Over the past week, pictures of Mardi Gras revelry have been popping up in my newsfeed. These are photos of dear friends, decked out in impossibly imaginative costumes, posing in front of colorful shotgun houses, bedecked with beads and smiles.

I lived in New Orleans for more than two years, and left the city to attend rabbinical school in Philadelphia. The choice to leave was wrenching. Over the months and years I lived in New Orleans, I grew roots and my heart learned to bloom in season with the magnolias and the camellias that line New Orleans streets.

I haven’t lived in New Orleans for more than four years now, but I still miss it the way you miss that one great love: thinking of it in quiet and joyful moments; trying to let go;  knowing that no one else will compare.

I’ve learned to make a quieter life for myself in Philadelphia, but I am always missing the things that New Orleans offers up effortlessly: community and camaraderie, art and absurdity, warmth of place and warmth of people, abundant natural beauty, and the sense that anything – anything at all – can happen.

Ora Nitkin-Kaner, a current Wexner Graduate Fellow (Class 24), is studying to become a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. Her undergraduate thesis in Religion from the University of Toronto explored demonic spirit possession in medieval Jewish folklore and her Masters’ thesis there explored the intergenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma through religious liturgy. Ora has participated in and led a variety of service-learning programs in Uganda, India, Israel and New Orleans. An alumna of AVODAH New Orleans, Ora helped establish an egalitarian traditional minyan in New Orleans and worked with local activists to develop interfaith organizing initiatives. She also worked for more than two years at a New Orleans, non-profit helping innocent men rebuild their lives after their release from wrongful incarceration. Ora is interested in chaplaincy and pulpit work and currently serves as the sabbatical rabbi at Congregation Kehilat Shalom of Belle Mead, NJ. Ora can be reached at oranitkinkaner@gmail.com.