Jewish Holidays Make Me Feel Like I'm Not Jewish Enough

Jewish Holidays Make Me Feel Like I'm Not Jewish Enough

Is it my problem, or everyone else's?
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The High Holidays in Judaism are made up of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). They’re generally in late September or early October, and both are important observances, spent with family or in the synagogue with the wider community. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most observant of Jews. Most of the past Jewish New Years I’ve spent at home with my family, enjoying a meal and affectionately roasting each other. In college, I’ve managed to make it to services two out of four years. This was one of the two years, and as usual, I became uncomfortable as soon as I stepped into a room full of Jews.

I’m used to being the only Jewish person in a group. I’m more comfortable that way. It’s not because I like the novelty of it – it’s not fun to be the person everyone looks at when the conversation gets around to Jesus or the one who has to explain that no, that Holocaust joke your weird friend just told really isn’t funny. It’s more because whenever there are more than two Jewish people in a room, and I’m one of them, it’s almost guaranteed that the other Jewish person is more religious than I am.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a problem. There’s a proud tradition of Jewish secularism, especially in the United States, and the dual nature of Jewishness as a religion and an ethnicity means that your participation in the religious aspects isn’t the final word on your role in the community. But for some people, particularly people who attend services regularly or did so in the past, the fact that I didn’t grow up going to temple, that I didn’t have a bat mitzvah, that I didn’t go to Jewish summer camp, is a problem, and they haven’t been shy about telling me so.

I was in seventh grade the first time someone insinuated that I wasn’t Jewish enough, and that was far from the last time it happened. I’ve had to explain to people who have no business asking why participating in organized religion was a touchy subject for my non-traditional family. I’ve told people that my mother is Jewish – which is true – and had them aggressively push the point, trying to figure out which of my two mothers is the Jewish one. Because apparently, it matters. I’m used to dealing with non-Jewish people who are rude and bigoted, but to be picked on and bullied by one group of people over an attribute that members of my own group are trying to strip from me is a head-trip I could have done without.

This isn’t a plea for Jewish people to stop policing the Jewishness of other Jews, although it would be nice if that happened. Instead, it’s a question. When I step into synagogue for services and feel that instant surge of discomfort, is the problem with me or with everyone else? Should I wander blissfully into services, acting under the impression that no one will challenge my right to be there? Should I go in nervous and defensive, expecting questions to come flying from every angle? Or should I let my past experiences speak for themselves and stay home? These are questions worth considering.

I just wish I didn’t have to consider them every time I try to participate in my own community.

Cover Image Credit: udi Steinwell / PikiWiki

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God's Letter To The Struggling College Christian

Don't give up on me because I haven't given up on you
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Dear Struggling College Christian,

Life can be tough, especially in college; you’re at that age where you’re not exactly an adult but also no longer a child. You’re somewhere in between, possessing just enough freedom to do what you want while still being held responsible for the decisions you make about your future. You're always stressed out. You’re going to get hurt, you’re going to feel like dropping out or changing your mind, and you’re even going to want to turn your back on me, your God, but I want to tell you this: your suffering is not in vain.

SEE ALSO: I Am Christian Millennial And I Do Not Hate You

I want you to know that everything you are going through is a lesson. It’s all building you into a better person, a better you. The things you’ve asked of me, the things you’ve told me you wanted – those are things you have to be prepared for and you still need a bit of tweaking. The future, though bright, isn’t all sunshine and roses. The path has twists and turns, cracks are in it, fallen logs in your way, and most of the time you’re not going to be able to see straight ahead of you. The weather is going to be unpredictable. The hailstorm is going to knock you off your feet and the twisters are going to send you spinning into confusion, exhaustion and doubt, but with the strength that I am trying to build up in you, you'll find that you know exactly where to find shelter when the storms break down your door.

You’ll find that the lessons you learn from trying times are exactly what you need to fulfill my plans for you. You’ve read Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28, and heard them hundreds of times, but there is a verse in the Bible that you may have never paid attention to: Ephesians 2:10. It reads: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The most important part of this verse is one simple word: beforehand. So while you’re crying and stressing about what job you’re going to land after you graduate, if you’re going to marry that person you’ve been with for years, or if you even want to be majoring in what you’re currently majoring in, I already have a plan laid out specifically for you. You are my child, my creation and you have a purpose.

However, while knowing these things is great, it is all pointless if you don’t do. So here’s what I want you to do: do not give up. Have faith in me. You believe in me, so why not believe in me in your darkest moments? That’s the reason you became a Christian, right? Because I'm the one person you know that won't forsake you. You know that I love you, and you know that I’m here for you, so prove it. I know it can be hard when you’re pulled in a lot of different directions by your social life, your academic life and your extracurricular activities not to mention your family life and your own personal sanity, but take a few minutes out of your day, every day, to talk to me. Tell me your fears and your desires. Remember that you can ask me for and about anything. I'm always going to give you an answer, whether it's a yes, no, or not right now. After that, I want you to stop worrying and fight on through the darkness. You are stronger than you think.

My Child, enjoy yourself while you are young: don't stress over the things that you can't see. Don't give in to the depression, the anxiety, or the stress; things that are not of me. Don't let yourself forget about me or believe that I'm not there when I am and know that my plan is set in place for you. All you have to do is walk in it. Trust that this is all for your good. But most importantly, remember that I love you unconditionally–at your worst and your best. Life can be tough, but you are tougher simply because you are mine.

I’ve got you,

God

Cover Image Credit: Google Images

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Diwali, The Festival Of Lights, Will Make You Feel Complete And Connected To Your Roots

Although it has passed, its beauty and spirituality is still felt all around.

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There are only a few things in life that make you feel at home. Home is often considered a place more than it is a feeling, but I really think it should be included. You could either be with people that make you feel at home and it doesn't matter where you might be or you could be doing something that makes you feel all the same. Either way, home is synonymous with comfort, contentedness, love, and safety.

Recently, Indians celebrated one of their biggest holidays: Diwali. The name means "Festival of Lights" and you might be able to understand why seeing all the candles ("diyas" in Hindi) being lit. The significance of all of this is not just to bring light to your outer world, but also your inner one. You can interpret what that means in so many different forms, but as of now, to me, it means clearing my mind. That includes clearing it of things that make me upset, thoughts that I would be happier in different circumstances, that people should change, or even that I can change them.

It gives me a "passively active" role in my life, one where I try for what I want but then try not to stress when it doesn't happen.

Even the physicality of the holiday — lighting of the diyas, dressing in beautiful colors, spending time with loved ones — serves to brighten my spirits and feel more centered.

I'm thankful for the time I get to spend with my family, which is also a time that helps me keep things into perspective (we all know that it's a little too easy to get caught up in school and work).

And maybe the best part of it all is that I see the world as it is: without projecting anything "good" or "bad" onto it, without any judgment and still, still it appears to be beautiful.

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