How Visiting The Vatican Solidified My Jewish Identity

How Visiting The Vatican Solidified My Jewish Identity

It was amazing, but it wasn't me

My family and I rounded the corner, and Saint Peter’s Basilica suddenly appeared at the end of a cleared road, blocked off to salvage this exact view. As we approached the building, in our long skirts, and covered shoulders, I began to understand just how huge and breathtaking, and yet small and compact, Vatican City really is. I have four adjectives to sum up what I realized about the place: It was clean. It was white. It was old. It was Catholic. Basically, aside from being clean (as clean as possible), and white, it was not me. I like to think I’m not old – at least, I’m definitely not as old as Saint Peter’s Basilica – and I am Jewish.

This is not to say that my visit to Vatican City was by any means unsuccessful or unrewarding. It was beautiful and eye-opening, and way more massive than I could have imagined. We toured the underground necropolis from the first century AD, saw St. Peter’s bones, and saw where the most recent popes are buried. Like I said, this was all incredible. However, no matter how intrigued I was to see it, and no matter how much I had looked forward to the visit, I couldn’t deny: I found myself feeling very out of place spiritually.

After leaving the Vatican, that day and after returning home a week later, my family discussed our visit, and my feelings remained the same every time: It was awesome. It was massive. It did not make me “feel Catholic” or “spiritual” in any way. In fact, it did the opposite. I appreciated, even loved, seeing the group of young adults on their pilgrimage there, and the families who filed in and migrated to the chapel and confession areas. I loved that they felt connected – to their religion and to each other; but I was just observing. I was an outsider. I felt the need, after that day, to visit a synagogue. Specifically, the Old Jewish Quarter in Rome. That was the next day. My family visited the old ghetto where the Roman Jews were forced to live for a little over 300 years (from 1555-1870).

Upon arrival there, it felt right and familiar. I knew all of the stories and traditions told and supported by the artifacts in the museum. I didn’t need the explanations or tour inside the synagogue – I knew it, I’ve lived it. “Ah yes,” I thought, “The small corner of the city where the odd-ones-out practiced their religion and customs in secret. The oppressed people with the closed-in walls, disintegrating buildings, and single, reluctantly-built synagogue. These are my people. Now I am home.”

During our family trip to Italy, we spent many days visiting and climbing to the top of old Catholic basilicas and baptisteries. Every one of them was beautiful and inspiring. But not one of them gave me a feeling of home and familiarity quite like the only synagogue I spotted. Churches on every corner make Italy what it is – they are such a large part of what makes the country amazing, and I genuinely wonder what it must be like for people of those religions to feel spiritual in those places. But I do not yearn for that feeling; I know that feeling, but I know it in a different way, in a different place, and this trip has made that ever-clearer. More than I realized it would, my visits to numerous cathedrals, and the holiest place in the world for the Catholic religion, actually made me feel more Jewish than ever.

Cover Image Credit: Ellie Pinto

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.


When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

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10 Vacation Destinations That Are Worth Hopping Over To During Easter Break

Colored eggs and chocolate are not the only treats you can get for Easter Break.


Easter is a time to spend with family, have time away from school, go out with friends, and remember the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, it is also an opportunity to visit many fun and exciting locations. Whether you love swimming, dancing at clubs, indulging in five-star restaurants, or getting a massage, there are a variety of activities that will make anyone's Easter more enjoyable. Here are 10 vacation locations that will meet the needs of any family this Easter.

1. The Royal Hawaiian

Hawaii is one of the best places to visit for vacation. Families will love walking along the shore, getting delicious food or drinks at one of the many bars, and even stopping by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a massage at the Abhasa Waikiki Spa. If you are courageous enough, head out to the beach for surfing or just to relax. With so many sites to explore, this is a vacation that will bring lasting memories.

2. Berry Springs Lodge

Here is a nice and quiet location that is definitely a treat if you want to experience a less hectic vacation. The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is great for anyone who loves taking photos or exploring landscapes. There are two Whirlpool Suites with a fireplace, deck, and whirlpool that gives you an awesome view of the mountains. Activities include playing a game of pool and going on a mountain bike through the nearby trail, so try to stay observant and take in the environment.

3. Lake Austin Spa Resort

If you plan on traveling to a much warmer state for the holiday break, then this would a good choice. This resort is just a short drive away from Austin and is an excellent place to take it easy. Here you can stay at one of the cottages, take a nap by the fireplace, stroll through the outdoor garden, get a massage at the spa or have a seat in the hot tub. This is a vacation that will certainly take your stress away.

4. Fredericksburg

This is another city located in the state of Texas that features a special Easter tradition that families will love. Dress up for the Easter pageant and have a fun time. Visitors can see the Easter fires in the surrounded area that light up the night. There are plenty of food, drinks, and activities to keep everyone occupied, and ensure that they will have a happy Easter.

5. Bay St. Louis

Here is a vacation spot in Mississippi to celebrate Easter. All families will enjoy watching the sunrise and hunting for Easter eggs. Other activities to check out include the Stella, Blues and Barbecue festival for some tasty food and fun. There is also a yelling contest in which participants scream "Stella!" which is a reference to "A Streetcar Named Desire." No matter what you choose to do, this location will result in plenty of excitement, laughter, and possibly a sore throat.

6. Flagstaff

If you are traveling with a small or big family and do not mind the heat, then head down to this destination located in the very hot state of Arizona. The land is beautiful and gives photographers a chance to capture the amazing forests and mountains there. If you are feeling adventurous, check out the Snowbowl Ski Resort or if you want to take it slow, there is always Humphreys Peak where you will see gorgeous landscapes. Lastly, make sure to visit one of the restaurants that they have to offer for a delicious breakfast for an amazing start to the day ahead.

7. Lake Powell

This destination features cool rock landscapes and is located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Despite the place being surrounded by boulders, families can still have a fun time. You can take photos of the environment or visit a petting zoo. Take a walk around the land, find a spot to catch some fish for dinner, and you will agree this vacation definitely rocks.

8. Santa Monica

Here is an awesome vacation spot for anyone who loves working out and engaging in various outdoor activities. This is the place where you will find the Half Marathon for Easter. There are other options like the 5k, 10k, or 15k run, as well. The weather is sunny and it's a nice place to go for a swim, visit a farmer's market or participate in other Easter themed events.

9. Savannah

Do not let the heat discourage you from visiting this location. There are multiple gardens and parks to check out, along with markets and a music festival. If you are looking for additional fun, there is a Savannah Riverboat Cruise for families to travel around the city. There are a variety of delicious options for brunch or dinner, and other surprises for your holiday.

10. St. Augustine

During Easter vacation, there are so many things to do with family and friends. If you decide to travel to this location, you will enjoy the Easter parade known as the Parada de los Caballos y Coches or the Parade of Horses and Coaches. If you are looking for a nice family event, head on down to the parade and listen to the music. The horses and carriages are great to see as well, and there are multiple restaurants located around the city when you need a break from the festivities.

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