Jared Caros, also known by his Hebrew name, Yared, isn't exactly living in the promised land.
That's OK because Caros finds comfort in Judaism. Faith has given this 20-year-old a sense of confidence and purpose that many people will never find.
"When I became of age to choose for myself, I specifically made a choice to be a practicing Jew," said Caros. "I've been through a lot in my life and my faith has really helped me. The way I see it, it's in my blood, it's what I look like, it's what I am."
Caros has lived all over the United States. His father was a Payson police officer at one time, but moved because of family circumstance. Caros stayed behind.
"Ultimately the family just split up," said Caros. "The Payson police department just didn't pay enough, so my father went back to Los Angeles, and I kind of got stuck here."
You may have seen Caros at Wal-Mart -- one of his three jobs. He's the one at the cash register, dark hair, tall and lanky, wearing a black velvet yarmulke, the traditional Jewish skull cap.
Yared said at first, people didn't know how to react to his being Jewish, but as time has passed, he's learned to accept others as they've come to accept him.
"There was a distinct undercurrent of animosity," said Caros. "For a while when I was working at Wal-Mart during the day, I would get at least one religious trap a day. A lot of people were trying to convert me. I will say for a town as religious as (Payson), people are getting it through their heads that I'm me and this is who I am."
Caros is committed to following the laws of the Torah or Old Testament to the best of his ability, but his lifestyle as an observant Jew, in predominately Christian Payson, is anything but simple.
In large Jewish communities like those in Scottsdale, Los Angeles and New York, Jews live in neighborhoods with the infrastructure to support their religious lifestyles.
Caros said, because of the absence of that infrastructure in Payson, he struggles to keep two of the most important Jewish laws: kosher and the sabbath.
"It's incredibly difficult," said Caros. "Even just financially, it gets expensive."
Caros orders his meat from Iowa -- keeping kosher requires adherence to a complex and rigorous set of dietary guidelines. In large Jewish communities, kosher butchers and restaurants abound, but in Payson, it's pork city.
That's why Caros orders his meat online. Animals must be smooth -- free of lesions and illness. Animals that die from natural causes or other animals cannot be eaten, and animals that don't chew their cud and have cloven hooves -- pigs -- are forbidden.
When the animal is slaughtered, it must be blessed by a rabbi, and killed quickly by a deep slash to the neck.
"For the people up in Payson who want to practice kosher, there is a website you can go to and you can order meat," said Caros. "They'll usually ship it to Bashas' so you don't have to worry about the commute. You get kosher meat and it's top quality -- that's the best way to eat kosher up here."
Keeping kosher also requires the separation of milk and meat. Most Jews have separate kitchens, dishes and dishwashers. Caros just uses paper plates and cutlery.
"As far as eating kosher is concerned, I'm a little looser about it, but that's only because I'm in this town," said Caros. "I do not under any circumstance eat pork."
Caros ran into the pork problem at Wal-Mart. Management wanted him to work in the deli.
"I was throwing a fit about that one," said Caros. "My mentality is, why don't you put any other gentile cashier in there who doesn't have a problem with it? But you're putting the one person who is saying, this is against my religion. I'm not going to sit there and cut ham for people all stinkin' night."
Caros also struggles to observe the sabbath. According to the Torah, Jews must rest from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Spending money, turning on lights and driving are among the activities prohibited during the sabbath.
But Caros lives 75 miles away from his synagogue, so he drives after sundown to attend services at Har Zion synagogue in Scottsdale.
"That's a big thing -- driving on the sabbath and I have no choice," said Caros. "It's either that or not go to shul (synagogue). In my case, I think God would rather have me go to shul than fudge the driving thing and sit up here."
Caros is working on bringing a rabbi to Payson at least once a month. He's asking those who are interested to send him an e-mail at golaniZeev@hotmail. com. For more information on keeping kosher or to order kosher meat, visit: www.kosherdelight.com.
Name: Jared "Yared" M. Caros
Occupation: Banking, retail, janitorial
Employer: Compass Bank, Wal-Mart, Platinum Cleaning Services
Birthplace: Los Angeles, Calif.
Family: Single, family out-of-state
Personal motto: Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth
Inspiration: Torah, traditional Jewish writings
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Shooting, off-roading, mountain biking, reading, sleeping (when I can)
Three words that best describe me are: Loyal, motivated, opinionated
The person/people in history I'd most like to meet: Moses, King David, King Solomon, Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon
Luxury defined: Food and sleep
Dream vacation spot: Israel
Why Payson? I'm saving my money to go back to school because there's nothing else to do here.