As a Jew, I am no stranger to the world of religion. Yes, religion is a very delicate subject matter, with the rising heated debates over the how religious one can be. But, that should not be the reason why everyone should be at each other’s throats over every little comment about religion. So, as a normal American citizen of the United States, I have every right to express my opinion on this matter. So, here is my statement on this matter. Whether it is agreed upon or not, it doesn’t matter to me. This is my perspective on this matter and you will hear me out.
Being born into a Jewish family, with both my parents being Jewish, I knew I would celebrate each and every holiday that Jews celebrate. It isn’t that my parents forced me to be Jewish, I just felt like because both my parents are Jewish that there is no reason why I shouldn’t be Jewish too. My family is not super Jewish, there are some families that take religion very seriously, even in Judaism. There are families who eat very kosher, attend Synagogue every Friday night, celebrate all holidays and attend various camps throughout the year. But, as a Jew, I make sure to celebrate all the Jewish holidays, and there are many throughout the year. The big Jewish holidays are: Yom Kippur, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Chanukah.
Yom Kippur is celebrated in September of each year. This holiday is celebrated as the day of Atonement which is done by not eating from sundown the night before to the following sundown. It is a day to let the body clean itself out and then go to services and have a big dinner. This holiday is known as a very holy holiday. Passover or Pesach is celebrated in March or April. It is celebrated for seven or eight days and remembered when the Israelites were freed from slavery. They did not have time to let the bread rise, so we eat Matzah, which is unleavened bread. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated in the beginning of September. The actual New Year is January 1, but for Jews, it is the beginning of September. It is the Jews day to make resolutions and think back on the year that has passed. The final major holiday is Chanukah which occurs in either late November or December. Chanukah is also celebrated for eight days as the Festival of Light. Candles are lit each night, presents are given and the famous potato latkes, which are potato pancakes are fried up and served with applesauce. Hanukkah lasts for eight days because the oil that was once used in the BC times, was only supposed to burn for one night, lasted eight days. So each menorah holds eight candle that Jews light each night over the course of Chanukah.
Most people look foreword to special occasions like birthdays, Mother/ Fathers Day, and Christmas as a day to get gifts and I am not ashamed to admit I am one of those people. The one holiday I enjoy the most is Chanukah. When I was a kid growing up, I always looked forward to after dinner when my parents would give me my gift. As a kid, that was all I cared about. That was all I thought Chanukah was about. Eating potato latkes and receiving gifts. Don’t judge me, I know I’m not the only one who’s been that selfish. But as I have gotten older, I don’t receive a gift on all eight days of Chanukah. Now, I only get one gift from my mom and one gift from my dad. Along with the presents getting less and less as each year goes on, I’ve become less concerned about how many gifts I get each year and understanding the reason behind celebrating this holiday that is so important to Jews. With religion especially, though Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday that I receive gifts, I have learned that it is better to appreciate the holiday and understand why the holiday is being celebrated rather than only caring about the gifts.
Each religion has it’s different holidays and reasons behind the holidays. Sometimes I feel we don’t always see the appreciation within the holiday, rather we see it as a day off school/work or a day we know will come every year. If we take the time to understand why the holiday is so important, we will have more gratitude towards the holiday each year. Yom Kippur, Pesach, and Chanukah are the three Jewish holidays that I know I should give more gratitude towards. Yom Kippur, which is the day Jews have to fast for a day is not the easiest holiday, but it helps cleanse the body and be grateful for the holiday itself. Pesach, which is celebrated for eight days, is meant to celebrate the freedom of the Israelites. We can’t eat bread for a little over a week, and because bread and desserts like cakes and cookies are used with flour and rise, Jews are given the time to appreciate the freedom of slaves and the precious food that rises. After eight days of not eating bread or desserts, the food tastes so much better because I haven’t eaten it in so long. Chanukah, which is also celebrated for eight days, is more than just getting presents, as I mentioned earlier. That one drop of oil, that the Jews believed would only last one night, lasted eight. I have learned to appreciate the eight days and be grateful for the oil that burned for longer than one night, giving us such a wonderful holiday.
Though I am not ashamed of being Jewish, I feel I am looking down from the outside,. I guess I’m coming to the realization that not being a Christian is a positive quality about myself. When someone happens to ask me if I’m a Christian, I say no. So we don’t have something in common, great. But when I happen to tell them that I am Jewish, that seems to spark an interesting conversation. Just like this semester, I’m taking a Media Writing class and we had to do profiles on our classmates. I paired up with a girl named Hannah and while interviewing each other, the question of religion came up. She told me she is a “typical Christian” but when I told her I’m Jewish, that seemed to intrigue her. She asked me a few questions about the different holidays and it was in that moment that I didn’t feel as different as everyone else. But as soon as class ended, I walked out of Crawford Hall, and once again I felt like an outsider, but proud to be a Jew.
Most of my friends are Christian, and I always seem to make a point somehow about mentioning to them that I am Jewish. I am very thankful that I have two friends who are very respective of my religion. My friend Jenny who I have known since 2008 is such a tease when it comes to religion. She knows I’m Jewish, and did the funniest thing last year. My birthday fell on Easter Sunday of all days, which didn’t completely bother me. I did though, get a kick out of it. When Jenny texted me, her text read “Happy Easter. Just kidding, happy birthday!” it made me laugh so much. It made enough of a joke to remind me that she knows I don’t celebrate Easter, and nice enough to remember it was my birthday. When having true friends, it’s those who know how to make you laugh and make you feel special at the same time. Jenny certainly is one of those people who can make even the smallest things, like the contrast in religion seem like a perk.
Another person who respects my Jewish views is my boyfriend Andrew. He is also a Christian, but he knows I am Jewish. He makes a point during the Jewish holidays like Chanukah to acknowledge the holiday. The main reason why he knows the different Jewish holidays is because his college recognizes them. So when each Jewish holiday comes during the school year: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, his college is closed. He always gets really happy and loves to rub it in my face.Passover was last week, and it was his spring break. When he told me, it surprised me that his college planned to have spring break so late, and falling on a Jewish holiday. Wow. What a coincidence. It annoys me, however, at the same time I feel extraordinary knowing that he is aware of the different holidays. Not many people take the time to remember holidays that they don’t celebrate. When Andrew does remember, even if it is to rub it in my face, it is his way of showing that he is thoughtful towards my beliefs. It means a lot to me that I can be in a relationship with someone who is respectful of my faith. He accepts me for who I am and doesn’t want to change me. That makes me feel positively comfortable being Jewish.
Judaism has been an influence on me growing up. Up until I was a teenager, my family would attend Shabbat almost every Friday night. When my brother was turning 13, we would attend Shabbat every Friday night while he was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a rite of passage, when the child becomes an adult. In the Jewish religion, turning 13 is the biggest celebration. Family gathers to celebrate the child’s coming of age and I remember how exciting it was to be a part of the big celebration. I was able to sing a song called Le Dor Va Dor during the big service. When I sang that song, I felt very connected to my religion. It was the first time in my life I was truly connected and felt Jewish. Though I never had my own Bat Mitzvah, the experience of my brothers gave me a sense of being a true Jew. I think back now and sometimes wish I’d had my own Bat Mitzvah. However, I would never trade the experience of my brothers Bar Mitzvah for anything. The celebration was my brothers moment to shine. Yet, I was able to shine too. I showed my family how proud I was of my brother and to be Jewish at the same time.
I have learned to be proud of being Jewish. Through these different experiences, it has shaped me to be more appreciative of the religion. Being away from home and in a community that isn’t as geared towards what I believe in has made me feel more special about my religion. when each holiday comes around, I think about why I am celebrating and what the holiday truly means. I’m not celebrating with my family, but I am always reminded of when i was younger and we celebrated as a family. It makes me feel better now, now that I am older and I understand what each holiday represents as part of the past and how it has affected the future. Being young, I was very inattentive to the importance of each holiday. The big picture of the holiday was very clear to me, here is how you celebrate, this is what you can/can’t eat, there are presents involved. But I never seemed to really want to understand why this holiday was being celebrated. My parents would probably explain to my brother and I the true meaning of each holiday, but my growing brain wouldn’t always remember everything my parents told me. The information would often go right over my head. But now that I am older, I have learned what each holiday means and I can truly enjoy each holiday to it’s fullest. I have learned that each holiday celebrated in the Jewish religion is about bringing people together. It is about celebrating with family, and remembering the reason why the holidays are important.