“Shalom bayit” can mean something different to everyone, which is why after writing my first piece for JW magazine, I became curious about how other people create peace in their homes. Monica Edelman, the well-travelled coordinator of JWI’s Los Angeles Young Women’s Leadership Network, shared her story, revealing insights on global Jewry, identity, mutual respect, and expressing your values within your relationships.
By Courtney Pories
Although there is no “normal” path for finding a place to settle, Edelman’s journey has definitely been unique. Since she moved out of her parents’ house in a small town at the age of 17, she’s lived in Israel, Argentina, and France before ending up in L.A. with her boyfriend and puppy.
Growing up, Edelman had a hard time fitting in with the kids in her area. With a Russian father and a Mexican mother, she had trouble finding friends who shared a similar identity. It wasn’t until college that she really found herself in Judaism and decided to travel.
The first stop on her world tour was Argentina, where she spent two months in an Israeli hostel before she and a friend moved into an Argentinian woman’s home. The woman was a devout Christian and kept crosses above the girls’ beds. Edelman’s friend was also Jewish and took the crosses down. They were kicked out the following day.
Following Argentina, she moved to Israel, where she could only afford a 250-square-foot apartment with no internet, hot water, microwave, washer and dryer, or oven.
“Looking back, it was the most life-changing experience because it made me realize that you really don’t need very much to be happy or healthy or to be able to live a good life,” Edelman said.
After leaving Israel, she moved to Paris, where she opted for comfort and decided to live a bit outside of the city. Living in France, where the Jewish community is predominately secular, fueled her passion to further explore her Jewish religious identity.
Edelman’s global experiences gave her perspective on how different people live—and how Jewish people live—all over the world. These lessons and appreciation for other cultures have followed her into her new home, right outside Hollywood, where she lives with her boyfriend, a Moroccan Israeli.
They spend every morning walking with their new puppy (who is quickly starting to feel like their child). Edelman says that she and her boyfriend do a great job of balancing the joint tasks of dog care and maintaining their home.
“If I’m out late, he’ll cook. If he’s free, he’ll clean. If I’m free, I’ll clean. We definitely share the responsibilities of the house.”
They’re both very busy with work, which Edelman likes. In the past, she’s had roommates who were home all the time or unemployed, which she found frustrating.
“Knowing that my boyfriend is working feels good because I’m very ambitious. To know that he’s out there working on himself and making career moves makes me feel comfortable in the relationship.”
Though they are both busy, Edelman nourishes their relationship through her interpretation of shalom bayit. Every night that they’re home, they try to have a proper, seated dinner together. No cell phones, no television, no distractions—just the two of them at the dinner table, talking and catching up. This ritual allows them to really connect and show respect for each other by setting aside that time to focus on their relationship and each other’s lives.
When it comes to their Judaism, Edelman and her boyfriend have found outlets that are meaningful to them. Even though she’s not extremely religious, living abroad made her appreciate the freedom America offers to freely express her Judaism and she doesn’t take this opportunity for granted. Through her network in JWI, Edelman has been able to include her boyfriend in various Jewish organizations, volunteer opportunities, and holiday celebrations. They’ve also created their own tradition of Shabbat dinners—even if it’s at a sushi restaurant—by spending time together and reflecting on the past week.
Talking with Monica taught me so much about being intentional in creating healthy relationships and shalom bayit. I saw the importance of finding balance between your own life and that of your significant other when you live together. By creating a special tradition like nightly dinner together, you have a specific time every day to directly communicate so that you can develop and maintain peace in your home.
How do you find ways to express shalom bayit in your home? Reach out to me at [email protected] to share your story.
Courtney works in public relations in Washington, D.C. In her free time, you can find her catching up on all her Bravo shows while eating something a little too spicy to really taste. Visit courtneypories.com to view more of her work.