From the Rabbis: Sabbatical Reflections – January 2022
After major disruptions to our travel plans at the beginning of January, we arrived in Paducah, KY on January 10 to begin Linda’s three-week artist residency at AIR Studio (https://airstudiopaducah.com). (For our previous dispatch from December, click here) We have a very comfortable efficiency apartment attached to a spacious, well-lit studio with several worktables where Linda is able to spread out the Torah panel she is working on along with various art pieces in progress, with plenty of room for supplies. Linda has never had such an expansive place to do her scribing and artwork and has been quite productive, in preparation for a solo art show in November 2022 at the Spring Street Gallery. You can see some photos of the space and her work here (our Instagram account, @breadandtorah.)
Paducah has a larger arts scene than one might expect of a small town, the result of an Artist Relocation Program launched in 2002 to revitalize the dilapidated historic neighborhood of Lower Town. At one point, the city had attracted over 40 artists and galleries to the area; subsequent economic downturns have shrunk this population, but the Lower Town area still has several artists and galleries within walking distance of our studio. Linda has very much enjoyed having opportunities to connect with local artists, sharing ideas about artistic methods and materials, while Jonathan has been enjoying sharing loaves of his freshly baked bread.
There is a Reform synagogue, Temple Israel, in Paducah and we were contacted by the president (who heard about us through the artists’ network) to invite us to attend services our first Friday here. It turns out to have been their first in-person service in almost two years, and the student rabbi’s first in-person visit to the congregation she has been serving remotely from HUC-JIR Cincinnati (our alma mater) since last Fall. There were about 15 people in attendance; knowing that there would be no oneg Jonathan baked and individually bagged a dozen mini-challot to distribute after the service. We returned again (with more mini-challot) last Shabbat.
On January 17, Martin Luther King Day, we participated in a march from a park to a MLK memorial not far from our house. There are many Civil War events noted by historical markers around Paducah, and it was jarring to find on our walk home a monument to a Confederate General in a park less than half a mile from the MLK memorial.
Paducah is on the Ohio River near the confluence of the Tennessee River, not far from the Mississippi River to the west and the Cumberland River to the east – a number of businesses and organizations are called “Four Rivers.” There is a Riverwalk and a Greenway Trail in Paducah, which we have explored, and we have taken long walks or gone hiking almost every day. In fact, hiking has been a rich part of our sabbatical experience. Since the middle of November, we have hiked in regional, state, municipal and national parks in California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Western New York, Ohio, and Kentucky, and in some beautiful state parks and recreation areas across the river from Paducah in southern Illinois.
We are not certain what our itinerary in February will be as we travel back to Saratoga and our return to work on the 25th. We’ll make our way to warmer weather for more hiking and exploring new places; we’ll also spend a bit more time with our granddaughters (now in NYC with their parents while our daughter is on sabbatical). We are grateful to have had the opportunity for all these adventures but will also be glad to come back to our cozy home for the remainder of the winter. We look forward to returning to our community and to celebrating Purim and Passover with you.
Rabbis Linda and Jonathan