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!
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m basically the number one expert on Southern Jewish road trips. See, I’ve logged a lot of miles traveling the South from Jewish community to Jewish community. More than 225,000 of them, as a matter of fact.
I’ve taken rabbis across Highway 49 to lead Shabbat services in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and also safely transported them to High Holiday gigs in Auburn, Alabama.
I’ve spent hours traversing tollways and one-way streets, making sure Education Fellows arrived on time for weekends of teaching, leading workshops and worship, zooming from place to place within whatever town they visited for a three-day stint.
I’ve transported boxes and boxes of curriculum.
I’ve been stuffed with musicians and musical instruments.
I’ve listened to more Debbie Friedman CDs than your average Dodge.
It’s all because for the better part of a decade, I was known affectionately as the ISJL VAN.
But now I’m retired. I’ve got a new rider taking my wheel now. She’s a nice lady in Jackson, Mississippi, who doesn’t plan on taking me on quite so many long road trips. It’s a nice retirement. I’m happy with my new rider, happy to be here in Jackson and let the ol’ chasse settle into the place I’ve long called home.
I still have my memories, though. Southern Jewish road trips are a unique and beautiful thing. The friendly folks who helped unload the Havdalah sets and Hebrew books from my trunk were always so welcoming. I’ll miss the mix CDs, the practicing-sermons-out-loud-while-driving, the occasional detours my old riders would take to see the B. B. King Museum, or Helen Keller’s childhood home, or an old synagogue that became a hardware store.
The South is full of stories, and the Jewish South is full of crossroads and connections. Putting people on the road to visit communities of all sizes and make sure every single one of them is remembered, inspired, and served– well, as I learned from my riders, that’s a real mitzvah. I feel special for having gotten to drive so many miles as the ISJL van.
Shalom, y’all– and n’siya tova (safe travels)!
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.