For years and years, I did not want to be Jewish. My rejection was a defense to the terror and horror that the Jewish people faced through history.
It was the vulnerability that terrified me. I always knew nothing could really change that I was Jewish. I didn’t want any part of anti-semitism. So…as much as possible, don’t be Jewish!
At some point in my early 30’s, I became open to G-d and became spiritual, not religious. When I had my first child, I began a soft search for a home in Judaism. I wanted my children to have just a little something, a little spiritual place to belong.
I found more than I could hope or imagine.
The burning question…
Vhat?, as my grandma Yeta would say with her Russian/Yiddish accent.
What is more than I could hope or imagine?
When Cinderella puts on the slipper and it fits just right. When a baseball player feels that home run slide right off the bat, when a friendship clicks, and when you meet that guy or gal and time seems to stand still.
Unlike these peak experiences…
Falling in love with being Jewish happened slowly; it snuck up on me.
I’ve found sustenance. Its light has not died down and I sense there is no finitude to its growth.
Here are a list of words to try to capture this light:
Belonging, family, deep joy, blessed boundaries, strength, music, possibility, G-d, mercy, kindness, foundation, beauty, paradox, unfathomable, anchor, container, tenderness, oneness, mitzvah, fun, familiarity, Torah, connection, holy, divine, Shechina, presence, dance, jokes, food, spirit, pride, humility, holy chaos, wisdom, order, instructions, hope, faith, trust, peace, and down to earth. Making the earth holy.
As an aside, I was the only little girl who didn’t belong to a Synagogue amongst my young Jewish friends, the one Jewish girl in my group of Italian Catholic friends, the only disco lover in my rock- n-roller friends. I was more mature, less mature, drank more, drank less, too creative, not creative enough… I often felt like I didn’t belong.
But here I fit just right. In Jewishness… all the different “brands”. We are Secular, Orthodox, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Democrat, Republican, Russian, Ethiopian, Mizrahi,… I don’t care. We are one.
If it stopped here, I wouldn’t have thrown my hat in the ring.
But the great sages teach…
We are ALL one. People of all different religions and beliefs.
It’s not academic. It’s experiential. I have comfort in my own skin and stronger connections with people of every background. Perhaps the greatest surprise is the other worldly delights I experience as I continue to add mitzvahs to my life.
As crazy as it seems, I am finding power in vulnerability. The looking the worst in its face and saying, you can’t change me. I know who I am.
I am a Jew.
Love, Vivi. ©
💞Addendum: After this post, I received requests for more on this topic. I put this together to fill in the gaps: “But how exactly did you fall in love with being Jewish?”
P.S. Here’s a micro glimpse into the minutes before Shabbat. Please join me in celebrating.