Mall Rat

Naomi Less
June 16, 2014
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the mall

Once upon a time, I was a Jewish suburban girl…hard to believe, right? But my world consisted of a small neighborhood with a big mall. I walked to the mall three blocks away first as 4th or 5th grader to buy jelly bellys with my friend.

amy with matching lavender

Next, in junior high I was dropped off by a parent to hang out with my girl friends, and then, ultimately, taking my mom’s car to drive myself the three blocks to shop. Life was simple. A three-block radius. I grew into it. Filled out those steps as I matured. The friends changed, but the neighborhood didn’t. It felt comfortable.

amy pfef and erin 96 cropped

And then…the inevitable: I left the three-block radius which felt like it could hold me forever. As some people do – I went to college, had a post college a year abroad in Jerusalem and came to NYC for graduate school at JTS. Wow – now instead of the 3-block radius, or even a Jewish summer camp for 7 years with a few of acres diameter, or even a college campus – now I was in the big time. Manhattan was huge. And I was lost.

(The secret that not many know is that it wasn’t my first attempt to leave the confines of a small neighborhood. I came right after college to try and get a job in the music industry – I paid $400 a month to sleep on a woman’s couch, worked for a guy in his apartment – and saying it was in the music industry was a stretch to say the least – music merch. I had a few friends, primarily  camp connections, but the big city and all it had in it was so overwhelming to me. I couldn’t cut it. I was scared. I went home.)

But to return to the previous timeline – back in NYC– I came to pursue graduate school this time, and voila, instant small neighborhood creation. It seemed that while I was trying so hard to go big or go home, I actually craved the small neighborhood, the small community. The neighborhood gave me a sense of belonging and security through which I could then spread my wings and expand my reach, my network and my exploratory wanderings in the city.

Amy and Buddah 4.08Looking back, it is truly hard to believe that this is my narrative. Today, I travel around the world, popping in and out of global communities and networks – performing, teaching and facilitating. But it’s not a surprise to me that I’m still in weekly if not daily contact to some of the people that lived in that first neighborhood and walked/got dropped off/drove to the mall with me. Having that home base to ground myself continues to support my forward launching outward. In our never-ending quest today for bigger, better, farther reaching, I wonder how many of us crave for that 3 block radius again?

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Naomi Less Singer/Songwriter. Activist. Worship leader. Educator. Naomi Less is a multi-talented professional. Her music repertoire ranges from edgy pop rock to meditative spiritual prayer. Founder of Jewish Chicks/Kids Rock programs, Naomi encourages young voices to speak out. Her music videos and cd, "The Real Me”, share a personal journey of wrestling with self-worth, theology, justice issues and finding one's voice. Naomi is a gifted and certified Center for Leadership Initiatives facilitator, program designer, and Storahtelling-Lab/Shul founding company member and Director of Education and Training. She graduated from JTS Davidson School and Northwestern University and is an alum of the Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University and Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Naomi’s on and

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