way to help us arrive at an actually good idea. We play games, work on craft projects, blow bubbles, and pull pranks, all in the course of a legitimate work day.
What a great job.
Secondly, I have loved the adventure and travel that is the life of a Fellow. In the course of my two years with ISJL I have visited seven new states and at least 11 new cities. On my travels I have stood with the Vulcan overlooking Birmingham, Alabama, visited the Shaker Museum in Pleasant Hills, Kentucky, and toured the athletic complex at Texas A&M. I’ve met fascinating people, too. I met a Muslim diner-owner with Jewish children in Palestine, Texas. I’ve learned from star gardeners and sampled items from numerous gardens across our region. I even encountered another ex-pat from my hometown of Medfield, Massachusetts living in Alpharetta, Georgia. Spending time with these people and seeing how they have built communities across the South has been such a privilege.
Finally, I appreciate what I have learned from my time in the South. In my travels I have seen how Jews in small and sometimes under-resourced communities create meaningful Jewish experiences from their challenges. I have been thoroughly impressed by the sense of ownership Southern Jews have over their communities. People take personal responsibility for ensuring that programs are well-attended. Everyone steps up to the plate, and feels invested in the success of events and all aspects of Jewish communal life.
This Southern Jewish can-do attitude is what I want to take with me as I return to Boston and begin my studies at the Hebrew College Rabbinical School. I want to tell people about the vibrant Jewish community in the South. I would like to encourage people to emulate this sense of ownership and to take their Jewish identity a little less for granted.
I am so grateful for the time I have spent here in the South, the adventures I’ve had, the people who hosted me, and all the important new values I have come to appreciate.
Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me into their community. I’ve had a wonderful time here, and I promise to visit again soon!