Jewish author imparts southern wisdom

Jewish author imparts southern wisdom

by Melissa FathStaff Writer

Jennifer Anne Moses’ forum, “Bagels and Grits,” held last Thursday, March 20, was a look into the challenges the Jewish community faces today. Moses, in addition to being a mother and a painter, is the author of two books, “Bagels and Grits: A Jew on the Bayou” and “Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom.”

Moses resides in Baton Rouge, La. She and her husband, Stewart, a graduate of Harvard law school, have three children and a dog named Marion.

In addition to her work as a writer and mother, Moses volunteers at St. Anthony’s Home, a hospice for AIDS patients. She also teaches Hebrew at Beth Shalom Synagogue, but it is through her work in St. Anthony’s home that she began to grow spiritually and find inspiration for her book, “Bagels and Grits.”

There, Moses begins to experience a rebirth of her faith as she adapted to Southern life. After moving to Louisiana, Moses found herself faced with intense Christianity–just about everyone was on intimate terms with Jesus, while the Jewish community was very sparse.

“I had spent my whole life on East Coast, a very different kind of culture,” Moses said.

Moses and her husband decided to move after her husband took a position as a law professor at Louisiana State University. Her work has appeared in national publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Commentary, Bon Apetit, Town and Country, Salon, Poets and Writers, The Jerusalem Report, Moment, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Parenting, Pushcart Prizes, Gettysburg Review, Antioch Review, Story and Ontario Review.

Moses’s move to Baton Rouge not only motivated her to study Hebrew and celebrate her Bat Mitzvah, but to write a her novel, “Bagels and Grits.” Not only is the novel a spiritual autobiography, it is also an account of a daughter’s struggle toward the end of her mother’s life, as she watches her mother’s chemotherapy process.

Along with Moses writing ability, she has also become quite skilled as a Hebraic Painter. Her paintings have been shown at Nicholls State University, Louisiana State University, Acadiana Center for the Arts, Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina, Inside Out Gallery at the Interact Center of Minneapolis, and Masur Museum of Art in Monroe, La.

Professor of English Mel Wilk has read Moses’ book. Moses was first recommended to him by James Wilcox at Louisiana State University. Wilk feels he can relate to some aspects of her novels portrayal of the South.

“She took what was best from the faithful Christians around her and made her own Jewish spirituality stronger,” Wilk said. “In a certain sense, I found living in the Midwest somewhat difficult to adjust to. In my years at Simpson, I’ve felt absolute comfort as a Jew.”

Even life in the Midwest can sometimes be somewhat challenging to those of the Jewish faith.

“Living around non-Jews increases your value of other faiths,” Wilk said.

David Wolf, associate professor of English, also attended Moses’ forum. He feels he can personally relate to the situation of having to adapt to an unfamiliar culture. Wolf, once a resident of New York, definitely found it a challenge for him to hold onto his Jewish identity in such a huge city with a wide mixture of beliefs.

“Exclusion exists everywhere,” Wolf said. “Because my mother converted and I didn’t, they didn’t consider me Jewish.”