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!
What makes a house a home? Transforming what was once just a brick and wood into a place for families to gather, friends to laugh, and lives to unfold takes a lot of work. For me, the idea of turning a house into a home is no longer just a cliché, but a reality.
My fiancé Erik and I just purchased our first home. We are putting down roots in our adopted home state of Mississippi. We have spent the last month painting, cleaning, and organizing. “Doing house stuff” took up every hour that we weren’t working or sleeping. I thought a lot about how I wanted it to look: bright colors, inviting layout, and lots of natural light. I thought about how I wanted it to feel: comfortable, warm, and happy. I have been pleased with the progress we’ve made working toward those goals. Last night we finally finished the last item on our current to-do list. Our home is everything I could have hoped for and more. Our blood, sweat, and tears paid off. The last thing on that to-do list was to hang up our mezuzah.
As Erik nailed it in and I said the blessing, I began to think: maybe we weren’t quite as finished as I thought we were. Sure, the furniture is in place and the art is hung up, but I realized that there is still a lot of work ahead of us to make sure our house is a Jewish home. We realized the mezuzah isn’t a finishing touch, but a starting point.
Ever since hanging the mezuzah, I have been thinking about what this means: What makes a house a Jewish home? The mezuzah was a great start, and I know that many Shabbat candles will be lit within, but there’s more. What Jewish values are important to me? How do I want them to be expressed through our physical home?
One of the aspects I love most about Judaism is the encouragement to question and discuss, and I want our home to host lively conversations. Hospitality is a Jewish (and Southern!) value, and I want anyone and everyone who enters to feel comfortable and welcomed. I hope that our home is a place where learning is constantly happening and that my curiosity and Erik’s curiosity about the world only grows deeper throughout our time there. I hope that in the house we explore causes that are important to us, and focus on ways to better the world and participate actively in tikkun olam. I hope that, for each other and for anyone who enters, we model engaged Jewish life and reflection, constantly bettering ourselves and learning from our experiences to become better people.
There are so many things that make a house a home, but I am looking forward to continuing to discover what makes a house a Jewish home. I’ve realized that, while the decorating is done, my home will never really be done – we will always be working to make it Jewish. I can’t wait to begin that journey! (Although I hope most of this home-building-work is less messy than painting.)
Pronounced: muh-ZOO-zuh (oo as in book), Origin: Hebrew, a small box placed on the right doorpost of Jewish homes. It contains a parchment scroll with verses from the Torah inscribed on it, including the Shema prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21).
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.