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February 13, 2018 7:18 am

Dogsled Racer Talks About Being the Only Jew in Her Community, Trying to Integrate Jewish Culture in Her Town

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Blair Braverman and one of her dogs. Photo: Twitter.

A successful dogsled racer opened up in a recent interview about the struggle of being the only Jewish person in her town and how she is trying to introduce community members to Jewish culture.

Blair Braverman, 29, lives on a farm in rural Wisconsin with her husband, according to the website Hey Alma, which interviewed the athlete and published writer. The nearest synagogue is 75 miles away and Braverman said it feels “lonely” having no other Jews around her. Still, she does what she can to keep Jewish heritage alive in her town.

“The synagogue ‘near’ me is wonderful, but I end up going maybe twice a year, since 75 miles is a long drive on icy roads late on Friday nights. And I’m usually running dogs on Friday nights,” she said. “Even so, in our town of 500 people, I do what I can to share the more accessible parts of Jewish culture. I’ve been baking hamantashen for Green Bay Packers games, and this winter I recruited a bunch of neighbors for a dreidel tournament.”

Braverman grew up reform in California and as a child went to Jewish summer camp. Her parents now live in Corvallis, Oregon, where her mother helped open the town’s first synagogue. She said its important for her to be visibly Jewish. She told the website, “I’ve lived in places where I’m the only Jew, particularly in rural Norway. And it’s dangerous, I think, for people to think they’ve never met certain kinds of people. Like if you think you don’t know any queer folks, or immigrants, or Jews — that’s how groups of individual humans are reduced to symbols and ideas.”

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She added, “If I know someone, if I’ve lived with them, I don’t want them to be able to tell themselves that they’ve never met a Jew.”

During the interview Braverman also opened up about leading “Ask-a-Jew” sessions at a school in Norway, where neither the students nor the teachers have met a Jewish person before. She further discusses the experience in her book Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, and told Hey Alma that the schoolchildren were “so curious [and] very interested” by the information she gave them about Hebrew, the high holidays, and more, and that she was asked to come back a half dozen times and spoke to nearly all the students in the school.

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