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!
Today’s post is co-written by two Jewish professionals, Amy (Steinberg) Goldberg and Ali Duhan, who share the love of one car and many Southern road trips.
In the summer of 2006, I drove my 1999 Honda CR-V to Jackson, Mississippi, to begin my first job. Being an Education Fellow at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life proved to be an awesome adventure—for me, and for my Honda.
During my time in Mississippi, that car provided transportation for me and also for other ISJL staff to Education Conferences and community visits, Mardi Gras celebrations and road trips home. After two years and many great stories, I packed my belongings into the CR-V and made the trip to Baltimore, Maryland to begin a graduate program.
The CR-V remained my lifeline as I drove from one end of the city to another to part time jobs, one of which was at religious school. At the religious school, my madricha (teaching assistant) was a nice girl named Ali, a high school student. Ali and I became close, sharing pieces of our lives as we spent Sundays imparting Jewish education to the next generation. We shared a lot of stories—and I told her many tales of my adventures about traveling through the South for the ISJL.
Ali graduated and went to college, and I finished graduate school and started a new job. We kept in touch, emailing and meeting for coffee. I occasionally reminded Ali about the Southern Jewish opportunity. During lunch the summer before Ali’s junior year we chatted about the future. I brought up the fellowship again and this time, Ali connected with ISJL. This May, Ali packed her belongings into the CR-V, took my advice, and drove south to Jackson, ready to start her new journey… in my old car.
As soon as I bought Amy’s car, I lovingly (and with Amy’s blessing) named her Mildred, and she very quickly became a big part of my life! Mildred has taken me to substitute teach at Hebrew School, and has sat with me through DC traffic. Early on Mildred accidentally drove the wrong way down a one-way street on a Jewish scavenger hunt around Baltimore (which Amy was leading – whoops!). But, the biggest journey Mildred and I have ever taken together was the 1,110 miles from my home in Baltimore to my new life in Jackson, Mississippi. As I drove down in the old CR-V, I felt like Amy really was with me every step of the way.
It is lucky for me that Amy bought such a good car, or my transition to the South would not have been the same. Mildred effortlessly fit all of my belongings and chugged along for two days to our new home. Since our arrival over a month ago, Amy has continued to be a big part of both of our lives – mine, and Mildred’s! I sent her a picture when I got my ISJL polo, I texted her my excitement when I got my new communities and I let her know when Mildred was sick and wouldn’t start.
Amy was definitely the catalyst for me and my Jewish journey – metaphorically, and literally. Without her I would not have realized my desire to work as a Jewish professional and I never would have found the ISJL… and without her, I wouldn’t have had the wheels to get down here! While we’ve had some bumps along the way (mainly a faulty distributor), I am forever grateful for the car and the connection we share.
It’s been a great ride.