Jathan Janove is an author, columnist, executive coach and organization consultant. During this difficult time, Jathan has been interviewing people about their lives, values and priorities.
BY JATHAN JANOVE
Jodi Fried is director of membership and programming at Kesser Israel. She also runs a business called Love.Adventure.Mom and recently launched The Empowered Jewish Mom Movement, a closed Facebook group for all interested Jewish moms. Jodi was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved with her family to Portland when she was in fourth grade.
How was the transition to Portland?
I grew up in a Sabbath-observant Jewish home in South Africa and attended an Orthodox day school. Well, my father was Sabbath observant and my mother was not. That was not uncommon in Johannesberg. After we moved to Portland, I attended Portland Jewish Academy. PJA was a great school and my experience there was wonderful, and yet as one of the only Orthodox kids, I felt self-conscious.
On my first day, a teacher gave me a kippah to wear. I was taken aback and said, “girls don’t wear these.” She said, “Here they do.” The next day I brought in a note from my parents and didn’t have to wear a kippah after that. Because of Sabbath observance, I missed out on some weekend social activities with fellow students.
Was there a turning point?
After PJA, I attended Wilson High School. I became friends with some non-Jewish students who were genuinely curious about my religious practices, which I appreciated.
In terms of feeling comfortable around non-Orthodox Jews, a key event was traveling to Israel with 25 other North American students. The trip was sponsored by an organization seeking to promote pluralism within Judaism. The idea was to create a unified Jewish world, where all Jews work with and value each other.
Instead of feeling defensive, I felt a real spiritual connection with Jews of all denominations, which is a feeling I hold to this day. There is a place for every Jew in our community. Am Yisroel Chai.
For what are you grateful?
I’m very grateful for my immediate and extended family: parents, siblings and grandparents, and to HaShem. I believe the world is a beautiful place.
What’s a treasured memory?
When I lived in South Africa, my grandparents hosted huge Pesach gatherings, up to 50 guests. The energy was remarkable. After the afikomen search, they always made sure every kid got a gift. When I was about 7, along with my cousins, I got a fake makeup set – lipstick, earrings the works. I absolutely loved it! I will cherish this memory forever.
If the current you could provide advice to a younger you, what would it be?
I would tell myself, “Don’t worry about what other people think of you. Be who you are and be comfortable with it.”
Given the choice of anyone, whom would you want as a dinner guest and what would you talk about?
I would love to have dinner with my mother-in-law Gayle. She died of breast cancer when my husband Charlie was only 3. I heard wonderful things about her, hardships she overcame, her pizzazz and spunk, and how much she loved her kids. I sometimes tear up when I look at a picture of her looking at Charlie and his brother with endearing warmth and affection.
I would also love to have dinner with Oprah Winfrey. I loved her show and the stories that were shared. I feel a connection to Oprah through her support of various causes in Africa, the continent of my birth. I would love to learn how she fosters connection and mentors others.
Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, what would you grab?
I would grab a bracelet that once belonged to my mother-in-law. It has a colorful image of a butterfly and flowers on it. It’s very precious to me.
What do you find spiritual in life?
Nature and the beautiful prayers in our liturgy.