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!
As Passover was approaching, I found out that I got the job I’d recently interviewed for—as an Education Fellow at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. I told my mom and a few friends right away, but decided that with the holiday at hand, I’d come up with a great plan of how to tell the rest of the family and make it public knowledge.
This is that story.
Let me set the scene for you. After a two-hour car ride to my uncle and aunt’s house, my family had all come together to celebrate the first night of Passover. All evening, I had been dodging questions from about 20 family members about my “next steps,” since college graduation was around the corner. If I wanted to pull off my “great plan,” I had to stand there for hours lying to them.
Every family has their traditions for holidays. Well, our family tradition is where you sit dictates what part you will be reading out of the Haggadah. Now I had the perfect plan for when it comes to my turn to read and how I’ll tell them. And just as planned, based on where I was seated, I was able to read the question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
And my answer was, “Tonight is different because Paige got a job, and she is moving to Mississippi next month.”
And I kid you not, every family member’s jaw dropped.
Once the shock dissipated, each reacted in their own way (precisely as my mother had predicted on the car ride up). One grandmother cried, one asked “are there even Jews in the South?” and my grandfather sat there with his mouth open. My cousins and aunt and uncle just asked, “What?!?”
(Note: I didn’t grow up in New York or Los Angeles. I grew up in Boca Raton, Florida. But while both geographically “south,” it’s different.)
No one congratulated me right away because of their state of shock, and it wasn’t until some friends at the table offered “hearty” congratulations that everybody began to congratulate me. It became the joke of the night, and the Seder continued to the next person, the Haggadah-reading resuming for the time being.
After the Seder, the questions changed drastically. Everyone wanted to know about the job, what I would be doing, and where I would be living, and at that point, I did not have many answers.
This job was a big deal for me, as it is the first time I am not living in my home. So this job has created the opportunity for me to figure out who I am and to grow as a human being, and I could not be more proud of myself for this big leap. Although my family did not show it at this moment, they are happy too, and when they talk to me, even though it has only been a few months, they can already hear how the ISJL has changed my life for the better.
So maybe the biggest surprise for my family wasn’t the way I announced that I was moving to Mississippi – but what a terrific move it was.