Has your relationship with Judaism changed since you were a child? How about since you became an adult? Some of us may be practicing Judaism the exact same way our mothers and grandmothers did. Others have changed their Jewish lifestyle radically since they were little girls. For many, Judaism is a constant journey with subtle changes as life continues to shape and mold us into who we are. Here is my short story, and I would love for you to share yours.
Growing up, Judaism felt like an extracurricular activity. Somewhere between my great-grandmother escaping pogroms in present day Ukraine, and the institutionalized anti-semitism my Bubbe faced in New Jersey, my mother’s Jewish connection had been reduced to lighting Chanukah candles with a paper napkin covering her hair.
So my Jewish education was outsourced. On Tuesdays I attended Hebrew School in order to study for my bat mitzvah, after which I attended confirmation classes leading to a ceremony and a six week tour of Israel. Sundays were spent at synagogue learning about holidays, history, Torah, and electives like cooking or dance. I attended a Jewish summer camp. On weekends I went to youth group events or retreats, perhaps because of a divine pull or perhaps I was not popular enough to be invited to better parties.
This seemed to mimic the way other friends engaged with sports or hobbies. A soccer enthusiast might play on her school team, play in an off season league, attend a soccer camp, and go to skills clinics on Saturdays. Other friends didn’t just sing in the school choir, but they also had musical theatre camps and participated in local theater productions.
An interesting thing happened to most of my peers who attended the same Jewish programming as I did. Those who didn’t just go to one event or class or a summer camp, but those of us who did it all. About half of them are the leaders of the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements today. They are the rabbis, the cantors, the camp directors, synagogue and other non-profit coordinators. The rest of us are orthodox; the baalei teshuvot. I guess we all just wanted to feel Jewish all the time.
Now I go for weeks without going to shul or attending a shiur (a lecture or class). I pray daily, but it is not always purposeful, and more reflexive just like washing a fruit before eating or bringing dishes into the kitchen after a meal. Keeping kosher and observing Shabbos has become just as automatic. I feel so entrenched in Judaism it has become something I am rather than something I went out and did.
Has your relationship with Judaism changed? If you are comfortable, please share it with us.