Welcome to the Observer's monthly Newcomer Column! Every month, we will be featuring one of our Nashville Jewish Newcomers so you can get to know them and their dynamic, engaging stories. One of my favorite parts of my job as the Federation's Newcomer Engagement Associate is connecting with the newcomers and bringing them into Nashville's Jewish community through our Newcomer Shabbat dinners, Newcomer Welcome Receptions, and connecting them with community members and organizations who can help them feel like they belong here. We hope you enjoy reading these and give every newcomer you meet a smile and a warm Nashville welcome!
If you would like to be part of the Federation's work welcoming new Jewish Nashvillians to our community or have an idea of something else we could be doing, please let me know at email@example.com or 615-354-1664.
Tell us your story. Where are you from? How did you end up in Nashville?
Hello Nashville! My name is Rachel Appelbaum, MD, and I moved to the area approximately seven months ago. I know it is soon to say, but Nashville is already starting to feel like home. I have lived in the South for the majority of my life. I grew up in Georgia, just north of Atlanta. From a young age, I had an interest in science and a passion for helping others, these two drivers as well as an inspiring teacher led me to medicine.
My training from medical school to residency to fellowship has taken me up and down the East coast, but I am honored to now call Nashville home. I am an acute care surgeon at one of the local hospitals which includes trauma, surgical critical care, and emergency general surgery. Being at an academic institution, I have the incredible opportunity to educate the next generation of providers as well as participate in research. My current research focuses on quality and process improvement as well as clinical outcomes work to advance our field. I have found my career path extremely challenging at times, but incredibly rewarding. Ultimately, my patients are my motivation to do more with each day, and I feel honored to serve our community.
What has your Jewish story been like up to this point? How did you get involved in Nashville's Jewish community?
My Jewish journey began at a young age. When my family moved to Georgia, I was six years old, and I was lucky to live in the same home until I left for college. We lived in a large neighborhood with several families that attended the same synagogue. Since our extended family lived in other states, these families became our local family and we immediately felt a sense of community. We spent many Jewish holidays together and we would often carpool to Sunday school each week. When I turned thirteen, I experienced an incredible year of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs including my own.
Moving to Nashville, I first got involved with the Jewish community by attending local Friday night services and a newcomers Jewish Federation event. Both experiences helped me meet key individuals in my Nashville Jewish journey. If I had to describe the Nashville Jewish community in one word, I would say welcoming. From my first contact at Friday night services to attending High Holy Day services and being invited to Yom Kippur break-fast by a member of The Temple I happened to be sitting next to, I feel adopted by the community and I am grateful for the outpouring of support and connection. I have been very impressed by several organizations in the city that actively bring young Jewish professionals together, opportunities of which I haven’t had before. I am excited for what Nashville has instore!
How has your experience been in Nashville so far? Any notable memories or experiences?
My experience in Nashville thus far has been incredible. From attending a blue grass festival and a Predators game to exploring the farmers markets, moving to Nashville has been memorable. One amazing memory would have to be New Year’s Eve this year. I am a University of Georgia graduate and the SEC Championship happened to fall on the same night. My friend from college and I spent the evening surrounded by fellow alumni, cheering our team on to victory. Little did we know karaoke was to follow, and let’s just say Nashville karaoke is no joke. It was a night to remember to say the least! GO DAWGS!!
What do you love about being Jewish?
I know I mentioned it previously, but I would say the sense of community. Being Jewish, there is an immediate sense of understanding and common experience when you meet fellow Jews. Whether you grew up reformed or conservative, keep kosher, are just ethnically Jewish, or maybe you are still exploring what being Jewish means to you, you are Jewish and welcomed as you are. I value connection, and the unspoken foundation of being part of the Tribe is meaningful beyond words.
What do you love about being Jewish in Nashville?
Over the years, my career path has taken up much of my time and journey, but moving to Nashville not knowing anyone has given me the opportunity to re-connect with my Jewish roots and experience an immediate sense of community.
What does the next year look like for you? Is there anything that you are still looking to do or experience in Nashville?
This year I plan to focus on wellness, which to me means making the most of life for the health and happiness of myself, my family, and my community. I want to continue to explore Nashville - specifically the food, music, and outdoor scenes. Getting back into tennis would be a plus! I have been impressed by the restaurants, bars, concerts, and park systems I have experienced, but I know my adventures so far only scratch the surface. This year I am also focused on building my network and continuing to form connections. 2023 is off to a great start!
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