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!
Before January passes us by… have you taken some time for introspection?
If not — or if you could use a little more reflection in your life — I wanted to share one of my favorite things to do: Write letters of significance, and read them on days that add to their meaning.
Throughout the Jewish year, we read stories from our rich history that were written to us from ages ago and were intended to remind, guide, teach, and inspire us. Those messages provide a glimpse into the world that existed before there were cameras to record it and tell us about society at that time, what their values were, what they hoped for themselves, their children, and descendants, and what they were willing to die for—and it all had to be written down. So why not write down what matters to us, too?
There is a common activity that is done at the beginning of the school year for millions of students around the country…the infamous letter to yourself. This letter has many different iterations but essentially you write a letter to yourself which is intended to be seen by yourself at some point in the distant future (distance being relative, sometimes it’s intended for the end of the year). The point of this exercise, in addition to giving students a creative opportunity to practice their writing skills is to develop the introspective skills mixed with developing the construct of goal setting.
Although the initial writing part of this activity can be a lot of fun, what makes it powerful is when the students open their letters. More often than not, students forget that they wrote the letter , because that first week of school is so overwhelming and that small activity is no longer at the front of their minds. Inevitably, there is a great moment of silence in the class as the letters are being perused, followed by laughter, tears, and sharing.
I am telling you about this activity because this is one of those activities that can be transferred to the “family” context very easily. It can also bring a lot of Jewish intention with it—and no matter where you live, North or South, big city or small town, you can do this from wherever you are. Some of the letters on this list may be for events and milestones that have already happened in your own life; feel free to adjust the list accordingly, alter the dates, or add your own friends, teachers, and other important people in your life to whom you might want to compose a letter:
By no means is this an exhaustive list. I challenge you to write at least one letter a year, and use your Google calendar (or old-school paper calendar!) and set reminders to yourself to read or deliver each letter. In the meantime, keep them in a safe, safety deposit box, file folder or other safe space so they can be ready and waiting when their time for sharing arrives.