Being Jewish in a Non-Jewish Community: My Jewish Friends

By: Seth Finkle

Recently, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my life here in Providence, living in DC, and my life growing up in Gloversville.

Gloversville was a tough place to grow up. I previously mentioned that I had a Bar Mitzvah class of two, had to constantly explain Jewish holidays, and at times felt like an outsider.

Once I was in college, I felt it was extremely important to be more active in Jewish life and activities and to become more involved in a Jewish community. At the University of Rhode Island, I joined and became active in Hillel, where I met some of my best friends. I was a founding member of the first Jewish a cappella group, Kol Shofar. I served on the Hillel student board and was president my junior year. Upon graduating, I felt inspired about being Jewish and looked forward to my new Jewishly involved life. I now am the godfather to one of my Hillel friends’ sons and was in two Jewish weddings. When I turned 30 earlier this year, my friends from Hillel all came to help me celebrate.

For the following five years or so after graduation, I lived in DC and worked in the theatre world including at Theatre J at the DCJCC, the professional theatre there. During my tenure there, I worked with some great Jewish artists, including Theodore Bikel, Judy Gold, Sandra Bernhard, Iris Bahr, the band Golem, and The Kinsey Sicks. It was a great and enjoyable experience, but I never felt I connected to the Jewish community in DC. I almost felt like I had taken a step back. I had a few Jewish friends, but something was missing. I never found a temple that I really liked, and I felt off and disconnected. My time in DC was not completely lacking in Jewish connections – I did go on a Birthright trip, which helped renew my excitement for Judaism, but I couldn’t help feeling that something was still missing.

Fast forward to today. I moved to Providence a few years back for a job and immediately found myself on the Board of Directors at URI Hillel. I consider it to be an honor and a privilege to serve on the board for the Jewish community that gave me so much. Through URI Hillel, I attended a Shabbat dinner for young professionals and met new people, some of whom are now my closest Jewish friends. Before I knew it, I was volunteering for the Jewish Alliance’s Israel @ 65 festival, was meeting other Jewish professionals, found a temple I truly liked, and YES, was making more friends! I now have a core group of JEWISH friends whom I love getting together with, and I feel connected and part of the Jewish community here. I also feel quite honored to be one of the original members of the first post-collegiate Jewish a cappella group in Rhode Island, Pastrami on RI. All of these have made me realize HOW lucky I am to be living here. I do feel more connected to the Jewish community here than any other place I have lived. I really cannot thank you all enough for helping me feel that way and am excited to continue this journey and see where it takes me!

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