Community Blog Why Eser Wants to Hear Your Story

By Sara Gardner

Whenever I meet someone for coffee, whether personally or professionally, I always ask them, “What is your story?” While it may seem like a somewhat cliché opening line, akin to what a Networking 101 class might teach, I always ask this question, because, quite simply, I am always thinking about stories.

This constant focus on stories is readily apparent beyond my go-to get-to-know-you questions. Whether it’s as the Associate Director for Young Adult Programs at Hebrew College or in my time off from work, my mind is continually focusing on the stories I encounter. I can’t quite pinpoint why I feel so compelled to seek out the personal narratives of those I meet and those I see every day. It could be that, as the youngest sibling of three, it always made sense to see what my brothers had done before me (especially when it came to avoiding certain of their misadventures). As a Fulbright scholar researching Sephardic Jewish culinary history, I looked to food as a means of accessing the stories that were not as readily available in history books. As a professional in the Jewish communal world, I find that the variety of stories that make up the Greater Boston Jewish young adult community—and the individual people they represent—helps me find the answer to the eternal programming question of, “What should we learn next?”

As someone who strongly identifies with Jewish community, too, I find stories indispensable. From the cyclical retelling of stories that give shape to the Jewish year (a big shout-out to Passover here); to the larger-than-life biblical figures and rabbinic commentators that dot the written records of our communal history; to the personal narratives that personify the dramatic (and often traumatic) movements of displacement and diaspora—it seems to me, in many ways, that storytelling is deeply intertwined with what it means to be Jewish, both as individuals and as a community. Essentially, to me, to be Jewish is to tell and re-tell stories; and, more critically, to tell stories as if we were there ourselves—which, in my opinion, is a pretty radical and compelling practice of empathy.

Perhaps the truth is that my love for stories comes from my desire to understand all the different ways that we humans find and make meaning. To me, each person’s story (or stories) offers a framework to answer the seemingly endless array of questions that surface in life; in the absence of those answers, sometimes a story, too, reveals the questions you didn’t even know you needed to ask. As a 24-year-old with an almost overwhelming amount of questions of my own—many to which I am not remotely close to finding the answers—I find the models for being provided by others’ stories a source of real and necessary reassurance. Jewish stories, especially, offer me, as one of those elusive Jewish millennials, an entry point to a religion, an (occasional) ethnic identity and a community that sometimes feels hard to access and far away from my lived experience as a Reform-raised, assimilated American Jew.

It’s just that entry point that inspired the idea for Eser’s The Nosh: Jewish Stories Told Live at Mamaleh’s. The Nosh is dedicated to the sharing of the diverse stories of our Jewish community here in Boston. No matter your Jewish story, whether you’re Jewish, Jew-ish, Jew adjacent, a Jew by choice, thinking about converting; whether you’re in an interfaith relationship, single, happily married or happily divorced; a new parent, a graduate student, a recent graduate; whether you were raised Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox, Orthodox or nondenominational; whether you’re a Jew of color, active in the LGBTQ community; Mizrahi, Sephardic, Ashkenazi and/or Israeli; whether you attended Jewish day school, Hebrew school, participated in Hillel, did Eser or none of the above; whether you’re a born-and-bred Cantabrigian or a newly-minted Bostonian, we want to hear it.

This event isn’t simply a product of my fanaticism for stories, but rather, much more importantly, because I think we all need a reminder of just how many and how many different stories make up our vibrant millennial Boston Jewish community. I hope to see—and hear your story—there!

If you’re interested in joining us for The Nosh, you can find more information and buy your tickets here. Interested in sharing your story at the event? You can submit it to our Call for Stories here.

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