Over the past few years, I feel I have been slowly slipping away from a culture with which I once felt intertwined. I have never been a particularly religious Jew, however the culture was always important to me. I attended Jewish day school through 8th grade, and afterwards kept my connection strong through attending after school Hebrew programs, becoming an active (and by active I mean obsessive) member of USY—the conservative Jewish youth group, and remaining involved in my summer camp, Camp Ramah in Ojai, Ca.
Upon arriving at college, I noted the meeting time of Hillel events, but somewhere inside decided I was done. I thought for whatever reason, at this point in my life, I no longer need the comfort of religion.
I still feel that to be true—to an extent.
My college experience gave me a view of religion that had been hidden from me in years before. Finally witnessing the true minority that Jews are in this world, I became enraged at those who did not understand me or my background, and began to feel contempt for those who claimed that the way they chose to live their lives was better, and that I must be SAVED, and quickly. While I must say, no matter what the religion, I am very turned off (to put it mildly and keeping it PG) by those who feel the need to push their beliefs onto others. However, I can see the good intentions with which these actions are committed, and my feelings regarding some of this have… calmed.
But I digress. The point I am trying to make here is that I once felt a deep connection with Judaism, not necessarily the religious aspect, or the laws of the Torah, but the culture and community. I once abstained from consumption of shellfish and pork for nearly a decade, and in the last few years have slowly integrated it back into my diet. I used to attend temple regularly, and was recognized at my synagogue by most who I saw. Many people once identified me as “that Jewish girl” (although perhaps not in that *exact* language—something along these lines). Now I even fear telling too many people about my Jewish background.
Today, on Yom Kippur, I attending a proper morning high holy day service for the first time in… a while. And I was overwhelmed by the feeling of closeness and comfort that I felt. I am in a new city. I hardly know a soul, let alone a Jewish one. So, I attended this service alone. And while sitting in the sanctuary, peering through the sea of what was likely a combination of active members and twice-a-year Jews, I felt at home. 430 Miles from my true home, and I found a glimmer of family in a place to which I had never been.
I am taking today’s experience as a sign. I no longer feel the need to keep Kosher. I don’t foresee myself adhering to the rules of Shabbat on a weekly basis, and I do not see myself stepping onto that Bima any time soon. However, what I think I do need—as so many of us do—is a supportive community. A connection. A place to call home when what we’ve considered to be home for so long has become less accessible.
I am reclaiming my love of my culture, and the pride I feel when I tell someone “I’m Jewish.” I will no longer hide a part of who I am—an essential piece of what makes me me—because I feel that the lines between culture and religion may be blurred. I can use my WORDS and explain the difference :).
I know this was a long one, but sometimes the thoughts just flow on an empty stomach :).
Shanna Tovah, everyone! To a sweet and honest new year ahead of us.