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I went to Temple Emanu-El today. A temple that has produced a lot of leaders in San Diego. I expected something special because of the many stories I have heard of this synagogue on a hill in historically Jewish San Carlos, across the canyon from San Diego State University.
The outside is made of white stone like the buildings in Jerusalem. The entrance was bright and full of light. The wooden doors lead me to the simple temple inside. Wood paneled walls with a beautiful clerestory. The ark was two large glass doors on a stage like many reform temples. No fancy artwork was there. Simple decor such that the eyes would stay with the rabbi. The one beautiful accent was a Sanctuary lamp that looked like something that Chihuly would make.
Last month I was accepted to the prestigious joint executive MBA at Nortwestern University-Tel Aviv University. As soon as I was accepted to the program, which would give me a chance to live and learn in Israel I was tasked with finding a way to pay for the education. This means applying to scholarships. Some scholarships have interesting prompts like this one for American Zionist Movement.
Sam Litvin On Zionism
I was seven years old playing with my best friend when he said “I’m, Russian.” I replied “me too!” My mother corrected me: “You’re not Russian, you’re Jewish.” It was traumatic, it was a three-letter word that made me “other”. This was the first time I heard the word “Jewish” and I did not understand what it meant. I’ve never heard of a country called Judea or of the people who are Jewish. I looked like all the kids around me and we all had the same customs. I did not understand what it was about me that was Jewish. It took nearly 23 years from that moment to learn what it means to be Jewish and what it means to be a Zionist.
When my friend Eric came to San Diego, I took him to the SDSU Chabad. The large house across the street from University on Fraternity row was packed with over 100 college students. Long tables line the room with a a Torah ark at the front. The strange sight overwhelmed Eric as he saw students chanting and singing songs in Hebrew standing up on chairs with their arms. Not all students were Jewish as all are welcome, but everyone could feel the pride and love for the history and traditions.
Yiddish culture is at the root of Judaism and American culture, and YAAANA in San Diego is going to make sure we know it.
The invitation to a Yiddish Cafe sat in my email inbox unopened for over a week. Each week a new reminder arrived about ’s YAAANA (Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North America) Yiddish Cafe arrived taunting me. As a friend of Joana the organizer I couldn’t say no. As a Jew from Ukraine I shouldn’t say no. But as Sam, I really wanted to say no.