Titling my post with a highly inappropriate South Park reference . . . a lonely Jew on Christmas . . . something I never thought I’d do. In any case, it’s a pretty fitting description. I write a lot on this site about how we moved across the country a little over a year ago—mainly because it affected all aspects of my life.
I grew up in a Jewish household. We’re Reform Jews, so although I went to Hebrew school and had a Bat Mitzvah, we were pretty secular. We ate cheeseburgers and bacon (non-Kosher no-nos), attended many church weddings, and in the winter, we decorated our friends’ Christmas trees and put up blue and white Christmas (Hanukkah) lights. We also had a plastic Frosty the Snowman that my dad propped on the front lawn—right next to our light bulb-lit Menorah in the window. I also happen to love the Christmas season. The lights, the music, the smells . . . just the feeling in the air. Although our public schools were mostly Christian, my sister and I never felt like we were singled out in any situation. Because we were members of a synagogue my entire childhood, we had an incredible Jewish community—a Tribe, if you will—with whom we celebrated Hanukkah and the other religious holidays.
I met my Kentucky-born husband in college, and I was the first Jewish person he had ever met. I introduced him to the food, holidays . . . and more food, and he instantly felt at home. My Jewish community adopted him quickly, and we attended many a holiday and event with the “Jew Crew.”
Then . . . we moved to Nashville.
All of a sudden, the community I had around me for my whole upbringing was gone. Not just the specific people, but the sense of family and the feeling of understanding. Our son was born, and we didn’t have anywhere to do his traditional baby-naming ceremony. We didn’t have a synagogue to attend Rosh Hashana (the new year) or Yom Kippur (the holiest day of the year). And last December? We didn’t have my big, crazy, party-loving family around us to celebrate (Holden’s first) Hanukkah.
My parents and sister sent gifts for us, and we sent gifts back for them. We FaceTimed the lighting of the candles and Holden opening his presents, but it just wasn’t the same. I missed my mom’s latkes (potato pancakes) and my aunts brisket and listening to my sister sing the prayers for lighting the candles. Things I had taken for granted the last 28 years of my life were keenly missed. The most profound feeling for me, though, was the fact that I didn’t know any other Jews in the area celebrating as I was. (Side note: I know I’m not the ONLY Jew in Nashville. I even know that there’s an amazing synagogue in Brentwood. We just don’t know any others in our area.) It’s a funny thing to feel like you’re the absolutely the only person doing something. Especially something that you’ve done your whole life that feels like second nature to you.
The holiday season feels the same here in Nashville as it did growing up—if not even more profoundly so. The lights, the music, and the smell in the air—coupled with the fact that winter is actually a thing out here. Even before Thanksgiving, I could feel it creeping in. I’m excited for it. I’m ready for the season. This year we’ve become acquainted with the synagogue in Brentwood, and there’s a chance that my parents will be in town for Hanukkah. There will be events to attend and latkes to be made if my parents make it out here. I’m hoping that the “alone” feeling will subside, and I won’t feel so much like my animated friend Kyle* “…just a Jew… a lonely Jew… on Christmas.”
And yes, I did just link to South Park. You’re welcome.