Hometown: New Port Richey, Fla.
Currently living in: Salem
Alma maters: Hudson Elementary School, Gulf Middle School, Ridgewood High School, Gulf High School, Salem State University (bachelor’s degree, May 2023), Merrimack College (Master of Public Administration, expected fall 2025)
Job: I currently work in the mayor’s office in Salem. My title is constituent services and special projects assistant. Pretty much whenever residents of Salem (whether they live here or for business) need help getting connected to resources, to complain – pretty much whatever help they need from the mayor’s office, that’s kind of what I help to do.
Favorite food: I would have to say a chicken and rice quesadilla.
Favorite music: I like Lana del Ray, she’s my favorite.
Favorite movies: Anything Disney, whether it’s “Star Wars,” Marvel, Pixar, any of the old Disney stuff. I love Disney.
Favorite TV show: “The Office”
Favorite books: “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway
Favorite travel destination: Probably Los Angeles, that was the best trip I’ve had.
Favorite Jewish practice: I really like how Temple B’nai Abraham would do a Shabbat by the Sea over the summer. I like that because – obviously the pizza – but just being there by the water at Lynch Park and it really brings out a lot of people, a lot of kids as well. So it’s cool to see that diversity.
Favorite North Shore spot: I love the Salem Willows because there’s so much food there, it’s a really nice park, there are always new events there.
Tell me about your Jewish background. When did you get involved with Temple B’nai Abraham?
My grandmother, she’s Jewish. She adopted my mom from India. And at the time, my grandmother, she lived in Salem and she went to Temple Shalom here in Salem. So I grew up visiting my grandmother, and we would always go to Temple Shalom together in Salem. Maybe 10 years ago, Temple Shalom closed and merged with Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly. So really when I moved up here for college, I’d always felt a strong connection with my Jewish heritage. I just started to kind of engage more with going to services, and I really enjoy spending time with my grandmother.
Honestly, what really gave me hope was during the pandemic. My grandmother – this was pre-vaccine in 2020 – she contracted COVID. She’s a cancer survivor, so she had a lot of previous health issues, and she was in the hospital for two months. I called her every night, I prayed for her and I spoke with the rabbi a lot. I really think that had an impact, and I was really worried about losing her. So I think that really shocked me – the power that faith has. (His grandmother has since recovered from COVID, and is doing well today.)
Do you go to synagogue regularly?
Yes. I go to the Friday night Shabbats, I love the music. They have this gentleman named Aaron [Zev Katz], he does all the music on the guitar and that’s always super fun. And then I’ve started to go to the Saturday services because those are a little more traditional – they read from the Torah. I like how that’s a different crowd, it’s a little bit older, but it’s given me a lot of knowledge on the different stories in the Torah, all the different prayers.
Are you trying to get more involved in the Jewish community?
I am. I feel like I have a good understanding of the faith … I didn’t grow up going to Hebrew school and all that, so now that I have a little bit more time in my adult life, I’m trying to see what works best for me … I’m trying to get more involved in the community both inside and outside of the temple.
I’m Black, I’m a member of the LGBT community, so I feel like I’m part of all these marginalized groups, and I think it’s important to find that community, that space to be yourself … That’s honestly what I really like about our temple: it’s so open, and it’s such a diverse group of people … I really like how it’s such a welcoming space, and I’m just trying to find where I fit in.
Can you tell me about the poem you wrote for B’nai Abraham’s Pride Shabbat?
In college, I took a few creative writing courses, and I minored in English. So I wanted to write this poem to kind of explore the intersectionality of my own background being Jewish, Black, a member of the LGBT community, and I just wanted to highlight the shared experience … Jewish people have faced discrimination, they’ve been othered, and that’s kind of the same tactics we’re seeing being brought upon the trans community, the LGBT community as a whole. So I just wanted to hopefully get that message across that with allyship, we can really unite against this hatred that just seems to be stemming from everywhere.
How was it to share that with the community?
It was very powerful. It was in their Pride service, so it was a bigger crowd than usual. And it was just very heartwarming to see such a warm reception … I figured … that no one was against it, but it was just really reassuring to see that people were able to actually take the message out of it, and really think about what I had said. Θ
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