Written by Talia Goldberg
“Welcome to Utah”, I said to my friends when they landed here from the east coast this week. I am always excited to have people visit who are from back home in Israel. Mainly, because I talk about Utah with such passion that people think I’m exaggerating when I talk about what a wonderful place this and how lucky I am to be here. I could probably write about the beauty of the area as I’ve traveled from Howell (?) to Blanding and from Bluff to Boulder. My friends wanted to see for themselves and on our first hike earlier in the week from Alta to Brighton they quickly came to understand that my words didn’t do justice to how beautiful this place is in real life.
My friends do what I do on the east coast. They are both shlichim (Israeli emissaries) and are working to connect their home communities to Israel, just like me. While they quickly understood how pretty it is here, they were very curious about what our community is like and what it is like to be Israeli in Utah – or at least Salt Lake and Park City. They asked because their experience has been mixed even though they are in a place where there are many Israelis, the ability to speak Hebrew frequently, and even find fun Israeli foods that can give them some comforts of home have been limited.
I explained to them I’m very comfortable being Jewish and Israeli in Utah. For me, I think it comes from the understanding that because we live in a small Jewish community, we have to make the decision to connect and to do things with friends (like baking challah on shabbat) or community that give us the feeling of being Jewish. My choice to do things and connect has resulted in people giving back and doing things for me. The best part is that I had no expectations of that happening. I think because I grew up in a family place with so many expectations and that being Jewish and the things that came with that were just naturally part of my life. I see now that living like this creates more expectations and maybe more guilt about whether I was doing “more” or “less” than I should. Experiencing being Jewish in Utah has allowed me to make more decisions and to be more thoughtful about my Judaism, which has been special for me. Thank you Utah! My friends are jealous.