I have always been confused about ‘what is home’. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but left when I was 17 to go off to college in St. Louis. From there, I lived in Israel for one year, moved to Cincinnati for rabbinic school, took my first job in Washington DC, then lived in NYC, NJ and now Long Island.
I returned to the Chicago area this past weekend for a family celebration. The minute I entered the synagogue where I grew up, and was an active member, no less than a dozen people greeted me with ‘welcome home’. Though I haven’t lived there for nearly 30 years, that community will always be home. I have incredibly fond memories from growing up there; that is the place that formed me into who I am today. It is filled with people with whom I have long and deep relationships. There is a level of comfort and familiarity. There are beautiful triggers that bring back impactful moments. I used to think my Chicago ‘home’ was the house my parents currently live in, but as my parents’ house is on the market, I realize that it is not the house itself, but rather the community that was my first home.
My second home is the one I dwell in now on Long Island. It is the home where I am raising our children, where we have created community, memories, friendships and impactful experiences. It is the home that is open to all: a safe and secure place for our immediate family, extended family, neighbors, community and friends. I hope and pray that, like my home in Chicago, this will always be home for my children, even if they no longer live here.
And of course, my third home is Israel. Every time I return to Israel, as I walk through Ben Gurion Airport, I see the beautiful sign that says ‘Welcome to Israel’, and I know that I have returned to a very different and yet incredibly powerful home. When my dear Israeli friends pick me up from the airport, the first words out of their mouths is always ‘welcome home’. The first few times I heard it, it seemed strange; but now, I wait for it, and it brings me comfort. I always knew intellectually that Israel was home, but after dozens of trips there over the years, there is no question that it finally feels like home. I have a connection to the land, the people, the religion and the history. I have had so many meaningful and memorable moments in this home. I yearn to return every time I leave, and I always wonder if I should be staying longer.
They say that ‘home is where the heart is’, and I am filled with gratitude that I have three homes, and that each has impacted me in different, deep and long-lasting ways. The blessing of the home that hangs in our hallway remind me that home is not something I can take for granted; I pray that everyone in our world can know the comforts of home as I do.