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 like to think of myself as open-minded. I will try most things (that don’t involve throwing myself out of an airplane or food that is too strange), and I work hard to withhold judgment about people, things, or places. I know, however, that this isn’t always easy.
And in 2013 when I moved from the Boston area to Jackson, Mississippi…there was a LOT of judgement. When I got hired at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, I was finishing up my senior year at Brandeis University. I was ecstatic about my upcoming life change, and was slightly confused by the hand wringing of some of my friends.
“You’re moving to Mississippi?” they’d ask, dumbfounded. “That is terrifying!” they’d continue. “I would never move to Mississippi.”
I’d always press, asking if they’d ever actually been to Mississippi, and the answer was always a resounding, “No!” But their assertions that it was backwards, anti-Semitic, and more, all continued. I was frustrated, and determined to prove them all wrong.
I’ve now been in Mississippi for over two years, and I have a wonderful life here. I have had friends come to visit me, the same friends who shuddered at the thought, who have enjoyed their time and are eager to return. My parents have been here several times, and like it more and more. And this year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving for the first time ever, for my entire family… right here in Jackson.
Now, not just my parents, but all my siblings, aunts, uncle, and cousins will be making their way to Jackson, Mississippi — and for everyone but my parents, it will be their first time in here.
What if they judge the Deep South place where I’ve chosen to build my life? I was a little nervous – but thankfully, I think my family is pretty open-minded too. They have shown nothing but gratitude at my hosting, and excitement to experience a new place for this holiday. I can’t wait for them all to get here so I can show Jackson off, and give them a new experience that they might never have had – Thanksgiving in Mississippi. Plus, I’ll have the chance to show off my undeniably Southern and Jewish home (not to mention my Mississippi rescue pup).
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for open-mindedness, new experiences, and all the memories my family will make in Jackson. What are you thankful for this year?