Well, the halfway point of this summer has come and gone. All 16 of us summer TI transplants have been living and working in Memphis for a month now, and we only have one month left ahead of us. I feel like I’ve already learned so much…but I also feel like I am a child just beginning (which I know I totally am). The TI Fellowship and its respective internships have opened both my eyes and horizons. Living in Midtown Memphis in an apartment with former strangers and working downtown at the coolest ad agency ever (Archer Malmo, please hire me when I graduate) – I feel like I am the background for a blockbuster rom-com movie.
But, this is real adult life – that is, until I have to return to my junior year in college. I love the Jewish community of Memphis; I always have. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama has made me shy and reluctant to openly discuss my Judaism. However, here, I love stating that I am with Temple Israel for the summer and immediately seeing the recognition wash over everyone’s face. It’s a big part of the community here, and it’s not something to hide behind.
I had been to Memphis a couple times before this summer with the youth group BBYO and visiting my friends from summer camp, and I never thought I would be living here without them. It seems as if all the Jewish people know all the other Jewish people, despite having multiple times the size of my community at home. It’s a welcoming feeling, literally being welcomed into stranger’s home solely because we are participating in this certain program this summer. I feel like I’ve played the game of Jewish Geography with everyone I’ve met, and I believe I have actually made the connection of a mutual friend with everyone I’ve met. For a city so big, and a Jewish population so much bigger than anything I’m used to, that is Birmingham AND Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I’ve never felt so close with everyone.
As one of the few Fellows from Memphis this year, the TI Fellowship has been an extraordinarily unique experience for me so far. I have already cultivated so many new friendships and learned so many new things, and it feels as though I am seeing the city I grew up in in an entirely new way. Whether it is trying something new in Memphis that even I have never done, such as the FedEx Hub tour or seeing the newly updated National Civil Rights Museum, or sharing some of my favorite places and restaurants in this city with the other Fellows, I am falling more in love with Memphis everyday.
One of the best parts of the Fellowship has also been watching my new friends develop the same love for the city of Memphis that was instilled in me growing up here. I also love how much stronger my connection to the Jewish community in Memphis has gotten so far this summer. Although I had always felt close to it growing up, since I moved away for college I had felt my connection weaken, and the Fellowship has strongly reaffirmed that connection and greatly increased my desire to stay in Memphis long term.
In the coming weeks, I look forward to continuing to grow in my love of this community and this city, and that it continues to grow for the other Fellows. This summer has been such an incredible experience, and it’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through the Fellowship. As we progress towards the end of the summer, I will value every moment here and in the Fellowship I have left, because it has been such a positive experience for me. I can’t wait for the experiences yet to come and for the opportunities I hope to find in Memphis.