All posts by Courtenay Edelhart

Courtenay Edelhart is a journalist, Reform Jew and single mother by choice via adoption. She lives in Bakersfield, California, with two children, an obnoxious Chihuahua, and assorted dying houseplants.

Old Shul v New Shul

For both personal and professional reasons, I’ve moved a lot. Seven states all together, not counting the duplicates (California twice, three times in Illinois).

That’s also meant changing synagogues. I’ve got the routine down. Meet the rabbi. Get in good with whoever runs Sisterhood, because that’s who’s really in charge. Volunteer for something to meet some people. And pay dues at whatever level you can afford to make sure you’re on the mailing list. Continue reading Old Shul v New Shul

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Building Jewish Families

I teach Sunday school, and we just finished Parshat Vayera, the story of Abraham and Sarah. The Torah is filled with barren women: Sarah, Rachel, Hanna, Michal, the list goes on and on.

There is both solace and frustration in this persistent theme for students of Torah who are, themselves, coping with reproductive health issues. On the one hand, it is helpful to know that this is an ancient struggle, and even our greatest matriarchs were not immune. Yet so often, these women were able to pray their infertility away. Sadly, for many modern Jews, prayer alone won’t solve the problem.  Continue reading Building Jewish Families

A New Year, A New Friend

It was a Rosh Hashanah miracle. My family was settling into our seats before services when my 12-year-old daughter elbowed me.

“Mama! A Black lady!”

It’s not that I’m the only one at my Bakersfield, California, synagogue. There are a couple others in the congregation, but they don’t come often, and when they do, they don’t speak to me. So a new African-American woman was a source of excitement and trepidation. Continue reading A New Year, A New Friend

An Idyllic Childhood Lost, A Jewish Mother Powerless

The carefully crafted bubble I have created for my black Jewish children is bursting.

They spent the early years of their childhood at a Jewish preschool in Indianapolis that was surprisingly diverse. Between Jewish racial minorities and large numbers of non-Jewish families who enrolled for the highly regarded academics, there was no shortage of black and brown faces studying alongside my kids.

I loved Indianapolis, but I was a single mother living far from family, so seven years ago I moved to Bakersfield, California, to get closer to relatives on the west coast. The black and Jewish communities here are extremely small, and the cultural isolation has been stifling to a degree I hadn’t anticipated.  Continue reading An Idyllic Childhood Lost, A Jewish Mother Powerless