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Welcome to Miriam's Advice Well

Monday, January 9, 2012
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In the proud tradition of A Bintel Brief, Ann Landers, Dear Prudence, and yentas everywhere, I am delighted to be joining the ranks of Jewish women giving advice. Actually, it's nothing new that I'm a Jewish woman giving advice, but now I have an official venue, a cute title and a regular format.

Official venue: The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2012, and one of the ways they're celebrating is with a new website (still in the works) and interactive content, and I am honored to be the Exponent's first blogger.

Cute title: Legend has it that the biblical Miriam was followed around in the desert by a bottomless well, and she provided the Israelites with water throughout their wanderings. This modern-day Miriam has a similarly unending capacity for providing for her people, but through pithy commentary and cheeky advice. Though, if you need a glass of water, feel free to ask.

Regular format: Use the "Dear Miriam" tab to send me your questions. For now, expect a posting every Monday and Thursday, though send questions anytime. I'm happy to weigh in on whatever comes my way, but some particular areas of expertise are dating, family, parenting young children, anything related to Jewish identity, and generally all things about being a 20- or 30-something in Philly. If I can't answer your question, I'll try to find someone who can.

A little background: I am extremely proud to be both a member of the Philadelphia young adult Jewish community and a professional working to make the community the best it can be. For my full-time job, I serve as director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia's Jewish Graduate Student Network. My husband, Marc, likes to say that I knew more people within a week of moving to Philadelphia than he knew after six years here. I'm originally from the tiny town of Fredonia, NY, and sometimes I still stare at the skyscrapers and marvel at how many Jews I know. I am a co-founder of Minyan Tikvah (a lay-led prayer group in Center City Philadelphia that meets once a month for traditional egalitarian Shabbat services), a founder and matchmaker for GradMatch.org, a children's book reviewer, a former elementary school teacher, a pretty decent cook and a mom to an amazing little baby girl.

Starting just over a year ago, I decided to blog about all my Shabbat meals for 2011. I wanted to chronicle my cooking adventures, my Shabbat community, my pregnancy and early motherhood, and I wanted to inspire people to explore Shabbat as a meaningful break from routine and a really great opportunity to eat a lot. As 2011 drew to a close, I was looking for a new project, and the Exponent was looking for bloggers, and since I give a lot of advice, solicited and otherwise, this was a perfect next step.

A prototypical question to get us started:

Dear Miriam,

I just moved to Philly, and I don't know anyone here. Even though there are all these Jewish groups, I don't want to show up to a happy hour alone. As if being alone all the time isn't bad enough, my mom calls every day to ask if I'm having fun and making friends. What should I do?
Signed,
Lonely in Philly

Dear Lonely,

There are really two issues here: how do you make friends in a new city, and how do you get your mom to back off. So, first of all, in order to meet people, you need to do exactly what you said in your letter: show up alone. Yes, the first ten minutes might be awkward, but you'll get yourself a drink, talk to the people next to you at the bar, and they'll either be alone, too, in which case you'll be each other's company, or they'll already have a group of friends and can introduce you. Either way, it's a win, and you won't be standing by yourself for long. After a few rounds of this kind of bravery, you'll start to recognize people when you go out, and you'll be the one making the introductions.

As for your mother, feel free to screen her calls until you feel like talking, or say hello and quickly follow up that you're in a bar with your new friends and can't hear her. She just wants you to be happy, and when you can really invest in the conversation, tell her that you'll keep her posted on your progress, but you don't have time to talk every day. Or just wait it out, because soon you'll have friends to call home about.

If you recognize yourself in the letter writer, check out any of the numerous Jewish young adult organizations in Philly, including the Grad Network, the Collaborative, Moishe House Philadelphia, and the Renaissance Group. If you recognize yourself in the mother, please stop calling. Your beloved child will be fine. I promise.

Be well,
Miriam

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