What it means to be Jewish

    June 2009            
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I am Jewish

By Chavah Levine

What does that mean for me? It means that I am descendant of the Levite tribe, and very proud to be so. It means that I come from a line of an incredibly strong people, a people who can overcome constant persecution and obstacles, and still hold on to its customs and beliefs. It means that I have family members who died for being Jewish and for standing by their religion.

It means being raised in a kosher household, and choosing to continue keeping kosher once I was offered the choice. It means making challah with my mother and lighting candles with my sisters. It means Shabbat dinners and Havdalah with the family, and being encouraged to ask questions about the Sabbath rituals. It means listening with awe to my father blowing the shofar, and staring intently at Elijahís cup, waiting to see if the amount of wine would really decrease.

It means sitting on my Zadieís lap, listening to Jewish folktales and stories of my Bubbie's Bubbie. It means matzah ball soup and latkes with applesauce. It means learning Hebrew, Torah troupe and prayers, and the extensive study leading up to my Bat-mitzvah. It means learning from my mentors and parents of the beauty of the Hebrew language, the joy in the Jewish religion, and the richness and value in the Jewish culture.

It means constantly exploring my own beliefs. It means asking hard questions and accepting that I canít always find the answers. It means practicing the customs and rituals that make sense to me because they are tangible reminders of who and what I come from, who I aspire to be as a Jew, and what I hope to pass on to the future generations.

It means saying my prayers before I fall asleep as a way to stay aware of the blessings that G-d provides for us, and as a reminder that Iím not alone in the difficulties that my loved ones and I face. It means listening to the swell of voices in synagogue and being aware of the community of which I am a part. It means being up to see the dawn break or standing by a stormy ocean, and sensing G-dís presence there so strongly that rather than being inspired to pray, prayer and thanks simply flow out of me.

It means not having to think about how to incorporate Judaism into my life because, as it influences nearly everything I do, Judaism IS my life.

What does being Jewish mean to me? It means being the person that Iíve grown to become, and remembering the history and people that have led me to where I am.


from the July 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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