I’ll never view my Shabbats the same ever again after the one Shabbat I spent in Postville, Iowa among orthodox Jews. An invitation was extended to the Jewish community of Iowa City through the Chabad Rabbi in Iowa City to take a restive weekend in Postville. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to realize a deeper Jewish experience and took a relaxing ride up to Postville with a few other members of our congregation that Friday.
On the trip up to Postville, I visited with an interesting mix of people. The driver, a scientist from the Southwest was a kindly conversationalist, fascinated by the stories of the three women in his car as we regaled one another with our “why we became Jewish” stories as the prairie became hillier and more tree lined the further north we traveled. I ravenously sifted through the two modestly sized boxes of books our driver brought just for me. Jews love books; I knew I was home indeed when I read this quote from Elie Wiesel: “I do not recall a Jewish home without a book on the table.”
We got to the home of the wonderful family we were to stay with, our driver left us off and went to the home of the family he stayed with every time he visited Postville which was often as he had a fascination with our orthodox brothers and sisters. He’d share many stories with us on the way up to Postville about his Jewish upbringing in the Southwest and how he came to Iowa. In my time in Iowa City, I met Jews that came from many corners of the United States and the world.
Our hosts were pleasant folks. The lady of the house was tiny and all of 23 with two children with bright blue eyes and tufts of blonde hair. She told the story of how her husband was from NYC and she was from California and was matched perfectly; they were an arranged marriage. She spoke of her love for Judaism, the importance of Shabbat as continuity to our faith and the importance of raising Jewish children, LOTS of Jewish children in memory of the six million who perished under the Nazi regime.
As evening drew closer, our hostess worked to complete Shabbat dinner. My friend Judy and I retired to our shared room to rest before the meal. What a lovely way to live, we marveled to one another. The woman of the house didn’t seem conflicted about her role as homemaker, from her wig (she can only reveal her hair to her husband when they’re in privacy), to the Yiddish spoken by her children to the candlesticks. She was content, and for that one lovely evening so was I.
In the next article we’ll attend Shabbat service in a house converted into a Jewish place of prayer in the upper Midwest. In the meantime, you can read more about the Postville, Iowa Jewish community by googling them.