I'm driving to school on a December morning, thinking about the Chanukah party I attended the night before, and decide to turn on the radio. I want to listen to today's hits, maybe some throwbacks, maybe some jazz, but I'm met with the 'Jingle Bell Rock'. I switch stations, and 'White Christmas' is playing. I try once more, and 'All I Want for Christmas is You' is blasting through my speakers. I was privileged enough to grow up in a thriving Jewish community, but it's always been frustrating walking around my city and see another religion treated as if it's the only one. Growing up without a Jewish community could exasperate this feeling of frustration. It's difficult to connect to one's identity, to connect to Judaism, when it isn't visible in the public sphere.
Connecting to Judaism
Connecting to Judaism is not so appealing when so much effort has to be made, especially for someone growing up without a basis of a connection to the religion. There is a lack of recognition and representation of Judaism in the world, which causes a lack of desire to connect for many Jewish people. Everyone wants to fit in, and proudly identifying as Jewish can make it difficult to do so.
can make it difficult to do so.
I would argue that the seemingly demanding nature of Judaism is what scares so many Jewish people away from trying to connect with it. Many are taught that there is only one way of being Jewish, or maybe two, or three, but that's it. There is no nuance, there is no individuality, and nobody wants to change their lifestyle for something they are told to care about but have no personal connection to.
The biggest lesson I have learned
The biggest lesson I have learned through my own Jewish journey is this: Your Judaism is your own and nobody else's. Whatever the connection to Judaism, whether it be cultural or religious or through family, it is valid and it is worthwhile. The way holidays like Christmas and Halloween and Easter are shoved down our throats makes them impossible to ignore, but we can still take pride in our own holidays and traditions. We deserve to discuss our Judaism and express our connection to it, especially in areas in which it is often ignored or set aside. As an American Jew, I make it a point to educate those around me about my religion and the way in which I connect to it. These discussions help me connect more to my religion and they give Judaism a voice in the public domain, something that will help so many other Jewish people feel seen and heard. Chanukah may not be able to compete with Christmas, but the Jewish people can feel the same level of connection to their holiday if we start to give it the space it deserves. We can start to give our holidays the space they deserve once we begin to empower our own Judaism.