A Stranger In My Homeland

"Taxation without representation" is the slogan of my birthplace. Yes, I was born in Washington, D.C. and you can't get much more American than that. I've lived in the United States for my entire life.

And yet, a part of me doesn't feel at home here anymore. A large part, in fact. It hasn't always been this way, but as I get older the feeling gets stronger and stronger.

When I started working at my previous job, it was my first real job outside of the Jewish community. I'd previously worked at a kosher restaurant, a Jewish bookstore, the Aleph Institute, and the local Kosher store. It was a given that I needed to be home in time for Shabbos and that I wasn't able to come to work on Jewish holidays. Working on Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and all the other Hallmark holidays our country takes advantage of to sell cars was a given. Of course I was going to work then.

Then I entered the "real world" where I followed the Federal holiday schedule and had to take PTO for the Jewish holidays. Say goodbye to taking a vacation ever. 15 PTO days get depleted pretty quickly when you have 3 day Chagim several times a year. Not to mention that while I'm out of the office for half of September and April my team keeps on working and I'm getting further and further behind in my work. Friday afternoon in the winter? It's a nightmare trying to get out of work in time to get home just in time for Shabbos to start and having to put in extra hours all week so that I can do that.

And speaking of Shabbos and Chagim, I've always said that here in America we have Shabbos and Chagim. Thank G-d the Jewish community here in Pittsburgh is large and thriving but I can only imagine what it's like in a city with a small community. We make Shabbos and the rest of the country goes on with life as usual. We miss all the great stuff at Saturday/Sunday garage sales. We have to get our cars serviced during the work week because Pennsylvania is stupid and doesn't allow car dealerships or mechanics to be open on Sundays. Basically, we carve out Shabbos into the hustle and bustle that is Saturday in the States.

In Israel, it is Shabbos. It is Chag. The whole country stops. The streets get clearer. Even the people who aren't celebrating the holiday don't look at you like you just landed from Mars when you walk by them holding a Lulav and Esrog. When you are in a "Halloween costume" in March, it's totally normal. When you put up a Sukkah and eat all your meals in it for a week (including the workdays!) it's just part of the background.

So, while I've grown up in the land of the free and the home of the brave, it just doesn't feel like home anymore. I can't wait to spend my first Shabbos as an Israeli citizen. I can't wait to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur among an entire nation celebrating along with me. I can't wait to live in a country where everyone knows how to pronounce and spell my name! I can't wait to come home!

These last 5 months have felt like a marathon. There's been a lot of work to do, and still a lot to go. I'm at mile marker 20. Just 6.2 to go! This is going to be the really hard part, but in the end it'll be totally worth it.

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