Aimee was born in Rochester MN, while her father was in Medical School at Mayo. Her family later moved to Shoreview, and then eventually to their current home in Sunfish Lake, where they are now closer to her father’s endocrinology practice in Eagan, and where her mother serves as (a “stellar”) COO while Aimee herself works on their digital communications.
She has two younger brothers, including one who is a professional dancer in NY, and another, who will be graduating soon from Boston University and is planning to attend medical school as well.
Aimee received her undergrad degree from the University of Miami (“I walked in for a degree in marine biology, and I walked out with a degree in political science”), and from there went on for a graduate degree from NYU in International Relations.
She currently works 20 hours a week for the State of Minnesota Department of Health, and 20 hours at her family’s business, both in the areas of digital communications and content strategy, while serving in an array of other roles as well, including as a member of Mount Zion’s Board of Directors, a teacher in our Chai School, and volunteering on the Temple’s own communications and website efforts.
So with all you currently do, what are your plans from here?
You actually may not know this yet, but I got accepted into a PhD program at the U. I’m starting that this Fall. So I will be getting a Doctorate in learning technologies, and then hopefully, I will be getting paid a lot of money to help companies be smarter about how they design technologies for their audiences. My department will be “curriculum and instruction”.
Do you have any secret skills or talents?
Well I used to be a competitive dancer. That gets people intrigued.
I did try to get back into dancing both in New York and Miami, but it’s expensive. I’m really appreciative that my mom made it possible for us to go all those years. Dance itself is not cheap, but then the competition fees, and the gear and the costumes and the makeup. Oh my gosh. Wow.
What can you tell us about your path to Judaism, and to Mount Zion?
I was an active Jew long before I became Jewish. When I was still studying to be a Jew I was really involved in Hillel, and my synagogue in Florida.
I adopted Judaism in 2010. I prefer that term over ‘converted’. I was graduating college, and I was living in Miami and came back for the summer before starting graduate school.
And my mom pointed out that my honorary aunt (a Mount Zion member) is Jewish and she goes to Mount Zion, so maybe I could just go with her.
And I had been to a friend’s bat mitzvah here, and I remembered Cantor Spilker’s voice and how ridiculously gorgeous it was, and so I thought “great idea”. And I was really excited to come back here and find out that she was still here. So I started going here on and off, because I moved to New York for graduate school, so I didn’t really become part of Mount Zion full time until I moved back in 2012.
Can I ask, how has your family accepted your Judaism?
My parents went out of their way to go back to Miami for my conversion.
They got up early and were at my mikvah. In Miami, that’s not as creepy as it sounds. With my temple there, Temple Beth Am, we actually go out to Matheson Park, which is a beautiful park, right off the coast. There’s like a little inlet. Not the lagoon, I recently learned. There are alligators in that.
It’s a natural body of water, and when you are there in the morning, and the beach is right there, and the sun’s coming up … it’s gorgeous.
So we all went back to sleep for a while, and then I got up, and they were at the synagogue waiting for me when I came out of my Beit Din (Rabbinic Court). And they were there in the sanctuary when I held the Torah for the first time as a Jew.
I always joke with people that they’re more Jewish than me anyway, because they knew more people at Mount Zion than I did. And you can’t be in our family unless you love Mel Brooks and Barbra Streisand.
So they’re pretty “Jewish” when it comes to values, and outlook, and education.
How did your parents meet?
My parents met at Macalester College, the second day of school. He was from Mexico City and she was from Duluth.
He took me back to Mexico for the first time when I was three.
I actually still have memories of that trip. It was scary and exotic, because when you’re three and you are just getting the hang of English, and all of a sudden no one speaks in English, it’s really weird. And also a lot of our family there are in a much different economic situation than us.
And I have been back since, though I haven’t been back in about nine years, but I’m going this fall.
And what do you know about your family’s roots?
Well, recently I’ve started to look into the topic of “escondidos”. They were Jews who pretended to be Catholic in order to survive in Spain, or to survive until they could escape. The Mexican side of my family does goes back to Spain, and Italy, and possibly France.
This past Chanukah, my former Spanish teacher, Rob (Hanson, at Sibley), was telling me that Spain announced a new law that gives the right of return to Jews who can prove their Spanish ancestry.
It seems that Spain has issued a list of common “Jewish” last names, and two of the four family names that I can claim are on that list. So I got interested in the possibility that maybe my family could have been “escondidos,” or “the hidden ones”.
And what have you found?
Well, there are two problems.
First, my Mexican family are all pretty devout Catholics, and if we had been escondidos you’d think they would still be practicing Jews if we had kept our religion … and, they likely wouldn’t have gone to Mexico.
And second, Mexican record keeping isn’t as good as in the United States, so it’s harder to trace that side of the family back as far. Most records were generally kept in churches instead of government offices, and even then they’d often be destroyed whenever there was conflict (the churches would get burned).
My dad has had a couple of good leads, but so far it hasn’t produced much. Besides, it would probably be really upsetting if my dad’s genealogy project took on a “proving we were Jews” theme.
But compare that to my mother’s side, which he’s researched back to the 1200s in England and Scotland.
So if we are escondidos, we’ll probably never know for sure.
Oh well. Sometimes mystery is better, right?