Fond farewells and Dixie, here I come

In a few days, my husband and I are headed to Reno. I can’t wait — I love the views from Donner Pass, the winding road down into the valley, the windows of the casinos that glitter in the light of the desert sun.

But we won’t be in Reno for long. After staying the night, we’ll be on our way to Salt Lake City. Then Cheyenne, Wyo. And on and on, across the mountains and miles, until we reach our final destination: Charlotte, N.C. Our new home.

Just one month shy of our six-year anniversary in the Bay Area, we are bidding it adieu.

In 2005, my husband — then my boyfriend — and I graduated from college in my native Maryland and spent a sweltering summer in central Florida, where I had a copy-editing internship at a newspaper in Polk County. At the end of the summer, we hightailed it to the moderate climes of Northern California.

We didn’t know Mill Valley from Milpitas, and ended up living in East San Jose. That’s near San Francisco, right? Practically a suburb?

I applied for jobs and got a few offers, but nothing felt right. Then in December, as winter’s deep chill began to slightly wither the blooming roses behind our house, a copy-editing position at j. opened up.

It combined two of my greatest loves: copy editing and being Jewish. I knew I had to have this job. Luckily for me, j. thought so, too.

In the five and a half years I’ve worked here, I’ve not only gotten to copy edit, but also write, blog, work on j.’s website and more. I’ve interviewed some amazing folks and a couple of my heroes: Israeli pop star Aviv Geffen, “Moosewood Cookbook” author Mollie Katzen, and actress, author and former Jewish Bulletin staff writer   Teresa Strasser, to name a few. (I once turned down the chance to interview my favorite Israeli singer, Achinoam Nini, because I knew I’d be too much of a giggly wreck).

I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing people, including some of the best writers around. I came to j. from newsrooms where writers were mostly faceless bylines, long gone home by the time the copy editors arrived for the night. It was a nice change to work alongside our writers, tweaking and fine-tuning.

And it was while staffing the j. table at the To Life! festival in Palo Alto that I ran into an elementary school classmate whom I hadn’t seen in well over a decade. We reconnected, and she’s since become a close friend.

J. has been a wonderful place to work, and I will miss it, and my beloved co-workers, dearly.

But if you’ll allow me to be truly honest, I can’t leave without saying this.

At j., I see Jewish infighting every day — in our letters to the editor, in our op-ed section, in the comments on our website and on the street.

I also see a calendar filled with Jewish events on every day of the week. I see a mind-blowing eight JCCs. I see the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life and three federations and more Jewish schools and synagogues and nonprofits than I can count. I see a community that is passionate and wildly innovative in a way that you probably can’t appreciate unless you’ve lived anywhere else.

So I want to say that, despite your differences, despite the arguments and the protests and the extremists on all sides, you have a great thing going here. The Bay Area Jewish community is unlike any in the world — so please, take care of it and of each other.

Although I’m moving back to the East Coast, and in a sense heading home, I feel like I’m leaving home, too. Even though I wasn’t born here, I’ll always consider San Francisco to be my second hometown.

After all, it was while living here that I got engaged and married, that my husband became a U.S. citizen and we had our first child. You can’t go through all those major life changes in one place and not be at least part native.

Right now, my future lies south of the Mason-Dixon, but maybe someday I’ll come back. In the meantime, I thank y’all for reading, and wish you the best of health and happiness.

 Rachel Leibold is a former copy editor at j. She can now be reached at rachel-at-leiboldmail.com.