My Judaism is Complicated These Days

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The High Holidays have come & gone, & I feel weird.

This marked the first time in 14 years that I haven't worked for a Jewish organization during this season — not since college.

When you work for a Jewish organization, you have off for every Jewish holiday (& there are a lot of Jewish holidays). You always know exactly when the holidays are coming. You prepare for the holidays through the work you do & the conversations you have. Your out-of-office message during the holidays references the holidays: "Our offices are closed in observance of Rosh HaShanah. L'shanah tovah!"

When you do not work for a Jewish organization, I am finding, the holidays sneak up on you. 

I barely realized that Rosh HaShanah was on the way before Rosh HaShanah had arrived. Certainly, I did not realize in time to find tickets to a synagogue for services. In the middle of erev services (the first night of the holiday), my friend Jenn kindly sent me the Zoom link to services at the synagogue where we grew up. I felt bad bootlegging them, but I was grateful to connect, even though I arrived at services half an hour late.

I took off work for Yom Kippur, but I didn't really... do anything. I didn't even fast. I thought about it, but I just hadn't prepared enough in advance to be able to do it safely. 

I did go visit my best friend's mom, who recently had knee replacement surgery, & I stayed with her for a few hours so her husband could go into the office for the first time since her procedure. Bikur cholim, visit the sick, is a core Jewish value, so I do feel like I did something vaguely Jewish, but... it wasn't Yom Kippur-related.

It's just so hard, I'm learning, to feel Jewishly anchored when you're not immersed in Judaism & Jewish community every day. I don't miss working at my old job, but I do really miss the people I worked with & the Jewish community we shared together. 

Judaism is, in so many ways, a communal religion. So it's hard to feel Jewish when you're not around any other Jews or doing anything Jewish,

I don't belong to a synagogue. I don't have any Jewish friends here. I have virtual programming fatigue. 

I miss saying "Shabbat shalom," instinctually, on every Friday Zoom call. I miss serving the Jewish people in a way that allowed me to feel Jewishly connected even when I wasn't practicing in my personal life. 

I miss the Yiddishisms & go-to Hebrew phrases that have become so ingrained in my brain & my lexicon, the ones no one else around me understands anymore. I miss knowing that everyone I worked with shared my values, that we were all working toward the same goal of a more just & compassionate world.

So I'm... exploring, I guess, which is an interesting place to be after 13 years of being reminded of my Judaism every single day, of feeling it intensely & immersively, of being perpetually connected & committed to Jewish continuity. 

I'm looking into joining a synagogue (maybe). I started following a bunch of Jewish social media accounts. I'm reading a Jewish cookbook & added some Jewish books to my Goodreads TBR list. 

I joined the Rekindle Fellowship, & we're two sessions in. I started taking a virtual course through the Jewish Institute for Spirituality. When I think about it, I try to say "Shabbat shalom" on Fridays to the barista with the hamsa necklace at my favorite coffee shop. 

It's slow going, but I'll figure it out, right? Maybe. Eventually. 

It's so weird to have to do it now, alone, after so many years of being Jewish every day, surrounded by other Jews. To never have to think about it, to be Jewish by default, even when I wasn't actively opting into Judaism in my personal life.

But maybe, actually, that's part of the point — the intentionality, the purpose, the doing Jewish because I want to, not because it is happening around me & I happen to be in the midst of it. To become Jewish because I am Jewish, not because I happen to work someplace Jewish. To figure out what my Judaism looks like when there's no one else to design it for me.

Not just to be, but to become.

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