I moved to Utah to ski and was fortunate enough to have a job that supported me working remotely. With no existing contacts in Utah and working from home, it would be a painful, difficult chore to meet new people. I’m an extrovert, and I crave social outlets, but do you know how hard it is to bring yourself somewhere when everyone else already knows each other? When you feel like you don’t belong?
But the Jewish community never held that same terror for me. In fact, I’ve learned over and over throughout my life that the Jewish community is a safe space for outsiders. My first summer at Alonim sleepaway camp I was terrified of wanting to come home until I arrived and made to feel like a welcome part of the community. As a teenager, traveling around central Europe with my family, my grandparents dragged us to a Shabbat service in Poland. We don’t speak any Polish and this small town certainly didn’t have any English speakers in their Jewish community, but my grandfather pulled out his Yiddish from his youth and was able to make connections with much of the community. As a college student away at school, I spent my first ever High Holiday away from my family. Hillel was easy to access, friendly and made it no big deal to be away from my family and my comfort zone.
None of the above actually explains why I would seek out the Jewish community when I moved here. Those stories are all from my childhood. I’ve only gone to a synagogue as an adult when I’ve been obligated to join my family for High Holidays. I’ve never chosen to do anything Jewish as an adult. I’d rather meet ski friends. I was looking for women to date. I’d rather find drinking buddies. I was just so overwhelmed and scared of meeting anyone in a new city.
The reason I sought out Jewish connections in Utah was because of my family. Those same grandparents who took me to Poland, to see the concentration camps, taught me the value of the Jewish community. They made sure I understood how much the donated both their time and money to their synagogue and organizations. They hosted countless Shabbats and Seders in their home. Grandma and Grandpa showed our entire family what it meant for them to live a Jewish life and supported all of us grandchildren finding our own Jewish lifestyle.
So when I moved to Utah, and all I wanted to do was explore the outdoors and go to bars, one of the very first things I did was find Kol Ami. My entire life experience gave me the strength to walk up to a congregation full of strangers and say “here I am.” And I met young Jewish adult friends. I was welcomed and greeted at High Holiday services. I’ve dated Jewish women. I’ve attended Friday night Shabbat services as often as possible. I’ve made Jewish friends who I can share a culture with. I feel at home in the Utah Jewish community.
Why is it important for you to be active with the Jewish community?