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Community Blog Impressing Grandmother Esther with Eser

By Sarah Gordon
Sarah with her grandmother

Sometimes you don’t realize you need something until it arrives in your life on its own. In my case, I didn’t realize I was missing spirituality and connection to my Judaism until my best friend Sara encouraged me to take a course she was coordinating called Eser.

I signed up for Eser for two main reasons: I wanted to support my friend in her new role at the Hebrew College, and I wanted to impress my grandmother. While the first is what any good friend wants, the second has a bit of a backstory.

I come from an interfaith family. My father is Jewish and my mother was raised Presbyterian. My paternal grandmother, Esther, is the epitome of a strong, spirited Jewish woman. She lives and breathes Judaism in her everyday life. Needless to say, Esther was not pleased when my father fell in love with a shiksa, but my mother converted to be able to marry him.

My three siblings and I were raised Jewish and all identify as such, yet we don’t have the same rooted faith and practice that some of our fully-Jewish cousins do. That’s why when I heard about Eser, my first thought was how much my Grandma would love and appreciate my taking it.

These two reasons — supporting a friend and sucking up to my grandmother — are pretty surface level. I expected to go to class, to learn a little bit, and to give my grandma weekly updates to earn granddaughter brownie points. But upon the first of my 10 classes, I knew instantly that Eser would offer me so much more than just that.

My group had deep, intimate, and sometimes-difficult conversations. Seeing as the program’s theme was “Ten Not-So-Small Questions,” these big topics really cracked open the heart of each person’s Judaism and how we identify with and practice our faith.

While we were all 20- and 30-year-old Jews living in the Boston area, we each had such different stories and ways of connecting to our Jewish roots. We learned so much from one another and from the texts that we read.

After class each week, I would call my grandma and tell her what we had learned and discussed that week. But I left the course with so much more than material for my phone call. I had a rejuvenated connection with my culture and faith, and a set of new friends I know I can always contact if I need to have a meaningful conversation.

I moved to Cincinnati shortly after Eser finished, and I already feel a twinge of sadness that I won’t be able to take the course again in the spring. Eser has inspired me to seek out resources to support my Jewish culture and faith in ways I hadn’t done before. I will always be thankful to my group-mates, my wonderful teacher Elisha Gechter and my dear friend Sara Gardner for convincing me to join in the first place.

Anyone who has the chance to take this course absolutely should. At the very least, you will leave with different perspectives on Judaism that will open your mind and your spirit.

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Sarah Gordon, who is originally from South Florida, graduated from Tufts University in 2016. After six wonderful years in Boston, she recently moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is working as a project coordinator for quality improvement education at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Sarah loves anything and everything that brings people together to work toward a greater good. She also is especially fond of dogs and ice cream.

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