Bethany and friends on the bimah at Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville, Mississippi, during her Bat Mitzvah.

Mississippi is My Valentine

In honor of Valentine's Day, a love letter to the state I call home

When I was about to move to Mississippi for the first time, someone told me that maybe I would find my bashert in Jackson. “Bashert?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

They told me it meant soulmate—maybe I’d find my soulmate in Mississippi. I scoffed, thinking, “Yeah right, I’m just going to Mississippi for a two-year adventure. I’m not staying there for very long.” Little did I know…

Bashert is a Yiddish word that means destiny. It is used to refer to a person’s life partner—someone they are destined to meet. While my human bashert has remained elusive, I have come to realize that, really, Mississippi is my bashert.

It took me a while to realize that Mississippi is where I am meant to be. I left Mississippi for graduate school in Boston, and I did not know if I would come back. Although I knew I loved my time and my friends here, I had doubts about Mississippi being my forever home. But Mississippi stayed in my life. In class, I found myself telling a lot of stories about my experiences in Mississippi. I missed the food and the music and the easy way of life. I missed my friends and all the fun festivals we used to go to. I missed talking to strangers and knowing my neighbors. In the end, it wasn’t just the snow that drove me back south.

Leaving Mississippi is what helped me realize that Mississippi is my bashert. I love living in Mississippi because it is easy to be a part of a community here. Mississippi is my bashert because I became an adult here. I learned how to register my car and do my own taxes. I went to my first protest. I learned what it meant to be a part of the Jewish community. I had my Bat Mitzvah as an adult in Greenville, Mississippi. Most of all, Mississippi is my bashert because it has given me the space and opportunities to become the person I want to be.

I like running into people I know at the grocery store and when I’m out walking my dog. I like being a part of my temple’s sisterhood and bringing dessert to oneg. I like having people to call to help me move a piece of furniture.

I don’t have any family in Mississippi, but I have friends who feel like family. We celebrate holidays together and support each other like family. Even during COVID when we can’t gather like we used to, my Mississippi community members have still found ways to show up for each other. Whether it’s through swapping baked goods, meeting outside in the park, or going online to celebrate Jewish holidays, my community has remained connected.

The person who told me I would find my bashert in Mississippi was right. My bashert is Mississippi. My bashert is the person I have become here and the community I get to be a part of.

Happy Valentine’s Day from my bashert and me—may you find a place that you love as much as I love Mississippi.

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