THE TRUTH ABOUT MY JEWISHNESS
A journey in six acts
- •A solid foundationI was raised conservative, even though we didn't go to synagogue very often. But I still have strong memories of playing with the knots on my dad's tallit during Rosh Hashanah services. We moved from the East Coast to Denver when I was 8, and the Jewish community was vibrant. I made two close friends in Hebrew school, but then moved away. We all ended up back in Denver as adults.
- •Something changesWhen we moved to LA, everyone around us was suddenly Jewish. My mom took an adult education course at temple, and we all started taking observance more seriously. Friday nights became sacrosanct. That said, when I started hanging out with a Chabad rabbi, wearing a kipa and tzitzit to school, and spending weekends at the yeshiva, my parents freaked out. That level wasn't sustainable for me, but I stopped eating pork at 13 as a way to stay connected to my heritage. My family followed suit later.
- •College and young adulthoodWe moved to Colorado Springs when I was 14 and were very active with the small community there. But in college at UC Santa Cruz, I only sort of went to high holiday services (even though, for the first time in my life, my best friends were all Jewish). I even saw the Ramones play on Erev Rosh Hashanah! I still fasted on YK and stuff. Post-college, back in Denver, I had little connection to the community. And I didn't date Jewish girls.
- •Being a dad changes thingsMy (now) ex converted to Judaism because she always felt Jewish growing up. Her parents supported this. And it was so important to me for Simone to be raised with a strong Jewish identity. So that meant joining a temple, getting her into a Jewish preschool, and becoming sort of observant again. We got divorced when she was almost 3, and it's been my role to instill in her the deep love and connection I feel to my people and practices.
- •JDate brings me back to the foldAfter the divorce, I reluctantly went on JDate, and ended up dating Jewish girls for the first time. One of them got me to start going to Jewish events (no love connection for me), and suddenly I was in it. When two friends and I started a Jewish arts & culture nonprofit, I became an integral part of the community, joining boards and making things happen. Going to Israel with JFNA and then JNF made my commitment stronger, and I'm active with JNF nationally.
- •Losing dadWhen I was in Cali to say goodbye to my father, we did havdalah at his bedside. He held the spicebox, took a deep whiff and started crying, telling us that this - the practice and connection to Judaism - is what keeps us together with our people all over the world. It was a potent reminder that the cultural connection is important, but the spiritual link is where our strength really is. I thought of that as I hosted seder in his honor last night, with Simone at my side. Tears all around.