A Slightly Less-Jewish Fall Feeling

Fall is here, and so is that “Fall feeling”. I keep thinking of this insightful line by blogger OriginalTitle:

“. . . it is now the very early beginning of September and Halloween decorations, sweaters and pumpkin paraphernalia already decorate all venues of mass consumption meant to make you think you discovered the season including Halloween and Thanksgiving on your own when really it is fully by design.”

Totally get that.

I started work last week for the first time in 9 months. My 1st day happened to fall on September 11th, which made the day feel particularly meaningful and in a very solemn way. My new office is not far from the Empire State Building, and walking by there at 9AM on 9/11, just weeks after the shooting that happened at that very spot, was surreal.

the exexpat - empire state building

Empire State Building, up close and personal

The Jewish High Holidays always usher in that Fall feeling – but it’s very different here than it was in Israel, obviously but for a number of reasons:

(1) I love this permanent Get-Out-of-Jail-Free-Card I’ve given myself. I figure: I lived in Israel for 4 years, therefore I don’t need to go to synagogue on the High Holidays. I never went while I was living there – so why should I go now? I never considered myself religious but I feel like living in Israel expunges me from any guilt I would otherwise feel for not going to temple.

(2) That said, I sort of miss hearing Shana Tova a million times during the weeks leading up to the Jewish New Year. A storekeeper wished me A-Happy-And-A-Healthy-New-Year today as I thanked him for popping the lens back into my sunglasses, and I sincerely welcomed the sentiment. I felt like I hadn’t received it enough.

(3) In Israel, it’s very common for companies to give their employees some sort of gift in recognition of the holidays: wine, gift cards, days off. The holidays are acknowledged and celebrated at work, with a company toast or small party. In America, with its separation-of-church-and-state, this would never fly.

(4) Israel shuts down from the High Holidays through the end of Succot. Everyone leaves for vacation, banks close, it’s impossible to rent an apartment since brokers and owners are completely out of touch. The whole country seems to adapt this freedom from accountability for like 3 weeks. It’s a bit ridiculous at first, but this is actually pretty awesome.

My last employer in Israel, a web start-up in Tel Aviv, gave us a few extra days off so we had a straight 11 days out of the office, even though technically the holidays consist of Rosh Hashana (2 days), Yom Kippur (1 day) and Succot (a holiday shortly following the first two, but not as important and requiring only 1-3 days depending on your personal observance).

My new job isn’t giving us any of this time off as paid vacation. I’m not complaining; it’s just such a stark difference from what it was like last year. It feels a little less Jewish and more American.

But the fact that I’m thinking about that and not sure I’m entirely happy with it sort of reverses it. I think I just did an inception on myself. Hate that. But also love it. 🙂

5 thoughts on “A Slightly Less-Jewish Fall Feeling

  1. Here in israel, the holiday feeling is at it’s peak, everybody is crazed with cooking and shopping for gifts
    I have to text back to about 35 people , who sent shana tova , good health and happiness (and of course marriage and a child..)
    We miss you (especially me!)

    Next year you’ll come to Israel for the holiday

    Nina

  2. Fall means so many things to so many different people. Although I’m not Jewish, I’ve celebrated Rosh Hashanah with friends and I love the feeling of community as everyone gathers together to celebrate the new year. I loved your take on fall and your description of time spent in Israel v. time back in America. It’s fascinating and I can’t wait to hear more.

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