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!
Where I grew up in Connecticut, “road trip” typically meant a trip to New York City or to Boston – both being about two hours away, without too much traffic. As a kid I remember preparing for these long journeys, gathering a pillow, blanket, books and my cassette player and splaying my feet out in the back seat. (Can you tell I was an only child?)
A few years later, when I made the drive back and forth from my Connecticut hometown to my college in Boston, I would pack up my car with water, snacks and load up my iPod with podcasts to get me through the long two hour drive.
When I became an ISJL Education Fellow, driving for hours and hours to get to a community, I realized how short all those earlier trips were, and how silly my preparations for such a small trip had been. Two or three hour drive? That’s nothing!
In fact, they’re so doable… they’ve become one of my favorite things to do in my adult life. Living in Mississippi has made me appreciate the art of a quick field trip, too– within this state alone, there are many great mini-adventures to be had. Craving sweet meat, fixed in true Southern style? Head to Hattiesburg to Leatha’s BBQ, 90 minutes away from Jackson. Feeling desperately landlocked and need to see open water? Head to the Gulf Coast, less than three hours south of Jackson. Are you a museum nerd and need to check out the latest and greatest sites? Check out the Grammy Museum that just opened in Cleveland, up in the Delta!
The art of a good road trip, which is all about taking the time to go to to a special or historical place to learn something new, is exactly what got me interested in experiential education. Now, I’m not just an avid road-tripper myself, I’m also happy that I get to create these experience for visitors to the state!
This month I coordinated and accompanied folks on quick trips to Natchez and Greenwood. And I’m pretty sure a road trip trip technically didn’t happen unless you’ve got a souvenir snapshot to prove you went – so here’s a shot from a trip to Temple B’nai Israel in Natchez with members of the ISJL board. While we may have spent more time driving than visiting, being in the historic temple allowed us to fully experience the beauty of the building and feel rich history of the Jewish community in Natchez. The ride home gave us time to unpack our inspired new ideas and present them to the larger group.
And here’s a photo from my visit to the Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, where I was doing a program in conjunction with a traveling exhibit Power of Children. I was lucky enough to spend the morning with a dynamic group of kids and adults talking about Jewish immigrants in Mississippi! It was a great group, and reminded me all the more why I love getting in the car for these short excursions. After all, what better reason to hit the road than to get to share stories with some fellow travelers who want to know about past journeys?
Have you been inspired to take a road trip within your own part of the world lately? If so, share your favorite spots in the comments below!
And if ever you want to take a Southern Jewish road trip, get in touch with me about the opportunity… it’s something I get pretty excited about, obviously.