I deliberated, in a state of semi-committed complexity. Jewish? Kind of. When returning from my Birthright trip, and rejoining my relatively non-Jewish community of friends in San Francisco, I wondered how much closer to my people, my religion and my homeland I considered myself. An affinity, bright and enduring, for the state of Israel grew from my experience. But I still felt no personal connection to any Jewish communities, never invited to a Shabbat dinner, no mezuzah hanging from my door way. The weeks and months passed, my Birthright trip amusements and memories nudging slowing down the darkening hallways of my recollection. Then I moved to LA, the California haven for Jews of all variety. My use of Yiddish ceased to be met with awkward looks of confusion. I could get a decent chopped liver sandwich. During Hanukkah, giant menorahs and festive accoutrement bedecked the businesses of my Los Feliz neighborhood. And I joined, by the workings of cosmic destiny, the Birthright Israel NEXT LA community as an administrative assistant. I went to their events initially out of professional obligation, and then perpetually, unable to sever myself from the major feeling of missing out that would happen if I couldn’t make Queen Esther’s Old Sschool Skate Party, the cooking classes at Sur la Table, or Sweatin’ to the Oldies with Richard Simmons. The awesomeness of the events paired with a sense of inclusivity and diversity of the community hooked me.
I joined the Birthright Israel NEXT team and partners at its annual national conference in New Orleans. The 4 day extravaganza, highlighted by the sweet and nostalgic Havdalah in the park (arms interlocked and singing together), felt more like my days at Jewish sleep away camp in the hills of Malibu, than a work related event. Our discussion ventured to ask what the future of Judaism looked like, our role in Judaism’s evolution, and its role in our lives. I left feeling more connected to the Jewish community, seeing my place in Jewish culture, and understanding the breadth of my relationship to it as a religion, a community and a way of living.
There is a quote from The Talmud that says, “Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, Grow, Grow.” I take from Judaism the insight and wisdom offered and I apply it to my own small life. In this way, my development as a human is enriched by self-knowledge and world awareness. We are all composed of pieces, like the colorful constituents that create light. At this point, I’d say, being Jewish contributes to my wholeness like a sliver of luminosity.