Lighthouse beacon shining in the dark

Beacons for Finding your People: Connecting the Jewish Dots with Jewelry

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but it isn’t easy (or sometimes even safe) right now to be extremely loud about being Jewish in some parts of the world.  We naturally tend to be a pretty loud people (see here and here), so that can make things extra tough for us.  This isn’t our first rough patch and it likely won’t be our last, that’s why we are well prepared to deal with it.  We usually use humor, neuroses, and a few other tools to strengthen our sense of community in times like these.  

One of the tools that is used by many groups, not just us, are representative symbols or talismans that nod to belonging—to a sect, community, club, etc.  These symbols serve as beacons—sometimes known widely, sometimes only within the community itself—for finding “your people.” That’s exactly what a Yiddish word necklace can do.

I was recently at a really interesting event that called on women to push themselves further, to learn more about emergent technology, and to step into spaces that historically haven’t been their own. At the end of this great event, I got to chatting with a dynamic young woman. Early in the conversation I noticed her necklace: “Chutzpah.” I pointed and said, “Mamaleh?!” What happened next was an instant understanding and contextualization. We were each other’s people.  

She’s coming to shabbat dinner soon.

That’s what these beacons do; they are network magnets.

One of the things I love most about being Jewish is that, for better or worse, you’re born into an existing, long-standing community that you decide to participate in as you get older. Like a Jewish mother, we don’t ever leave each other alone. I mean this in both positive and literal (even after you die, you’re not alone til you’re in the ground) as well as in incredibly annoying ways (did you hear about so and so…). 

It feels like the world gets spread apart more and more every day in every way, creating distance and fear. But that’s why it’s heartening to find these beacons that lead us to people.

I hope that all communities can find theirs.

I’m glad Mamaleh added a new way for me to find fast friends.

Leah Smith (pronounced lay-uh) lives in NYC with her husband, two daughters, and their cat named Myrtle. She works in tech, loves hosting Shabbat dinners, and talks about camp...a lot. 

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash  

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