With only a few days left in Memphis, I have been taking some time to reflect on my summer and the experiences I’ve had here. Over the past ten weeks I have grown and learned so much from my internship. Working at Roots Memphis has taught me a lot about farming but also about the kind of work I hope to be doing in the future. I love that there is a concrete product from my days working on the farm. For example, I can easily point to the pounds of squash or tomatoes I harvested as what I have to show for my day’s work. I also like the flexibility that comes with working at Roots and the acceptance that some days it will be incredibly hot or stormy and farming just is not realistic. I love that I have been doing new things every day and learning as I go. This internship has made me hope to find jobs in the future with that kind of variety and excitement.
Having never been to Memphis before, I had no idea what to expect. However, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a new city and experiencing what Memphis has to offer. I think part of this does stem from my personality; I like to find interesting events and activities wherever I am and this summer was no different. I listened to interesting panels on reproductive health, attended free short film viewings, and spent countless nights at the Levitt Shell. The events and places I visited through the fellowship have also been incredible opportunities to see different aspects of the city I would otherwise not. Meeting with Mayor Strickland, Scott Morris from the Church Health Center, and hearing from Rabbi Greenstein at the National Civil Rights Museum have given me insider looks into major institutions of the city that make me appreciate it even more.
I think this summer I successfully met my craving for adventure as well as my desire to feel completely grounded and supported in a community. Over the course of the summer I ventured to Oxford, Mississippi, and just last weekend I took a trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas! Seeing a new part of the country was so fun for me. But coming back to Memphis I felt happy to be “home” and to see the places that have become so familiar to me over the past ten weeks. This experience has been great on every level and I am looking forward to an awesome last few days here!
As we begin to wrap up our time in the TI Fellowship it is not only time to reflect on our overall experience but what the future has in store for us as a group. This theme helped our group develop the discussion for our fellowship Shabbat. We each looked back at the highs and lows of our previous week before transitioning to our outlook on the future. In order to do this we discussed our dreams, not just professionally, but our personality and personal lives as well. As we dug deeper into the values driving those dreams we formed a more personal connection with each other. This was a great way to help us stay connected even though we will soon be going our separate ways.
Coming from New Jersey and not knowing many people in Memphis made me a little nervous, but through this program I developed amazing connections and friendships that helped me become involved in Memphis’s tight knit Jewish community. Not only does this city have a great Jewish community, the food is one of a kind.
A new place I discovered this week was Earnestine & Hazel’s; it is a unique dive bar that was originally a church, then a pharmacy, then a sundry store, an old jazz café and a brothel before it became a bar. Rumor has it this bar is haunted by the various unsettles spirits through its dynamic history. What the place is really famous for however is its soul burger; a delicious bun, patty, caramelized onions, cheese pickle and “soul sauce” make for a simple burger, with a beyond simple taste. Besides my trip to Earnestine & Hazel’s this week did not have much programming so it was mostly hanging out with the fellows.
Memphis is a big small town. Although it is a city rich with culture, it has the feel of a small town where it seems as though we all know one another and where people pitch in together to make their community better. I’ve always loved my home town, and I thought I knew everything that Memphis has to offer, but this summer’s TI Fellowship has enriched my appreciation for this great city and for our extraordinarily connected Jewish community in a variety of ways.
As I worked side by side with other Fellows on community service projects to lift up our city, my understanding of how tight the Jewish community here was confirmed and solidified. And I discovered that I didn’t know everything there is to know about this great city. The Metal Museum was a very interesting find for me. It reminded me that Memphis has come a long way, that we continue to “forge” ahead, and that there are many venues I still have yet to explore.
In addition, we’ve gotten to know other young Jews pursuing lives in Memphis beyond college. It’s inspiring to see what a vibrant community they’re building downtown. I’ve met new Dental School students, Grizzly interns, and many others who have chosen to make Memphis their home. Working at Expeditors International every day has taught me more about self-discipline, scheduling, and working in a team in a professional environment; so I have an idea of how all these new Memphis professionals are going to make Memphis their home and make it better at the same time.
While there were not many scheduled events this week, many of the fellows still chose to get together at Bar Louie and to explore other Memphis eating opportunities. Whether we are together at Shabbat, the Shell, on Beale, or Overton Square, our community experience has been very fulfilling.