This photo of my college sweatshirt egg basket carries more than just a clutch of eggs. It carries the past, present and future...cherished stories, memories and teachings...and a big piece of my identity too.
Today is Rosh Hashanah. My children get the day off from school every year in observance of the Jewish New Year. As I was out collecting eggs with them this morning, I was remembering that 20+ years ago, when I was a wee freshmen in college, I learned for the first time what Rosh Hashanah was.
I did not grow up observing this day, or have any close personal experience with the Jewish faith, practices or culture. But then one day, there I was, in my first few weeks away at a university where 70% of my classmates were Jewish and where the entire campus observed the holiday in a way I did not understand, or could feel in any way a part of.
This white girl from a very small town in central Massachusetts who had a fledgling relationship with God, was 1000000% a fish out of water. And the truth is, that was 1000000% my goal. My decision to go to Brandeis, was one of the first times I intentionally chose a path that was against the “norm”, that would take me outside my comfort zone, and that would grow me in countless ways.
My friends and family, guidance counselor, coaches and teachers, and even myself, thought for sure I'd choose one of the small, rural, New England schools I applied to (Hamilton, Union, Colby, Bowdoin, Skidmore, Middlebury, Williams, etc). Schools that felt like home and looked a lot like home too.
Instead I chose the school in a Boston suburban city that had more traffic lights, than the number of cows back home. The school with 4-5 thousand students, vs the ones with 8 hundred-2 thousand. And the school had a culture, lifestyle and faith practice that was completely different from anything I had ever known.
It didn't make much sense at the time, and I was okay with that. I'm not doing now, what I went to school for then, and I'm okay with that too. In reality, so much of my now, when you look at it from the outside, looks more like my small town farm girl childhood life than what my days looked like at university.
But it's all that you can't see that I most attribute to my years at Brandeis. The heart, culture, beliefs and appreciation for diversity that I found during those years, is every part of who I am now. The learnings of hate, racism, segregation and anti-semitism during my studies of the Holocaust, current affairs and political science, broke me and formed in me a core of love, equality and mission to break down barriers, especially in the midst of hate and hurt. And all that I deeply cherish when finding connection and relationship with others, especially when we don't look, believe or live life the same, is something I fear I never would have found if I had followed the path that looked and lived like me.
So from this small town, christian, white girl...Happy Roshanah...shanah tovah um’tukah...may you have a good and sweet new year.