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It’s easy to live a Jewish life and there are always events to attend in Upstate New York

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Sarah at the Western Wall. (Photo: supplied)

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Katie and Sarah are part of the Global Jewish Pen Pal Program. The group’s founder, Madison mentioned that TheJ.Ca was looking for stories about modern-day Jewish life around the world. Last week, Katie Keizer told of her life just outside of London. Her pen pal Sarah Krieger takes over this week, from Rochester, New York.

Hi, Shalom, I’m Sarah from Upstate New York (Rochester). I grew up in what I considered a small Jewish Community (as I would compare being from upstate to downstate of Westchester/NYC/Long Island), later realizing it wasn’t as small as it once seemed, once leaving the state.

Rochester is home to a thriving and growing Jewish community, just 350 miles from Manhattan and 150 miles from Toronto. There are parks, lakes, hiking trails, museums, and theatres – all just a short drive from home and there is never much traffic. The cost of living is also much better than some of the bigger nearby cities.

I was used to missing school picture day and exams for the High Holidays and being one of the about 30 Jewish students in my public high school grade of about 200 kids. There are about 8 different Jewish schools in my community from preschool, to day-school of various affiliations to yeshivas.

There are several synagogues/shuls for varying religious affiliations and customs for Ashkenazi, Sephardi, etc. Kosher food can be found at markets, we have a kosher bakery and butcher shop but sadly during the pandemic the kosher restaurant closed in the area and has pivoted to catering only.

We also have Jewish institutions like Chabad in multiple towns, at the colleges in the area as well as the JCC, a Jewish cemetery, mikvah, a Jewish newspaper, the Federation and, a Jewish senior living centre. So it is easy to live a Jewish life here and there are always events to attend from the Jewish book festival (which I am a volunteer at), YJP (Young Jewish Professional) events and, volunteer opportunities at the Jewish Senior Home (which I love the chance that I am able to connect with a different generation), to the film festival, to speaker events and holiday programming.

About every 10 years the Jewish Federation of Rochester puts out a survey called “Every Voice Counts” to be able to provide a list of resources to the local agencies, synagogues and organizations in the area and provide for the community, based on the results. This data is used to plan for the next 20-30 years.

Since the last study was published there are estimated, 19K Jews living in Monroe county or 10K Jewish Households; although “there may actually be a few hundred more or less” and the Jewish population has declined since the previous study was conducted.

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The summer of my junior year going into senior year, I went on a trip called Journey For Identity. Although I had participated in Jewish youth groups (reform NCSY and conservative USY), camps (JCC), and Hebrew schools (conservative), this was the first program that took me to the locations (Poland and Israel), I was learning about outside of the USA.

I was able to watch the sunrise above the Dead Sea, explore Tel Aviv’s outdoor markets, hike through 2,000-year-old water aqueducts, and was able to see and learn about Jewish life in Poland before, during, and after the Holocaust. Rochester’s sister city in Israel is Modi’in, after interviewing and being accepted to the program we (all teens) were paired up and experienced home hospitality in each other’s communities.

I loved seeing Jewish history come to life in other parts of the world, comparing how it is similar and different. I wrote my college essay about experiencing a concentration camp in Poland and how I was a witness to history, even more, determined to be a stronger link in the continuing chain heading for a visit to the “Promised Land”. I wanted to keep learning about Jewish history, the middle east, etc. that while in college I minored in Jewish Studies.

Holocaust Remembrance Flag Memorial installation that Sarah created with peers at Ithaca College. (Photo: supplied)

When I have travelled to other countries (Canada, India, England, Greece, Italy) I have tried to connect with the Jewish community there; by shopping at local Judaica stores, eating at kosher restaurants, visiting Jewish museums, and reading up about Jewish life in that location. I started a blog to be able to share my experience with others and give recommendations.

Through this pursuit, I connected with other bloggers and in a group saw Madison write about the Global Jewish Pen Pal Program she started. I loved talking to my Israeli friends I had made on my Journey for Identity trip and wanted to connect with others around the world; especially during the Pandemic.

My British pen-pal and I have enjoyed getting to know each other through video calls, snail-mail, and messaging each other online. It has been a nice reminder that we are more similar than we are different and share similar Jewish identities. I like seeing what daily Jewish life is like in other communities first hand rather than just reading or watching about it, and being able to ask as many questions as I want.

Sarah and her family at Temple Beth El, a conservative synagogue in Rochester, NY. (Photo: supplied)

Madison helped coordinate virtual travel opportunities to Bulgaria and Sydney Australia and it was so nice to be able to virtually travel and see what Jewish life is like in other parts of the world. We both (Katie, my pen-pal, and myself) also want to meet up after the pandemic and travel to some of the other communities we have learned about besides each others’.

As a pair, Katie and I also thought it would be nice as a Pen Pal Community to celebrate holidays together, as we aren’t able to celebrate with our community in person. We are so excited to virtually celebrate Purim and dress up. To sign up to be matched with a pen pal complete the form here (click here

To Celebrate Purim with your pen pal and the virtual Global Jewish Pen Pal community, RSVP here by February 21, 2021: https://forms.gle/7SaVFwnoAo5x4eaEA

Sarah Lauren Krieger was born and raised in Upstate NY and enjoys finding new places to explore, especially in nature. She is a proud alum and Cum Laude graduate of Ithaca College with a B.S. in Communication Management and Design, a concentration in Corporate Communication, and a minor in Jewish studies. She enjoys combining her passions of Jewish history through travel storytelling. She works with kids, giving back to communities, and is employed in marketing as a content creator.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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