Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comfortable Where I Am

I am an observant Conservative Jew.

I feel like my experiences from grade school to this evening, in school, in college, in shul, everywhere have shaped who I am as a Jew. But, not just shaped also fortified my Jewish identity.

Being raised in Conservative home we celebrated shabbat weekly, went to shul weekly, celebrated holidays, went to shul on holidays. We studying Torah together, we lived Jewishly. As I was being socialized in other ways by how my family lived, I was also being socialized Jewishly.

However, at the same time another socialization was occurring, at school. I was very fortunate to go to a Jewish Day School. It had Modern Orthodox leadership but had students from all walks of Judaism: Chabbad to unaffiliated. There were times when what I may have been taught in my classroom was not exactly what my family believed or practiced. My family talked about this and I went along being firm in my Jewish beliefs. I was already proud of my egalitarian Judaism and practices that while I could learn about a more Orthodox approach, I knew how Conservative Judaism saw this practice and was able to respect others' views and continue in my practice.

Then I came to college. I learned about certain organizations who appealed to Jewish students who were less affiliated. I can see the goodness in these organizations teaching these students about Judaism, but I cannot accept what often occurs, from what I have seen. These organizations tend to affiliate with the Orthodox tradition. They teach the students according to their beliefs. These students, many of them who know no other way to practice, then seem to see that this way of being Jewish is the only way.

Please, understand I respect all Jews, of all denominations and practices. However, I lose a little respect when a Jew pushes their Judaism on another Jew as it being the only way to be Jewish. That is not being Jewish. NOPE, not at all.

I have plenty of friends who are Reform, or Modern Orthodox, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist. I respect their beliefs, and they respect my beliefs. That is great. That is how it should be. I can even talk about beliefs with these people, how we differ, how we are similar.

But there are times I encounter a person who meets me, and sees me standing in jeans, a shirt that may show my elbows, and they think that I do not know ANYTHING about Judaism. That is when I get annoyed. Respectfully annoyed. It is also when I start to drop casual hints that I do know what I am talking about Jewishly, in a polite respectful way. I try to show that there are many faces of knowledgeable Jews.

For many years I would say I wasn't an observant Jew and that I didn't dress tsniously. My mom spent years convincing me those were all lies! And now I agree, they were. I am an observant Jew. I follow many mitzvot and I strive to live in God's image. I do dress tsniosly. I make sure that I dress in a way that respects my body and shows others that I do. (Let's just say no short shorts and no midriff shirts in my closet!).

This may be one huge ramble, but I want to put it out there that I will never allow anyone to consider me to be a Jew of lesser value. I am the Jew I want to be. I am proud of how I am firm in my Jewish beliefs and that I work to have knowledge of my religion so that I can back up my beliefs with text. I am proud that I am so firm in my beliefs that when I encounter a situation like the one mentioned above I can recognize why I feel uncomfortable and I am so happy that my mother can support me and help me through frustrations like this.

Now on that note, I am going to planning the menu for shabbas and think about how I will juggle kashering my kitchen and studying for an exam in the same weekend!

0 thoughts on the matter: