Why I Got Emotional In The Kosher Aisle At Winn-Dixie

Why I Got Emotional In The Kosher Aisle At Winn-Dixie

“You can eat here” means “You belong here.”
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I leaned against my shopping cart, my thumbs tapping out a text to my roommates: “Winn-Dixie is a magical place and I never thought I’d be so happy to see ‘KOSHER’ in huge letters on a wall.”

I then went back to staring at the shelves under those big six letters on the wall. It really was a wall, or at least half of a wall and then another row of free-standing shelves across from it, and everything on those shelves had a little letter U in a circle or other assorted Hebrew letters and words on the package to indicate that yes, it was true, everything in this aisle was kosher food.

Kashrut is the dietary laws followed by Jewish people like me. Kosher food is food prepared according to kashrut. The laws include what animals we can and cannot eat (no seafood, only fish with scales, only certain kinds of birds, only land animals with split hooves and which chew their cud), what foods we can or cannot eat together (dairy products and meat products cannot be mixed), and how the food should be prepared (the animal must be killed in a certain way and have not been mistreated in life, and the utensils used to make the food cannot have come into contact with non-kosher food).

The above paragraph is a very basic look at kashrut. Does it seem like a lot of rules to you? To me, it seems simple. It doesn’t take much effort for me to follow kashrut. I’m used to it. The house I grew up in had separate utensils for milk and meat products, and bacon never entered our kitchen.

But it must seem like a lot of rules to most of the grocery stores I have been to in my life. I grew up in central Illinois, in a town with a relatively small Jewish population, and an even smaller number of Jews who regularly observed kashrut. For me, the kosher section of a grocery store was always a tiny part of an aisle, perhaps a yard long at the most. It would have a few jugs of grape juice, a couple jars of gefilte fish, and some boxes of matzah. My childhood was punctuated by trips up to Chicago with a large cooler in the back of the car, which we would load up with enough frozen kosher chicken and beef to last us for months, because there was nowhere closer to home that sold kosher meat.

The lack of kosher food in my hometown sent me a message throughout my childhood: “Your laws are too difficult for us. We won’t put in the effort to make sure you have access to the food you can eat. You cannot eat here.”

And there is a very short step between “you cannot eat here” and “you do not belong here.”

When I got to Orlando, at my parents’ suggestion, I called the local Jewish federation for advice about where I could find kosher food. I was put in touch with a director who lived near me, and she recommended that I go to a Winn-Dixie a few minutes from my apartment – a very convenient location. There I found those six huge letters on the wall, and an entire aisle of food that I knew I could eat without violating my religion’s laws. There I found a different message than the one the grocery stores of my childhood told me: “We know your laws are important to you. Here, we have found food that you can eat. You can eat here.

“You belong here.”

Cover Image Credit: Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."
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It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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7 Bible Verses For The Insanely Stressed Out College Student

Bible verses to bring peace of mind as finals rapidly approach.

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As finals quickly approach and the academic year begins to wind down, it's easy to find yourself becoming bogged down with stress. Despite your religious background, these verses can provide solace and peace to those most in need of it during this stressful time of year.

1. Matthew 6:34

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

2. Psalm 34:19

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from all."

3. John 16:33

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

4. Psalm 42:5a

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God."

5. Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

6. John 14:27

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

7. Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And in the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

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