003: First Day of School – and I guess I go to the westside now
I jumped right into Jewish learning and rigorous, late-night googling, and found American Jewish University in Bel Air. After thinking on it for a couple of weeks and telling a few select friends, I finally registered for class. It would start July 22, and it would last 18 weeks. It’s an Introduction to Judaism course and for all kinds of learners, including Jews both lapsed and practicing.
I hopped in a Lyft and made a 45-minute trek through the Hollywood Hills to campus. And yes, nav takes you Mulholland at that time of day; the 101 is a hot mess. It was gorgeous with views down either side of the mountains; it was hot; I was sweaty and had downed a quick snack—I forgot to eat, in my anxiousness—and by the time the jerky driver got me there, I was carsick and had a stomachache.
Mulholland snakes the ridge of the mountains between the Hollywood sign and the westside of LA, a weird, rich, beautiful area that is alien to me. Both crossing the 405 and headed to a Jewish campus were wild, new, ventures.
I met a handsome lad who was registering us and selling us the course materials and was quickly put at ease. A few of us made our way downstairs on the hillside building and found the classroom. Then my journey started.
One of the first things we did was to introduce ourselves and why we were there, and Rabbi Adam Greenwald is fantastic. He’s funny, amiable, and so nurturing and knowledgable. I felt at ease. But then we broke out into small groups and had to talk about some of our reasons for being there in more detail, including some of our doubts. Oi.
That was not easy but everyone was so great and welcoming. The first night we looked at a Torah scroll, learned early Jewish history and about the early tales, and I learned some things that are pretty basic in Hebrew school that I didn’t know: Like about the existence of the Talmud, and that Hebrew reads right-to-left which I had entirely forgotten.
It was going to be a long, fun, difficult path, but I left that so excited, invigorated, and ready for. I realized I’d landed in the right place, the right class, at the right time, and that I wanted to become a part of this storied tribe – if they’ll have me.