Name: Julia Blanter
Currently living in: New York City
Alma mater(s): Temple Emanuel in Andover [for preschool], Bancroft Elementary, Doherty Middle School, The Governor’s Academy (high school), Brandeis University (undergrad), New York Medical College, residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, Manhattan.
Job: I am a doctor. I’m currently completing training as an oncology fellow, so hopefully in about a year and a half I will have completed training. Then I will look for a job as an oncologist.
Hobbies: I’m an avid horseback rider, so I do that for fun. I have a horse, her name is Luna. She lives out in New Jersey and I see her mostly on the weekends, so that’s my primary hobby.
Favorite music: I like some classic rock, some folk music. Both my husband and I are big Talking Heads fans, so a few years ago, when David Byrne did his Broadway show/concert, we went to that. It was really cool.
Favorite movies: I’m a big ’80s movies person. I love “Ghostbusters,” I love “The Goonies,” basically any growing-up movie from the ’80s.
Favorite TV show: I watch way too much TV – that’s what I do to wind down after work. I grew up watching “Friends” in high school, it was a really big deal then. So now I watch that sometimes, or “Seinfeld.”
Favorite books: Mostly fiction – I read a lot. I’ll read a different book – now, usually once a month, because realistically I don’t read every day. I don’t know if I could name specifically one favorite, that’s too hard … [The last book I read,] I got into a weird phase where I read all the Judy Blume adult books … They were okay. I don’t know if I’d recommend them.
Favorite travel destination: I’m not really a beach person. We like hiking, so if we rent an Airbnb upstate, we like to do that. [We got married last December, and] recently, we went to Paris for our honeymoon, and that was the best.
Favorite Jewish practice: I love Rosh Hashanah. My whole family always gets together every year, it’s so festive and so much fun, especially as it’s such a stark difference to Yom Kippur. I love that. Last year we got to go to … [Rabbi Idan Irelander’s] new synagogue, Ahavat Olam, so that was really beautiful.
Favorite North Shore spot: I love going to Newburyport. I just love walking around there. Recently I went to Abraham’s Bagels with my little sister, and that was really fun.
Tell me about your Jewish background.
I grew up, I would say, in a very traditional household. We belonged to a Reform synagogue. … My parents were refugees from the Soviet Union, so they actually didn’t really grow up with much religion, and we were very much not kosher. When I graduated medical school and moved to New York … I wanted to find what my place was in the Jewish world, and realized that my future children’s upbringing is going to be very different from my own.
I grew up … with a lot of Eastern European traditions – we were in a Russian-speaking household, so it was very different. I wanted my children to get that same sense of the importance of Judaism that I was able to get just from being around my family. I actually joined a few groups like MJE, which is sort of a Manhattan Jewish group, and became kosher as an adult, on my own. And then eventually, I met my husband, who’s Conservative, and he belongs to a Conservative synagogue here. Now we keep a kosher home and we joined the Conservative synagogue together. So now I would say I’m more Conservative, but grew up definitely much more traditional and Reform.
How does your Russian identity impact you?
I grew up hearing a lot about my parents’ and my grandparents’ experience in the former Soviet Union as Jews. They experienced so much antisemitism and just such a different lifestyle, that somehow, I felt it emotionally as a little kid, and I felt so strongly about it. I felt very lucky to be able to live in a world where I can be openly Jewish. I think that definitely shaped how important my Judaism is to me, and I hope to be able to pass that on to [future] generations.
Can you tell me about being a doctor during the height of the pandemic?
That was very tough, and not something I ever expected … to be on the frontlines of. I went into medicine because that was what I was interested in, I wanted to help people. But I didn’t really think of it as being on the frontlines of the pandemic – I don’t know if anyone ever thought that that’s something that they would be a part of.
It happened very quickly, and definitely changed my training experience … we saw a lot of tragic situations, but also a lot of beautiful situations. Everybody came together and became this community that I didn’t even know we had around us, which was really nice.
How is your Jewish experience now different from what you grew up with?
It’s definitely very different. It’s been a learning experience for me. I’ve really had to brush up on my ability to read Hebrew because they don’t have the transliteration for the most part, and that has been difficult. I did not realize how much I relied on that. And some of the chants in the songs are different, so I’ve had to learn some things a little bit differently, but everybody’s very welcoming, and everybody has their own spectrum for how involved they want to be, which is, I felt, similar to how I grew up.
For me, [keeping kosher] was what I want my kids to have, and the home I want them to grow up in. I think that’s the main thing that I like about it. I grew up eating a lot of lobster [chuckles], so that’s been hard.
Do you miss the North Shore?
I miss it often. I think there’s always going to be a little bit of nostalgia there, because it’s where I grew up, and where I’m most familiar. Θ