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!
Two months ago, something unexpected happened: I found out that I had stage three cancer.
Since then, my life has been a whirlwind of doctors’ visits, tests, adjustments, and new realities. One of the decisions that I made early on is that I would fight this here, in Jackson, Mississippi. I’ve only lived here a year; Los Angeles is where I grew up, where my family lived—but as much as I wanted the comfort of family, I knew that it would be important for me not to stop living the life that I love. I wanted to stay here, and try to keep my life and routines as consistent as possible.
Overall, I am confident that the decision I made is the right one for me. It’s given me a unique perspective, on top of everything else. With this in mind I thought, I would share some observations that this Southern Jew has made.
Fighting cancer in the South as a Jew looks like:
- Endless amounts of Matzah Ball Soup
- Endless amounts of food, in general
- Endless hugs from friends
- Getting second, third, fourth, tenth, twentieth opinions – medical, and otherwise!
- Welcoming my folks to town before the surgery by going to New Orleans and eating beignets
- Coming home to a house free of dust, clean enough you could eat off the floor, and with all minor repairs miraculously handled (thanks, Mom and Pops)
- Reading books during recovery such as Dispatches from Pluto and The Most Southern Place on Earth
- Closing my eyes and listening to live blues at a local bar as my first “out of the house outing” with my friends
- Lots of catfish and shrimp ‘n’ grits (not kosher, but definitely very Southern)
- Realizing that I have a bigger family than I ever realized – because you don’t have to share the same blood to share a truly deep bond
- Prayers from friends that cover every faith I know of, all putting in a good word for my recovery
- Coworkers and an employer who go out of their way to help me, sit with me, and care more about my health than my tasks
- Being kicked out of my office because my boss wouldn’t stand for me coming back that much that soon
- Having to come up with a formally-assigned schedule, because so many people are offering support
- Watching my friends and family swerving all over the road in an effort to make my rides after surgery as smooth as possible despite more potholes in the streets of Jackson than there are craters on the moon
- Looking up at my family and rabbi as they hold hands around me and prayed the Mi Sheberach
- Sitting on the front porch of my house with my dog listening to and watching a storm as I heal at home
- Having an appreciation for living in a place where family, a slower paced life, kindness, and nature are cherished, and letting that guide my recovery
Yes, there are some things that are unique to the South and Mississippi, but there is a universality in cancer or any fight for life: Most of the time, we really do spend a lot of time looking for things that separate us—but when life throws something like this our way, we re-focus. I have joined a new community where individual differences matter but the larger focus is on love, hope, faith, and strength. Most things I could say about this have become cliché, so I will just express how incredibly blessed I am to have the support systems that I do here. This battle has been so much easier because of the army I have with me.
Life has yet again surprised me, but I intend to make the most out of it, and I hope that you do the same!
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