Going Public

Tags: Take Action, Antisemitism, Youth, Inspiration and Hope, Community

By Garrett Ritholtz

A young Jew coming from a town where there aren’t many Jews, who believes their Judaism is not worth what they potentially feel it could be. This scenario is too common in the current day, as the polarization of social media and ongoing struggle of antisemitism in the world disincentivizes people to truly immerse themselves in Jewish culture and ideologies. This may include posting on social media about Jewish advocacy through trying to educate people or wearing a kippah/tzitzit in public. These are just a few of the many ways that people are afraid to fully embrace Judaism to the extent that they believe is fitting for their lives.

In my experience, I found it much easier to “come out of the closet” as a Jew by immersing myself with not only Jewish people, but rather Jewish people who care about you and what you stand for. Entering high school was a big leap for me. So many people to meet, experiences to be had and things to learn. The transition was hard and I felt like I needed a group of people that I could turn to that weren’t a part of my school. I had heard from a friend of an organization called BBYO. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant or what influence it could or would have on me, but I still decided to try it out. The organization allowed me to branch out and develop myself as a person and a leader in the Jewish community. I undertook my first ever leadership position as Sliach, also known as the Jewish and community educator. Although I did not know much about Jewish education, there was one thing that I knew I could accomplish - creating a sense of unity among Jewish people with like minded ideals and an eagerness to learn more about Jewish history and about each other. This may not seem like much, but creating these individualized connections with people allowed me to have deeper relationships than I ever had before and grow as a Jew. Through BBYO I cemented a foundation that gave me opportunities to continue this growth through Jewish studies in college and coming to Israel to get a real sense of what it means to be a part of something greater than yourself.

I had already known what a Jewish community was like before coming to Israel, but actually being here changes one's mindset entirely. When I first entered the holy city of Jerusalem, I was astonished by the culture and sense of pride of being Jewish. People are so happy with what they have and who they aspire to be. I came to Israel on a path to try and find a deeper connection with myself. Upon doing so, I strived to be open-minded to everything that I saw and encountered, something I was never really used to doing at home.

Some believe wearing a kippah in public is their way of going public, others may be posting on social media, etc. However it is done, people should feel comfortable and accepted of who and what they are, no matter their background and ideologies. We should also make an extra effort to support each other in our “going public”. It can be terrifying to do alone, but it can be empowering to do together.



Tags: Take Action, Antisemitism, Youth, Inspiration and Hope, Community