A lot of people ask me about where I live and where I’m from, and honestly, that’s the most complicated question anyone can ask me. So I decided to give my answer here, so there’s no more confusion.
I was born in Chicago and grew up in West Rogers Park. I absolutely loved the small community I grew up with there. Now, it’s become a bit of a second New York, but my childhood memories will always be cherished.
My parents often spoke about making Aliyah, but I don’t think I ever fully believed them. I went off to seminary for my first year, and then decided to go back for my second year, as well (because I felt like I didn’t have a proper first year, you can read more about that here). But also because my parents were finally doing it. They were moving to Israel. I have to say, even though I was unsure how I felt about the whole thing at first, it was pretty awesome to be in seminary when my parents made the move. I was able to have my friends over for shabbat, and if I was ever in the mood for a good meal and some good company, I always had a place to go.
From there, I was considering making Aliyah with my folks, but I was too afraid of the language and culture barrier (my Hebrew is nothing to write home about), and the thought of going to college in a different country with a different language scared me. So I decided to go to a Jewish women’s college in Manhattan. Those years were probably some of the best of my life. Having independence, living in the city, dorming with some of my best friends in the world (even to this day); I was in bliss. From there I met Dovid, we moved to Lakewood, New Jersey (I know. So not our type) for four months, so I could finish my degree, and then we were off to Detroit. We lived there for a couple years (half of which in my in-laws’ guest house) and the other half in the house Dovid found a block away from my in-laws that was stuck in the 50’s. And I mean seriously stuck in the 50’s. Blue-carpet-in-the-kitchen-and-bathrooms stuck in the 50s. He did some major work to it for a year, and we finally moved in. I had Matis, and after suffering from some fun postpartum depression and not really getting out the house, I missed my parents. I needed to be with them. And while Dovid and I were on vacation in Houston Texas, we got a phone call that his restaurant, which he’d just spent the last few years remodeling, had had a fire. It was a big mess, and the insurance company informed us it was going to be a long process before we’d be able to get the restaurant up and running again. And so we picked up, moved to Israel for a year, and sold our house A) because we didn’t think we’d ever go back to Detroit and B) to fund our boujie stay in the Holy Land. First we stayed in my parent’s guest room for a bit. And soon after, we got an apartment close to my parents which was way out of our price range. I think we so needed to feel happy, the both of us, that we didn’t care how financially irresponsible it was. That was one of our first lessons in how money can’t buy happiness.
Dovid went to yeshiva for a bit, and I tried to get a job but had some difficulty, because of the language barrier. We wanted to move back to the states to get jobs, because we had run out of money. We were considering Chicago or Boca, but throughout that year in Israel, we had gone back to the states a few times for weddings, and realized how priceless the support of family was in raising a special needs child. We didn’t know he was special needs at the time, but we definitely knew we needed the support. And I was determined to start my own organizing business, which I knew I could be most successful in America.
So with our tails behind our legs, and our cheeks blushed with embarrassment, we moved back to Detroit. At first, we stayed at my in-laws’ guest house, and then moved to apartment number 2 for a year. I loved that apartment; it wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect for me. Dovid, however, was having a hard time with it. Especially, after coming from such a fancy place in Israel. He just needed space to be and do his thing, and not feel bad that Matis was jumping up and down disturbing the neighbors every 5 seconds. And I heard that. So we got a second house. It was a foreclosure and was in terrible shape, graffiti everywhere, and quite a few other gross things I’ll spare you the details of.
When we moved back to the states, Dovid continued working on his restaurant trying to get it back to its original glory. Our year at plain jane apartment number 2 was up, and so we decided it was probably not going to take long to get the house ready to move in. But life got in the way. Dave’s, Dovid’s restaurant, took over his life. He started working with Uber and Lyft to make some money, even though he didn’t have much time for that, because he was busy running his restaurant. But we were really feeling the heat, because, at the beginning, business owners don’t typically take a paycheck.
We didn’t feel like we had much of a choice, so we moved back into my in-laws’ guest house. We decided right before Pesach, that we needed our own space no matter the cost, and so we moved into apartment number 3. We thought we would be there for only a few months, but ended up staying there for another year. We might have stayed longer, but there were some issues with the apartment itself. And so we left, and back to my in-laws’ guest house we went.
We have been there for about 7 months now. Throughout that time, Dovid’s had a really rough go of things. He decided to sell his restaurant to his brother so he could focus on his health and the house. Somehow, he was still able to work on the house, continue working for Uber, Lyft, his father and study for a job he hopes to get in the future. I admire him a lot for that. Even though he was probably at his lowest point, he still managed to function, and do as much as he possibly could.
We hope to (AKA obsessively dream about) move into the house soon, but we truly don’t know when that will be, because A) we’re broke, so hiring others to do the work is out of the question, and B) Dovid’s doing all the work himself and trying to figure it out on the way. A huge part of the problem is all my fault. I wanted the house to look nice, so I insisted on doing lots of internal work (like removing walls and installing new structural beams), and Dovid’s main concern was and is safety, so he redid all the electrical and plumbing himself, along with the insulation. He also replaced all the floors with hardwood; so yes, when it’s done, it’ll be nice. But I so wish I would have gotten over myself, and done minimal work, so that we could have moved in a lot sooner.
This past week a lot of my brother and sister in laws and their kids (for those who don’t know, Dovid is one of 14) came to town and needed a place to stay. So my in-laws graciously offered to send us away to a hotel a few minutes away so they’d be able to have enough space to accommodate everyone and so that we could make a mini “staycation” out of it. So please excuse the lateness of this post, but we’ve been uprooted a bit (in the best possible way).
Though we truly have embraced the label “wandering Jews” and “homeless” over the course of the last few years, and really yearn for the feeling of stability and a home, we are so so grateful to my in laws, parents, and all our friends and family for everything they did and continue to do to support us for basically the entirety of our marriage. We would literally be living in a cardboard box without them. A lot of people want to know why we don’t just sell our house if we’re in such dire financial straits. Well, that’s complicated. And believe me, I’ve thought about it. A lot. But for many reasons, it isn’t in the cards right now. Also, Dovid and I know that Matis needs his own space. It’s really vital to help give him the best possible chance for a successful future. I will, Gd willing, post before and after pictures of the house as soon as it’s finished, and include you guys in the decorating (because I’m obsessed with that stuff). But we’re going to have to get super DIY and crafty, because we don’t exactly have a budget to use to decorate. Maybe, I’ll go with the oh-so-trendy minimalist style and hope people think it’s on purpose? Would love any and all input on decor ideas once I dedicate a post to that. Until next time,
The Wandering Jew