Jewdaho: Lag B'omer

So it’s Lag B’Omer season, and the Lag B’Omer party is at my house this Friday. I live in one of Pocatello, Idaho’s “sweet spots” known as an urban-wildland interface (aka “Old Town”), so my back yard, technically, doesn’t end. Instead, it rolls up and around for miles and miles. It’s sick. I am so blessed, praise Gaia!

I’m not sure what people outside of Idaho care or think about Idaho. Especially Jewish people. Idaho isn’t really a hotbed of Jewish action—except for up North, but those neo-Nazi rednecks moved to Montana a long time ago. And the first Jewish state governor in the US was Moses Alexander, governor of Idaho from 1915-1919. But I didn’t learn all that stuff until I moved here for what was supposed to be one year, max. Then I was supposed to move on to somewhere real like Portland or Seattle or Somewhere in Colorado. Somewhere that people had actually heard of. That was almost 12 years ago, and I’m still here. And this Friday, the hotbed of Jewish action is going to be in my backyard—unless we get snowed out, which is a distinct possibility. In that case, it’s a garage party, because the keg of Lag Beer’Omer will be in the garage, courtesy of my Catholic (lapsed) husband John.

There has recently been a leadership transition at Temple Emanuel in Pocatello, Idaho. Carl is stepping down as Lay Rebbe after 15 years of dedicated service and Debra is stepping up. Naomi is also stepping into the role of board secretary. Passionate, dedicated, intelligent women at the top, oh my! Not that Temple Emanuel women haven’t always been at the top.

Joan, the matriarch, had half the town at her 90th birthday party this past year. “When in doubt, ask bubbe,” we say. Gail is a Jewish convert whose daughter lives in Israel, and Gail frequently hosts visitors traveling with “Soul Train,” an program in Israel dedicated to bringing Judaism to the hinterlands of the Diaspora. Judith and Mary are the wives (or ex-wives, or both) of Carl and board President John R, respectively. Judith and Mary are Not Jewish. And yet they are fundamental to the congregation core. Mary, by the way, is one of only two female ski-area managers in the country. Talk about a nontraditional occupation for women. Ski bunnies? In charge?

Naomi and her partner Amanda have recently been blessed with baby Miriam. Amanda is a Jewish convert and biology doc student, and Naomi is an attorney who gets to stay at home and play with baby. They have also raised chickens in their backyard. Neli and Marina are native Russians and Israelis; Neli the patient wife of Arthur, who insists visitors to his home down two shots of chilled vodka before the coats are off. My husband loves him.

There are several more active Temple Emanuel women whom I don’t know very well, and I hope to learn more about them in the future. We are professors, managers, mental health professionals; we come from the all corners of the country. We utilize the landscape of Southeast Idaho to be Jewish in a way that is unique, powerful, and authentic. When the women of Temple Emanuel get together, it is a party indeed.

–Nancy Goodman