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 this whirlwind fall-holiday season comes to a close with Simchat Torah, I’ve been thinking about the cyclical nature of the Jewish calendar. It’s a pretty heavy concept: despite the fact that we are reading the same text over and over again, we are at a new place in our lives each year.
A Hasidic rebbe once explained, “Do you see the little child playing in the garden? He is my grandson. He is just learning to walk. He stands up and then falls over. Finally he will learn how to stand up properly and how to walk without falling. In the meantime he cries and his parents come running. Eventually he will manage on his own!”
In this same vein, we are all in a new place in our lives every year. Never once are we looking at the text in the same way, or doing the same-old-rituals, because we change through our experiences.
When thinking about the idea of where we have come in a year, and what new perspectives we may bring to the holidays and Torah, I immediately think about the work that I have done with the blind community.
In the past year, I have worked with the blind community in Jackson, Mississippi, and truly found myself among friends here. I have long realized the importance of communities with shared experiences and perspectives, but I’m increasingly aware of the importance of sharing those perspectives with others outside of the community.
Ten years ago, I participated in Foundation for Fighting Blindness’ VisionWalk in Northern Virginia. At that time, my dad was visually impaired, but he still had some vision. He used a white cane to get around safely. I had no major vision problems at the time. It was exciting to do the walk because it was around a beautiful lake and we were with friends, but I did not fully understand what the point of the walk was.
This year, with my increased vision impairment and also my gradually increasing comfort identifying with the visually impaired community, I decided it was important to participate in another walk. VisionWalk raises money for research of retinal disorders.
I am one of six people in my immediate family impacted by a retinal disorder. Naturally, I wanted to make this into a family effort. Looking at dates for VisionWalk, I discovered that there was one near my family the Sunday after Rosh Hashanah. Perfect timing! I set up a team, and organized a group of family members to participate. Now, instead of just being along for the ride, I was in charge of what we did. I returned to an event from years ago, and realized how much there is to learn by participating in it.
As we begin reading the Torah again, beginning with creation, I have begun to participate in a cause close to my heart with new understanding.
During this time of returning to the past, what is something you have done in the past that you would like to return to with new eyes?
Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.