The Conspiracy

New Jew Seeks a Home for the Holidays

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Being a new Jew, independent of an observant family or significant other, can make holiday celebrations difficult. This is especially true as a college student. I’m a hundred miles from home–a place that’s already showing signs of impending Christmas decorations. So this Rosh Hashanah, just like the last, I’m left in New York City, scrambling to come up with a plan. For, you know, tonight.

I waited over a month after settling back into life at Fordham to make plans for the holidays, mostly because the idea of having nowhere to go was inherently stressful. It’s enough to be an only child of a single parent, as I am, but being the only somewhat observant Jew around makes holidays a downright chore. I’m Italian, I was raised Catholic–I’m used to Christmas dinners that last for hours with people who watched me grow up. The people that will never let me live down that time I carried toast in my purse to a bridal shower. (Hey, I was thirteen, okay?) To me, the idea of intruding by asking new friends to host me or visiting new synagogues with virtual strangers is not what holidays should be about.

Luckily, there are options. There are plenty of services available in cities across the country, some specially provided for students far from home during the holidays. Take a look at Jewcy’s Guide to Rosh Hashanah 2009 for a few ideas. Also, seek out your school’s Chabad or those of neighboring institutions. As Chabad’s Web site says, “At Chabad, every member of the Jewish people is part of our family, and all are welcomed, regardless of background or level of observance.”

And if you decide to celebrate the Holy Days in your own way, at home (or in your dorm), take a look at this article from Reclaiming Judaism about observing Yom Kippur at home. My Jewish Learning also offers suggestions on how to bring Rosh Hashanah ideals home from the synagogue.

So break out the apples and honey, it’s gonna be a good year no matter what. Shana tova!

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6 Older Responses to “New Jew Seeks a Home for the Holidays”

  1. Laurent M Liscia
    September 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm #

    Great resource – I went to Jewcy afterwards, as we would like to host people who need a “circle” to spend Yom Kippur with (in more of a Jewish Renewal style) in the SF Bay Area. Way to go, Ashley, I hope you found a good group.

  2. suzi clark
    September 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    Hello Ashley and Welcome,

    Being an “old” Jew, as opposed to a new one, can be very similar indeed. I share your feelings on infringing on others, and not going to Temple alone, etc. etc.. Being alone at any age, from any prospective, can be difficult at best.

    My parents are gone, and all those in my family I had grown up with, outside of an uncle and brother who live far far away, I am alone.
    Everyone else I have been close to, including a sweetheart, have passed away. Some way before their time. I have some very close and wonderful friends, and this is great. On Holidays though, I miss family, my Jews, and my closest friends who are very far away also.

    Being young, you will make the life you choose. Choose well young lady, be wise, and caring. Fortunately You have time to make your life what you desire. You chose a religion, which must have been difficult since it is so different from your upbringing. This indicates to me that you are strong minded and will seek out what you feel suits you and serves you best in life.

    I wish you well, and I hope you enjoy the first of many Rosh Hashanahs; you will know for the rest of your life. I wish you a sweet year, in every way possible, and next year will be filled with more “Jews.” You don’t have to rush, just know that you are loved by G-D, who apparently has caused his countenance to shine upon you.

    Stay well and happy, study well, and greet life as a new and exciting friend that you want to know. Take care of your mind and body, and your spirit will flourish. This New Year will be a great one for you, your soul will make music as your heart beats proudly. I believe you have a wonderfully prolific sense of discovery, which will guide you through a wonderful adventure of life.

    This letter is sent to you with affection,

    Suzi

  3. Nina
    September 21, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Is there any Jewish life at Fordham? Curious because my 12th grade son would love to go to school in NYC (he was mostly raised there) and NYU is just too hard to get into. Would he feel like a gefilte fish out of water at Fordham?

  4. Garth
    September 22, 2009 at 1:07 am #

    I’m looking to experience what it’s like to be a new Jew. Can anyone help me with this? Thanks in advance.

  5. Ashley Tedesco
    September 25, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    Thank you all!

    Nina: There is Jewish life at Fordham. It’s a small community, but it’s definitely present. Plus, our motto is “New York is My Campus, Fordham is My School.” Fordham students are definitely encouraged to utilize all the city has to offer, particularly at the Lincoln Center campus. So whatever we don’t have here is available at the Hillels at NYU and Columbia, among other places, and open to all Jewish students in the city. Regardless, there are definitely enough Jews here that he shouldn’t feel out of place.

    Garth: I recommend getting involved as much as possible. Look for JCCs in your area or introductory Judaism classes at your local synagogue. I recommend reading Choosing a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant. Becoming a Jew is also supposed to be a good book, I can’t recall the author at this moment.

    Shana tova, all, and have an easy fast.

  6. Flashmob
    December 3, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    you just found a new daily reader

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