NYOTB: The New Yid on the Block

This is a guest post by NYOTB Jennifer Slate Grischkan.
Our Jewish forefather and foremother, Abraham and Sarah, were known to live in a tent with four open sides, so that they could easily welcome guests into their home. This simple act of outreach has set the standard for Jewish organizations for oh, the past 5000 years or so.
For the past five of those years, I lived in Columbus, Ohio, where I tried to channel my inner Sarah and serve as a sort of one-woman welcome wagon to the young Jewish community. Any time I was connected with a young Jewish family who was new in town, I would put together lists of resources (Jewish and otherwise) to help the family acclimate to Columbus and would invite them to join my family for dinner. I knew what it was like to be the new kid in town, and how isolating it could be when you didn’t know where the fun playgrounds were for your kids, where to buy a challah for Shabbat, or where to get a haircut.
And now, once again, I am that new kid.
My husband, 2.5 year-old son and I moved to the Twin Cities at the end of June for my husband’s career. As soon as I found out we were moving last winter, I jumped on facebook and starting networking like crazy.
I emailed sorority sisters who now live in Plymouth, a guy I knew from BBYO back in high school who is now married to a MN native, and friends of friends and family. I created a personalized Minneapolis map on Google in order to try to learn where essentials like Trader Joe’s, Costco and the library were before I even got here, just so I could hit the ground running. I contacted the Jewish Federation, Hadassah, a Jewish preschool, and a synagogue.
But all of my planning hasn’t been foolproof, of course. Minneapolis has been full of surprises, most of them delightful. In no particular order:
The weather
As I type this, I am sitting on my screened-in patio enjoying the fresh evening air. Low humidity, lots of bright sunny days – what a pleasure! Admittedly, I am a little nervous for my first Minnesota winter, but I keep reminding myself that I look better in turtlenecks than bikinis.
The roads
My sense of direction isn’t the best, but man, it doesn’t help that so many of the main highways and byways are referred to by numbers: 5,7,35, 73, 94, 100, 169, 394, 494. Within the suburbs there are even numbered streets, like 12th Avenue. Very confusing for me, but I’m slowly getting the hang out if it.
The people
The rumors are true – Minnesotans ARE nice! I wasn’t sure what Minnesota nice was, until our cable installer started chatting with us. And a waitress at dinner one night. And the nice elderly lady at the grocery store. People here have no problem talking to complete strangers in a friendly, interested, not who-is-this-weirdo way. It’s certainly helping me come out of my shell and meet people whom I may not have approached otherwise.
The Jewish community
I have heard from a few Minneapolisers (Minneapolisites? Twin Citizens?) that the Jewish community here is difficult to break into. I’ve been here for less than a month and I have to say I don’t feel that way at all. It definitely takes some work to put myself out there, and sometimes I get a little depressed when I walk into the preschool and no one says hello, but overall you have not disappointed, TC Jewfolk. The director of my son’s preschool has passed along my name and contact info to a number of other Jewish moms who have reached out to me, one old friend from college has already extended an invitation to join her family for the High Holidays, and the Hadassah ladies have been in touch.
Thanks to everyone who has welcomed me into their “tent!” Abraham and Sarah would be proud.
As the NYOTB, I’ll be writing about my experiences here in the Twin Cities and I would love to hear your suggestions! Let me know what sights to see, eateries to nosh at and highways to avoid. And if you’re new here too, shoot me a line – we can go get coffee together. As long as I can find it.
(Photo: Chokola)