I’m not a balabusta, but I play one on the Internet.
Definition of Terms:
Balabusta is Yiddish for female boss of the home. It is a term of high praise. In my case, it is a state of being to which I aspire and only occasionally attain.
To me, a balabusta is a feminist and supporter of work inside or outside the home and is happiest when child-rearing is a team effort. I know balabustas who are university deans, pro-bono lawyers, Rebbetizins, Kindergarten teachers, geologists, stay-at-home parents, and every other possible title which may or may not be legitimized with an IRS W-2 form. The term is an old one, and I use it with a mixture of cheek and respect.
Bible Belt is a moveable geographic area denoting Protestantism as the majority culture. I say moveable because the Belt, and especially the Buckle, is the avowed residence of folks scattered here and there and everywhere. I can say, however, with as much authority as any of these scattered hordes, that Nashville could very well be THE Buckle of the Bible Belt. Drive down Hillsboro Road and count the steeples. Or open the Yellow Pages and note the numbers of entries under “Churches” (including the surprise subheading: “Jewish synagogues”).
Being Jewish in the Buckle of the Bible Belt is always an adventure. I take it for granted, having lived in Tennessee so long, but occasionally I am moved to ask a relative to remind me that things really are different down here. Different how? For example, when people come to my house to fix or install things, I might be asked what church I go to. I might be regaled with a born-again experience. I might be wished a blessed day (that’s bless-ed with two syllables). And every now and then I might get told, in a low and its-for-your-own-good-kind of voice, that I’m going to H-E-double-toothpicks. And then there might be weird variations like the time the cable guy sang Christmas carols at me (it was February) and then phoned me up later to tell me about, well, the reason for the season. Sigh. These things never, ever happen to mishpacha in Philly or Boston or New York.
Workers who Witness are but one feature of life here in the Buckle.
The biggest difference, though, is that being Jewish here means you have to work for it. You can’t take anything for granted. There is not a critical mass of Jews around here. We are a small bunch and we do our best at being a community. Resources are few. And aside from a well-funded missionary presence (you need to ask me which denomination?), we struggle.
If you need to know more about me, I admit I am agonizingly private. I’m a writer, a Jewish educator (Conservative); Master’s in Jewish Studies (Vanderbilt); former Program Director for Families with Young Children; keeper of an untidy, kosher kitchen; mom of two; and the monthly Lifestyles columnist for BookPage, America’s Book Review. Nashville is home.
I love DIY, but I especially love the “why” behind it: I explore the customs and traditions behind holiday projects. If I’m learning, I’m happy.
My spirituality comes from the natural world and my family. I do not consider myself Religious, per se. I am in this club for the tradition, ritual, history, and community. Was I born into this club? No. I write about that, too. I’m posting a whole passel of essays over at Gone Jewish. Do visit.
I’ve worked hard to go from zero to….whatever speed I’m going these days, and I love sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who is even vaguely interested. Making a Jewish life from scratch? Raising a Jewish kid? Dealing with your kid’s nonJewish school? Making holidays kid-friendly and fun? Been there and still doing that.