Judaism a withering practice in Sacramento community

Photo by Brooke Purves

As a product of a mixed-religion union I celebrate every major Jewish holiday with my immediate family, my Jewish father and any goyim I can trick into eating chopped liver. Whenever I prepare a kosher meal I ask myself, “Why don’t I have any Jewish friends?” The answer is simply that there aren’t any Jews around.

When I returned to school this year I figured I could find a group to join, or friends I could make, who would be willing to share Seder with me. Unfortunately there are no campus clubs celebrating Jewish culture. I can create my own club, but I will need a faculty adviser and 10 prospective student members. I gulped, “Ten?” Are there 10 Jews on campus? How would I find them?

Upon Googling “Jew American River College,” results for Joan Rivers and Joan of Arc popped up, as well as a page about a menu the Oak Café prepared over three years ago, but nothing linking ARC to anything Jewish.

I suspect this absence of a Jewish community at ARC is just a symptom of a much larger happening. Over the years I’ve seen fewer Hanukkah items at the big-box stores, the kosher foods sections in the supermarket in my neighborhood has been dwindling, and the only deli that serves Jewish food isn’t even kosher.

It could be that Jews are not embracing their religious and cultural heritage as they have in the past, and thereby aren’t encouraging retailers to supply to their demands.  It may simply be that Jews are moving out of unincorporated Sacramento – an exodus, if you will.

I do have hope however, that there is a Jew out there, somewhere, looking for another Hebrew with whom to break challah.

Until then, I will celebrate Rosh Hashanah with my small family and the goyim. My father will dip the apples in honey and utter the prayers of his father, and of his father, my children will sneak sips of wine, and I will boil matzo balls and fry latkes.

Alone, I will solemnly eat my gefilte fish, and as I force that symbol of unification down my gullet, I will pray that next year I may be able to celebrate with more of my tribe.

The Purves family and their guests dig into Challah (traditional egg bread), honey for dipping apples and sweet potatoes in balsamic vinegar during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 6.

The Purves family and their guests dig into Challah (traditional egg bread), honey for dipping apples and sweet potatoes in balsamic vinegar during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 6.
















Glossary (If you had a Jewish friend, you wouldn’t need this.)

challah – a braided egg bread

chopped liver – exactly what it sounds like

gefilte fish – a ball of ground fish in an unidentified gelatinous substance

goyim – non-Jewish people

Hebrew – Jew

kosher – pertaining to Jewish dietary law

latkes – fried shredded-potato pancake

matzo balls – dumplings made of ground matzo crackers, usually served in soup

Rosh Hashanah – The first days of the 10-day long Jewish New Year

Seder – a religious meal celebrating the Hebrews’ exodus of Egypt.

The Tribe – The collection of those who identify as a Jew.



2 Comments on "Judaism a withering practice in Sacramento community"

  1. Copied below – my Facebook comment ‘liking’ Brooke Purves’ article on finding Jewish community. Thank you, Brooke!
    Finding public conversation about the breadth of spiritual/religious life in general seems to me to be rare, at least beyond the few, stereotypical examples aired over and over in the media. We all have to really search to find each other.
    “I second this emotion! Sustaining spiritual traditions and their religious rituals is a precious human activity, the honoring of one’s cultural inheritance. Thank you, Brooke Purves, for your insightful and heart-filled article. And, I truly hope you are already aware of Congregation Beth Shalom at 4746 El Camino Ave. (916) 485-4478. With their lively youth program, I be they can help you find Jewish community, even at ARC.
    Blessings from Rev. Molly Cate of the Sacramento Center for Spiritual Growth, a community which celebrates all paths to the One.”

  2. For anyone attending the 2014 Summerwords festival, please note that discussion of keynote speaker Rita Dove’s racism and anti-semitism has been censored both on the festival Facebook page and on YouTube. Get the full story here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SummerWords-at-ARC-2014-Protest/559309397520331. You might want to boycott the keynote address and Q&A with Dove, and let the organizers know how you feel about it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.