The Newest Jew in Jewdaho

This past Sunday, the Jewish community welcomed its newest member. Baby Miriam Aviva was born December 10 to Temple Emanuel members and Iowa natives Amanda and Naomi. Amanda, who converted to Judaism shortly before her commitment ceremony with Naomi, is a doctoral student in Biological Sciences at the local university. Naomi is an attorney specializing in immigration law, and is now looking forward to staying home with Miriam.

Both Naomi and Amanda have been very active in the Jewish community since moving to Pocatello for Amanda to attend graduate school. Naomi is the Temple Emanuel board secretary (or “Chief Information Officer” when we are feeling fancy), and facilitated the resurrection of Purim last spring by insisting on having a blow-out Purim carnival, even if we had to drag kids in from the street to participate. Naomi and Amanda have also created and facilitated a monthly Rosh Chodesh group for the women of Temple Emanuel in the past.

Last month Miriam’s baby shower brought out many of the women from Pocatello’s Jewish community. Joan, the matriarch at 90 years young. Debra, English faculty turned IT goddess. Gail, a Jewish convert from the east coast whose daughter currently lives in Israel. And Judith and Mary, non-Jewish wives of the congregation’s lay rabbi and board President, who are as strong a presence in the Temple Emanuel community as anyone.

Miriam’s baby naming and Friday’s Chanukkah party brought many people from the Pocatello community who had never previously been inside Temple Emanuel. It’s a brief tour. Foyer, classroom, coat rack, restroom, community room, kitchen. The crowning glory of Temple Emanuel is the chapel, draped on three sides with gorgeous stained glass works. When afternoon light hits that perfect spot, the air fills with color.

Temple Emanuel sits on a large lot in a residential neighborhood. Caught up in one of the hot civic issues, the synagogue has had to face the prospect of hillside development behind the synagogue property line. Pocatello sits in a valley and is surrounded on many sides by gorgeous low mountains, which developers look at and say “I wonder how many houses will fit there, especially if I take a big grader and flatten out those problematic hilly parts.” This is in direct opposition to the belief that “just because you technically have the ability to build a house on a 15-25% grade hillside, doesn’t mean you should.” I’ve spent many a night glaring at city council members and development attorneys trying to protect the tremendous natural and historical resources in this area—with some success, I might add.

The development issue, while currently dormant because the bubble crashed here just like everywhere else, has served to bring Temple Emanuel more into the neighborhood scene. I’m sure there will be continued solidarity with our neighbors to insure that safety, privacy, and quality-of-life is preserved.

This weekend, Temple Emanuel was flush with visitors and activity. The latkes disappeared so fast on Friday I barely got to taste Jim’s curry ones. And with the arrival of baby Miriam, Amanda and Naomi doubled the number of children congregants and brought everyone together to celebrate. It’s been a joyous and busy weekend in Jewdaho, indeed.

–Nancy Goodman

2 comments on “The Newest Jew in Jewdaho

  1. JoAnn on

    Rural Americana, richly textured by Jewish tradition! Though my maiden name of Feldman doesn’t prove my Jewish roots, I still believe (and unabashedly claim) I have ancestoral connections. Thanks for letting me participate vicariously. More!

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