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!
Here’s another in our periodic Something Special About the South series!
When I first moved to Jackson, Mississippi, I never thought it could be a place that I called home. I’m from Baltimore, which is a very different place: A much larger Jewish community, a much larger metropolitan area, different climate, different culture… I didn’t think Jackson could ever be home. In fact, I even saved my Jackson house address in Google Maps as ‘work’ to convince myself that this crazy thing I was doing was just temporary.
For the first year I was down here, I went home to Maryland every chance I got. I took off a week and a half for the High Holidays, homecoming, Christmas (which I do not even celebrate)… all in an effort to keep my grip on the life I left behind. But after awhile, things started to change. And then something strange happened when I went back to Baltimore for the Fourth of July.
I realized it was no longer home.
Sure, it was still the place that had my childhood bed and my childhood memories and even many of my college friends. Sure, it was comforting. Sure, it was great to see my parents. Sure, I borrowed my mom’s car like I was in high school. Sure, I packed my schedule to the brim with adventures.
But it wasn’t home.
It was a place I loved to visit. But it was no longer my bed. It was no longer my room. It was not my town to explore. It was a place I loved to visit… but Mississippi was home, and I missed it.
I have done a lot of things I never thought I would since moving to Mississippi. I came down here to be an ISJL Education Fellow, to serve Southern Jewish communities — but even in just one year, I’ve also done so much more. I became more independent. I “ran” my first 5k race. I learned to knit. I joined a book club. I’ve made great friends. All these little things have made this place feel like home. I have built a life up around myself that I will be sad to lose at the end of this fellowship… less than a year from now, when I head off from here to whatever comes next.
Mississippi is often poo-pooed by as a silly or backwards state, but we have a lot going on down here! There is so much more than you would ever expect, and there is a room to make a life for yourself here. We have concert halls, restaurants, theaters, and events, just like anywhere else. We also have uniquely Southern flavors, food-wise and activity wise. We have tight-knit Jewish communities, great museums, farmers markets, and so much more.
In short, there are so many wonderful things that make Mississippi a fine place to call home. Someplace else might be home for me someday, but when I’m no longer living here, I know I’ll miss Mississippi.