Holidays Down South (With a Little Help from Technology)

Holidays are always prime family time. My whole family goes to my grandparents’ house for pretty much every holiday, and that’s very special. But one of my favorite parts of going home is catching up not only with family, but also with my friends from high school.

These days, there are fewer times when we are in the same state, and holidays is one of them – but post-college, I don’t even make it home every holiday. Last month, I didn’t get to go home to spend Thanksgiving. I was welcomed to another family’s Thanksgiving table with open arms, but I still missed my family – and what about spending time with friends?

But then, with a little help from technology, I made it work.

One of my high school friends, thinking I’d be in town,  invited me to a Food and Feminist Torah Study. At first I was really upset that I was not going to be in town. I love doing Torah studies with my buddies! But then I talked to my friend and we worked out that I could FaceTime into the Torah study. I wouldn’t be able to eat the food she prepared, but I would still get to enjoy breaking down the Torah portion with friends. And so it began.

The day before the Torah Study was going to happen my friend sent me the source sheet she created on Sefaria. Once everyone arrived, they called me in. It was a small group, only four of us, but a vocal group. Most of us knew each other in one way or another, but we went around and introduced ourselves and said what we are doing with life right now. I started off (being the only non-college student), “Hi, I’m Gabi, and I’m in Mississippi right now. I work at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life.” That was as far as I got. The one person I didn’t know already immediately pipped in, “Oh! Do you know Leah?”

It turns out that she is a teacher at the religious school in Williamsburg, VA, one of our Education partners!

We had a lengthy discussion about the ISJL and played some Jewish geography before anyone else got the chance to introduce themselves. It was that immediate connection and feeling of being at home that I had been longing for.

We continued to have a very lively, long study of the weekly Torah portion (Chayai Sarah) and how Rebecca is such a distinct matriarch compared to all the other women in the Torah. Before we knew it, three hours had flown by. Despite not being in the room physically, I was able to fully participate and feel as though I was a key part of the learning.

Through the use of technology I was able experience my favorite parts of being home for the holidays. I spent time with friends, studied some Torah, and enjoyed food with lovely company. No matter what the reason, I am able to connect to Jews and non-Jews alike all around the South and the rest of the world and bring people right into my living room no matter how far away they are. The possibilities are endless with the increase of communication options. We can find ways to connect to our Jewish community or even create our own from thousands of miles away, connecting people with Judaism and bringing Judaism to the people. My Southern Jewish community did not disappoint in keeping the holiday lively, food filled, and educational!

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