how Jewish

After laying low on the Jewish scene for 5 years, I’ve definitely come back big.

My job is Jewish and they’ve sucked me back in at the synagogue, which means I’m around Jewish people all the time.

This isn’t a bad thing, but it does present an identity dilemma.

I don’t know how Jewish I want to be.

I don’t like being all one thing.  I need some diversity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how each (Jewish) person relates to Judaism in his own way.  Synagogue, socializing, charities, community programming, what have you—orrr nothing, of course.

I go to Beth Yeshurn, the largest Conservative synagogue west of the Mississippi they say, and you can imagine how much of a spectacle the High Holy Days are.  There are probably 300 children under the age of 15 roaming the halls and lobbies, and their parents are sitting in the back row of a probably 1000+ seat auditorium, listening, not singing along.

Why do people feel like they need to go to services on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?

If you don’t like going the rest of the year, why the shamayim (get it??!) would you go for RH and YK? It makes no sense. And of all days of the year to go, you choose the 2 (or 3) longest services?!

During Rabbi Morgen’s D’var Torah (sermon) today, he was talking about all that the new year is supposed to be about–forgiveness, resolutions, self-improvement. It would be so much less bull shitty if instead of going to services, people went to a seminar or discussion about the significance of the new year. Don’t waste your time going to a service you don’t appreciate and that bores you, do what has meaning for you and is just as “Jewish” of an occasion!

It became clear to me today just how similar Rosh Hashana is to the secular New Year’s Day. They both mark an occasion to make a change in your life and to make improvements in the coming year. The only difference is that Rosh Hashana is thousands of years old and comes from a time when religion was the unifier of a people. If you’re not feeling the pressure to be stamped in the “Book of Life” (in other words, if you don’t believe in the religious part), extract the contemporary lesson of Rosh Hashana: try to be better this year.

Which brings me back to trying to understand how “Jewish” coalesces with my identity.

Growing up, a grand total of 0 of my friends regularly went to synagogue. I always felt “too religious” even though I knew that this “religious” standard was too heavily weighted on the ‘barely observant at all.’

For the past 5 years, I haven’t been around Jews who think this way, and I had forgotten about their imposed shame until recently. Last weekend, upon finding out that I was leading services on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a friend claimed that I was “too Jewish.” Yet this same friend, who essentially has no Jewish involvement, wants to marry a Jewish girl.  How does that make any sense?

I’m not going to define for anyone else to what degree to live his/her life Jewishly, but I am baffled by the backlash against actually doing Jewish stuff. There’s this notion that it’s ok to be proud to be Jewish, as long as you don’t act on it.

At the same time, I’ve wondered myself why I like going to synagogue. I already knew that I like it because everyone loves me there and it boosts my ego, and also because I like feeling like part of a community. But since I don’t have a spiritual connection to the words, why do I like to sing them, and why do I like to lead others in prayer?

Well, some of you may remember that not too long ago I wanted to be an actor. I love to perform! I love to sing. It’s basically the only venue left where I can do that and still get rave reviews…not that I wouldn’t like doing it if I had won 2 Oscars, but you get the picture. I’m a performer.

This being said, I need some new hobbies. I can’t have everything I do be Jewish-related. Just waiting on that first paycheck before I can get started…


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