Learning to Connect While Disconnected
by Brooke Levy
I have always struggled with my connection with Judaism as a religion. I have been surrounded by Jewish people for my whole life, been to shul for Shabbat, had a bat mitzvah and celebrated holidays such as Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, and Purim. However, having a connection with God is something that I have struggled with and, at times, makes me feel disconnected with other members of the Jewish community.
To be a part of the People of Israel is a unique and important role for every Jewish person. Being a part of a community of other Jews who are proud of their culture and traditions can help you feel like part of the greater Nation of Israel. For me, culturally, I feel extremely welcomed by the Jewish members of my shul, community, friends and family, and I am very grateful for that. But sometimes I wonder if that’s enough, when I look outside my community and at the larger society, which isn’t always as welcoming.
Being a Jewish person in America has also formed my Jewish identity because there is such a wide range of Jewish people and how Judaism is practiced. But with all those options available, finding my own identity, separate from my family’s, has been difficult because I am not always sure how I want to practice and what traditions I want to keep. Furthermore, practicing Judaism more or less intensely than my family is difficult because I am subject to judgment and/or rejection. Although I don’t think this will happen in my case, it is a reality that many young Jews face in their communities. I also think young people struggle with being able to identify as a Jewish person when surrounded by a culture embedded with Antisemitism. Even in a densely packed Jewish community, which should help us strengthen our identity, antisemitic ideology has a way of finding an avenue into thought due to many anti-Israel Jews and self-hatred.
Continuing the story of Jewish people is a unique experience for every Jewish person and the responsibility of doing so changes depending on your connection to the people, the religion and the Land of Israel. Having a strong connection to Israel and its people is the fuel of many people’s desire when carrying on the Jewish legacy. Israel should matter to someone who lives so far away because it is important for the People of Israel to have a homeland somewhere in the world where they can feel safe and celebrate their culture and religion. Even those who don’t identify strongly with their Jewish identity should feel a connection with Israel due to its historical significance and the perseverance by the Jewish people to get a homeland.
Being a young person and making the decision to come to Israel and learn about the history of the people who lived here before me and fought for my religion to live on makes me inspired to keep learning and teach other people who want to learn about the Jewish experience. Many young people that are Jewish who don’t live in Israel don’t have a strong connection with religion so it may feel harder to identify with the culture as a whole. But I think it is important to show them that there is a community behind you even if you practice differently than those in another country or even a couple towns over from you. Even talking to their own family about their experiences and relationship with Israel is a great way to foster a connection with our culture and story. But whether through their family, their community, other friends, or social media, they can be inspired by latching on to any positive feeling they have about Israel or Judaism and expand it in the best, healthiest way possible.
I interned with Israel Forever to help build my own skills, and I hope to use what I have gained to inspire others like me, who might have felt a bit less connected, or struggled with finding their own Jewish identity. Because I believe that there is an appropriate way for everyone to connect, even if, like many other Jews before, it just takes a little more perseverance.
It may be unique to every person but being Jewish is a unifier for people across the world, and for me, will continue to be a powerful and important part of who I am.