Country Mouse & City Mouse


A year ago, I attended a writing retreat with different craft workshops.

Self-portrait of me in a writing workshop. Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

One of the workshops was on setting. The workshop leader said that setting was so important to writing, that, when reading work submitted for publication or for contests, this workshop leader said they automatically reject any piece which does not have a good sense of setting.

This made me realize two things:

  1. Anonymous blogging has taught me a bunch of bad writing habits, namely, the tendency to mask identifiers and location details.
  2. The struggle to align with Husband on where to live almost definitely stems in part from the fact that Husband and I grew up in very different places.

More Background

I interrupt my “Authentic Self and the Assimilated Jew” post series – which I don’t think anyone really cares about – to post something which is arguably a continuation of the whole saga of searching for a “pond” (Jewish community) post series – which I also don’t anyone really cares about, and also a late response of sorts to Fandango’s FPQ about what type of community we’re from.

[I just realized I misread the question. It’s actually “Which type of community do you currently live in” followed by what you like/dislike about it/where would you rather live etc. But I’m going to go off-prompt.]

Even MORE Background*

*Actually, if you think about it, this entire post is really just background.

The Exurban Mouse

Until very recently (before I learned that “exurban” was a word – thanks, Fandango!), I would have described the Deeply Boring, Small, Unremarkable Municipality I grew up in as “rural”. Hometown was not close enough to a city to be considered “suburban” by definition, I had some high school classmates who lived on farms, and public transit was basically non-existent. Now I know “exurban” is more accurate – we had highways, strip malls, chain restaurants, and enough conveniences such that we weren’t out in the middle of nowhere.

I’m not a country mouse; I’m an exurban mouse. Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

But what’s more relevant to this post is the Jewish community. In Deeply Boring, Small, Unremarkable Municipality,

  • Jews were a minority. I’m aware of 1 or 2 minor nonviolent antisemitic incidences happening in hometown in ~30 years.
  • We had one awesome egalitarian synagogue, and pretty much all the mostly non-Orthodox (there wasn’t the infrastructure of eruv, daily minyan, kosher restaurants, etc. for Orthodox) Jews of Hometown went to it because the next closest place was 20+ minute drive away with a radically different feel. When I say “all of the Jews of Hometown”, I think the synagogue had a max of ~150 families at its peak – it wasn’t a massive congregation.
  • Everyone went to public school and afternoon Hebrew school. The location of the public school and the synagogue, and the timing of Hebrew school was such that when I was attending, the kids would walk to Hebrew school, maybe grabbing snacks at the convenience store or eating a slice of pizza at the local (nonkosher) pizzeria en route, then playing Mortal Kombat in the synagogue lounge until it was time for Hebrew School. In other words, it wasn’t a bad afternoon.
  • I didn’t really have close friends in public school or at synagogue. No one was mean or bullied me or anything like that; mostly, I spent middle school and high school in a not-formally-diagnosed-as-depression-sleepwalking-fog (best term I can think of for it) and just wasn’t very social.
  • I didn’t keep in touch much with friends from public school or Hebrew school. But I come back to Hometown Synagogue every so often, and my former classmates and I are friendly on the occasions we see each other.

The Urban Mouse

Husband grew up in an urban environment with a large Orthodox Jewish community. As an urban environment, Husband’s Hometown is far more diverse than my own. But since Husband was raised right-wing Modern Orthodox, he lived in and pretty much only interacted with the Jewish part of town.

And Jewish it was! Multiple large kosher grocery stores. Blocks with multiple Orthodox synagogues on one block because the community could support that. So many right-wing Modern Orthodox to Yeshivish school options.

Stock photo that isn’t of Husband’s Hometown, but it’s the closest I could find. Photo by Blake Campbell on Unsplash

Because there were so many options, being in synagogue and school where you had friends was important. Or rather, from a kid’s perspective, being in synagogue or school without your friends, or where you didn’t fit in was a very big deal.

(Tbh, I’m not sure if this is actually any different outside of the Husband’s super-Jewish hometown. What kid doesn’t want to be cool and fit in with all their friends at school? The difference is that for everyone else, public school is usually the default and only option.)

Anyway, it’s not my place to describe Husband’s upbringing in detail. Suffice it to say, he came out of childhood with:

  1. An amazing Jewish education
  2. A few super-close besties
  3. A lot of negative feelings/attitudes about Orthodox Judaism

TL;DR: Where We Want To Live

Where we currently live, and where we want to end up living, is somewhere in between my exurban non-so-Jewish boring hometown and Husband’s super-Jewish neighborhood of urban hometown. That we agree on.

Husband and I actually agreeing on something?!?! This is a miracle! Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

But nowhere is perfect. So amongst the imperfect choices:

  • I would rather live somewhere more like my exurban hometown.
  • Husband would rather live somewhere more like his super-Jewish hometown.

Cue disagreement.

Agreement? Lol, nope! Image by Afif Kusuma from Pixabay


  1. You come from very different geocultural backgrounds. I see why the issue of finding a location that fulfills exurburn and superurban expectations satisfactorily is so difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It definitely sounds like a challenge ~ for any couple, but particularly for the Jewish spouses who want to keep/create some traditional experiences. My town, Fountain Valley, CA, with lots of nice homes for sale, has 18 churches, one mosque, and one (reform) synagogue. No kosher stores/restaurants. No real Jewish community that’s within walking distance or has any kind of cohesiveness to it. I can’t imagine trying to be observant here. My daughter, OTOH, lives in the Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles, so it’s vastly different!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the feedback.
      It sounds like you’ve managed to create a real home, and a productive, sustaining one at that, out of the house that you have.
      We know we aren’t going to find perfection. But it’s been difficult to justify spending so much money when the gap between what the house is and what we’d need to do to make it what we want is such a big gap. And that’s assuming we agree on where to live geographically, which we aren’t really aligned on to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is tough to find a house when you can’t find a location of agreement. We bought at the right time, and our house is worth 3x what we paid now. However, we are in a “rental” neighborhood. With the housing market, one needs to make choices that one can thrive in. I was very unhappy the first year I lived in this house.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have always thought myself very lucky my husband and I had been born and grew up (although he was taken out of that environment as a child) not only in the same country, but in the same city, and a very special city at that. When we met here in the US, it was one of the major connection points. However, he was fortunate to have received Yeshivish education in America, while I came from a strong Hassidish background, which did cause some friction in the beginning, but it all has adjusted with time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting response, JYP. Both my wife and I have lived most of our lives (before we were married and since) in either urban or suburban locations, although were we live now is probably more exurban than suburban.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wonder if Lincoln, Nebraska is exurban. I grew up and attended public school there with a Jewish friend. He didn’t share very much of his Hebrew school experience. I only know that his family was observant of traditions. I wonder if he still lives as an exurbanite or has moved to a larger city.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You describe an interesting dilemma and of course, I have no expertise or insight that might lead to an informed suggestion. I did start thinking of places like the more rural end of Westchester or further up the Hudson Valley. But what do I know? – Nothing basically. I think of it through my own non-Jewish lens plus my recent experience of the tRumpian hinterland of so-called more rural America. And for me – that meant heading back to the big city asap.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah, ponds and places! When we moved away from beautiful Taos, I felt like an exiled rural mouse –Taos is definitely rural. But now that I have lived in this exurban area (I love the word) for several years, I can say it has charms too. You will find the right place and house!

    Liked by 1 person

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