Every Jew has a different story to tell and a different way of telling it.
Some willingly share memories of happy Jewish childhoods. Others never say a word, yet convey through their actions–the way they raise their kiddush cup on Friday night, the sound of their voices chanting Adon Olam–a world of meaning.
One Jew may grow up in an Orthodox family and flee from its unbending rules, while another may grow up in a Reform family and long for traditional rituals.
A Jew from an assimilated household may find his way into rabbinical school.
A rabbi may leave her congregation for an academic degree and a university classroom.
Each of us comes to Judaism–and our Jewish experiences–with different needs and different expectations but with the same longing for a place to be ourselves.
We harbor a desire for community … where we can pray to God (or argue with God) … and express our deepest hopes and prayers.
Mostly, we want to become part of something larger than ourselves, seeking something that, if we’re lucky, we can pass on to the next generation.
For centuries Jews have explored these issues and others related to being Jewish through stories and legends, folktales and poems.
But today, as the rapid pace of our society continues to increase, we’re losing the chance to sit still and listen to the stories of people sitting right beside us in synagogue or temple.
We’re becoming strangers to one another–even in our own communities–and our stories are being lost.
But we can save them if we take a few moments to write them down… and share them with others.
Here are a handful of questions to help you get started:
1. How often do you think about being Jewish? Once a day? Once a week? Once a year? Can you identify an emotion that you feel when you think about being Jewish…and can you describe it? Why do you think being Jewish makes you feel this way?
2. What was it like growing up as a Jew? Did you enjoy or resent being Jewish? Why?
3. What do you love about being Jewish?
4. What do you dislike about being Jewish?
5. Is there someone who serves as a Jewish mentor or model in your life? Who is it? Can you describe the influence that he or she has had on your Jewish life?
6. Do you believe in God? Does Judaism help or hinder your belief? How?
7. Do you remember a specific moment when you decided to embrace (or turn away from) your heritage? When was it? What happened? And how have you changed, if at all, since that moment?
8. Everyone is different and has a different story to tell. If someone asked you to tell a story revealing your relationship to Judaism, what story would you tell?
9. Do you have memories of growing up Jewish that sustain you in times of doubt? Describe these memories…and why they have such meaning for you.
10. Is there a Jewish person who has made a difference in your life… and in your understanding of Judaism? What did he or she do to influence you? How did his or her actions impact your life? And why do you think this particular person… and this particular action… has had such an impact?
11. Have you read any Jewish books lately? List the titles and authors and the thoughts about being Jewish that they may have prompted.
12. If you could sit down with God over coffee and spend ten minutes talking about being Jewish, what would you say?
13. Imagine arriving at the gates of heaven where an angel is waiting to ask you a question before letting you enter. The question is: what would you have changed about life while you were alive… and why did you–or didn’t you–act to change it?
We hope you’ll share your thoughts and feelings about being Jewish with us, and look forward to reading your responses.