Growing up Jewish in Doylestown in the ‘90’s (especially at Chanukah) wasn’t always easy. If there were one or two other Jewish students in my class, that was a big deal! Each year during our holiday party in elementary school, my mom brought in Chanukah gelt for the class in addition to mini Russell Stover Santa Clauses. She wanted to make sure our holiday was represented while not leaving out my peers who celebrated Christmas. Still, it was hard as a child to not feel different and left out. I still recall every year after winter break my music teacher asking the class to go around and say what holiday we celebrated and our favorite gift. Every year when I said I celebrated Chanukah the teacher would ask the same question, “Just Chanukah?” Then there was the boy in third grade who did not understand how I could not celebrate Christmas and tried to convince me how I was missing out. Despite these challenges, even at a young age, I was proud to be Jewish and accepting of just celebrating Chanukah. In 5th grade, I met my first close Jewish friend. She suggested we share the story of Chanukah with our class during the holiday party and organize some Chanukah games. This was the first time that Chanukah seemed to be equally represented in school, and it was also the first time I had a friend to share my heritage with.
In 8th grade, I joined B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) where I met many Jewish peers. Most of my weekends during middle school and high school were spent attending chapter and regional programs and hanging out with BBYO friends. Aside from Hebrew school, this was the first time I was exposed to so many Jewish peers, and it felt good bonding with others who I could identify with on a different level. I quickly became involved in various roles in the organization at both the chapter and regional level.
When it was time to apply to college, I knew it was important to me to choose a school where there was a large Jewish population and an active Hillel. I chose Muhlenberg, which was 30% Jewish and had one of the most active Hillels in the area. I got involved with this organization right away, and during my senior year I served as the co-President.
While in college, I signed up for JDate. After many bad dates, I met my husband. Coincidently, he grew up in the Doylestown area as well and attended the same high school a couple of years before me. He also had similar experiences growing up Jewish in Doylestown. Despite this, we both decided when buying a house that it was important to raise our children in this beautiful town where both our families still live and which has of one of the best school districts in the state. At the same time, I have to admit that I’ve been hesitant about our children having the same experience growing up as a minority in Doylestown.
After graduating college and getting married but before having children, we found it difficult to find a formal outlet to connect to the Jewish community. While we maintained Jewish friendships and observed the holidays with family, I often felt like something was missing. When our son was born a year and a half ago, my sister-in-law told us about PJ Library, and we signed him up right away. However, I didn’t know much about jkidphilly until this past summer when I received an email about a position to be a Parent Ambassador in my own neighborhood. Right away, I was excited about this position and the opportunity to develop a Jewish community in Doylestown. In just a couple of months, I am amazed by and excited about how many Jewish families I have connected with in my hometown. I can’t wait to continue to grow this community and be able to provide my son and other local children with the opportunity to connect with Jewish peers and build friendships at a young age.
I’m excited to be involved in planning three jkidphilly Chanukah programs in Doylestown this year. I want to make sure our holiday is represented and our children don’t feel left out this holiday season.I hope you can join my family at one of these events!
Click here to explore this month’s many jkidphilly programs, including Dawn’s!