Singing Her Way South: A “California Hippie” Comes to Mississippi

The summer before my Bat Mitzvah, I was sitting with my family at our home in Oakland, California. I remember looking at my mom and saying, not so seriously, that I’d love to learn how to play guitar. She smiled and walked into her office, returning a few minutes later with a guitar.

I played around on it a little bit, unsure of what to do, but excited to be playing a musical instrument that I loved to listen to so much. I had been singing in my synagogue’s Rock and Roll Shabbat band with my older sister for a few years, and I was amazed by the guitarist and his skills. I wanted to be a Jewish rock star! Sure enough, the first gig I ever played with a guitar in my hand was at my Bat Mitzvah party: I led Havdallah.

Over the following years, I found opportunities to perform. I stayed with my synagogue’s band, expanding my repertoire to include song parodies performed during Purim. I brought my guitar to Camp Ramah in California and led campfire song sessions. I performed with a few friends at my 8th grade graduation. I joined the Jazz Ensemble in my high school. During my junior year, I started writing music because a friend dared me to write a song called “Shoot Me in the Face.” I recorded it, and it went on my first CD!

Songwriting became my outlet. Regardless of what kind of mood I was in, my guitar became my therapist, and my lyrics recorded the words of my diary. I wrote songs about my home in Oakland, songs about Jerusalem, songs about going to studying abroad and living in Jordan. During my studies in the Middle East, I wrote songs in both Arabic and Hebrew to fulfill Academic assignments. (Note: You’ll notice that my voice in those three songs sounds super different. To understand why, here’s some insight.) So of course, when I was graduating from college and found out that I got the job at the ISJL, and would be moving to Mississippi to become an Education Fellow… I had to write something.

I picked up my guitar, and wrote a song called “The Road to Jackson.”

I look forward to incorporating my love of music into my work as an ISJL Education Fellow, and sharing more music–Jewish and not–with all of you in the South and beyond.

The Road to Jackson

I am a California hippie
on the road to Mississippi
there isn’t too much traffic
only sky
I am a California baby
in a Mississippi daydream
my window’s down
on highway 55
radio blasting
til I’m in Jackson
the road to Jackson

I am a California story
seeking Mississippi glory
I’m different though my flag’s
red white and blue
I am a California dreamer
on a Mississippi steamer
I’ll roll on down the river
with my Jews

So I’ll just cruise
radio blasting
til I’m in Jackson
the road to Jackson

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