By Laura Weisskopf Bleill
My dad’s family history is fascinating. Among the many interesting relatives and connections he has is a cousin who married an Indian princess in New Mexico’s Acoma Pueblo, and became the only known Jewish Indian chief in American history.
Solomon Bibo found a tribe that accepted him, but never lost sight of the tribe from which he came.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Solomon Bibo lately, about a man who managed to be secure and proud of his Jewish identity in the Wild, Wild West.
OK, so I’m not about to compare my situation to Solomom Bibo. Champaign-Urbana has multiple thriving Jewish institutions and new babies (Mazel Tov) being born (two just this month!). We have a bounty of Passover food on the grocery shelves (any day now) and we don’t have to make our own gefilte fish (no carp in my bathtub, thank you).
I’m not exactly a pioneer. There have been Jews here for almost two centuries; I have a wonderful circle of Jewish friends here I love; and we have a rich Jewish life together. Anytime I get to be with my Jewish mom/female friends, it is incredibly energizing. (Boo to the snowstorm for forcing us to cancel our mom’s night out.)
But I have something Solomon Bibo didn’t have — the Internet. I have been able to extend my tribe wider than I could have ever imagined. I have met amazing Jewish women — mostly moms –through Twitter (you can find my personal Twitter at @chambanalaura), blogging, and other mediums. And many of them I’ve met “IRL” — in real life.
And if I’m perfectly honest about it, knowing that these women are out there helps immensely whenever I feel a twinge of isolation or need an outside opinion. They have enriched my life many times over.
Last week, many of my online Jewish mom friends had the opportunity to be together in one place at the same time, at the Blissdom Conference in Nashville. Last year when I went to Blissdom, I managed to find most (if not all) of the Jewish bloggers there. And afterwards, two of decided that we were determined to bring all of these women together this year. And we did.
We threw a party — with tons of food and wine — and called it our “Bliss Mitzvah.” Women from Seattle to Phoenix to Kansas City to Chicago to Austin to West Virginia to greater Washington to New York (OK, a lot of New Yorkers) gathered in one room and although some of them were complete strangers — it didn’t feel that way when we walked out the door.
Because connection, in this day and age, is rare. I’m of the opinion that the bigger my tribe, the better.
Have you found your tribe?
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, will be throwing her hat in the ring as a tribal chief soon. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at email@example.com.