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?

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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12 Bible Verses For Faith In Hard Times

Remind yourself that God is always with you.

Lately, I have felt lost at what God wants for my life. Ever since I've come back to UWG everything has been horrible. It seems that I can't catch a break. I'm trying my best to focus on school, work, and extracurricular activities. But it's hard when I'm having issues with my apartment/roommates and knowing my family back home is struggling and needs many prayers. All, I keep thinking is maybe Carrollton isn't where I belong anymore. I've asked God if He can guide me in the right direction. Below, I have found Bible verses that have helped get me through these rough, past couple of weeks.

1. Isaiah 43:2

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you."

2. Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him, and He will act."

3. Romans 8:18

"The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming."

4. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed in strength, and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."

5. Joshua 1:9

"Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous."

6. Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is a time for everything and a reason for every activity under the heavens."

7. Isaiah 41:10

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

8. Isaiah 66:9

"I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord."

9. Psalm 91:4

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

10. Psalm 62:1-2

"My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him, He alone is my rock and my salvation."

11. Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

12. Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

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Bible Verses For Faith In Hard Times

Encouragement for when you're down.


You are Loved.

"But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush, and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west, I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." - Isaiah 43:1-10

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." - Jeremiah 31:3

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

You were Created for a Purpose.

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." - Isaiah 49:16

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." - Genesis 1:27

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13

You are Cared for.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:6-7

"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:31-33

"For I am the Lord, who heals you." - Exodus 15:26

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." - Psalm 55:22

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