Hanukkah 2022/5783

Ah, Hanukkah- the magical holiday about hope, about holding and fighting on to your beliefs, your traditions, and about having a joyous celebration for 8 long nights. It’s one of my favorite holidays and one of the few that is purely celebratory. We celebrate the Maccabees triumph, and we celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting. This year Hanukkah started this past Sunday evening and goes until Christmas Day (so our original gift giving of the first and last night is not happening this year- I’m thinking first and fourth? Who knows).

This year is a special one as it is the first year, I am going to be sharing Hanukkah in a real way. I’ve been invited into the boys’ classroom to share the holiday, as well as our local library for Storytime. It feels good, in the light of all of the rampant Jew Hatred lately, to be able to share the joy of Judaism through this holiday. To be able to share my Jewish-ness in a real way, in a way that is meaningful. 

Last year I really talked about the holiday of Hanukkah – you can read that HERE (I also talk about the Christmas-ization and the attempt of companies to profit off of Hanukkah more and more). This year, because I am teaching in a public school, I am not able to touch on any religious aspects of the holiday. This actually works out well as a) Judaism is an ethnicity before a religion (though the two are closely tied and it is technically considered and ethnoreligion) and b) Hanukkah is a minor religious holiday- not even really religious at all beyond the fact that they are praying in a temple. 

Since we aren’t fully going into the details of the celebration of Hanukkah (beyond the basic festival of lights), we are going to be leaning heavily into the traditions of the holidays and what exactly we do to celebrate.

Light the Hanukkiah

So, I think this one is pretty obvious if you know anything about Hanukkah and it’s one of the most important, key things. Every night we light one candle on the menorah celebrating every night the oil lasted. We light the candles from right to left using the Shamash (Helper) Candle. Now, a Menorah and a Hanukkiah are two different things. They are often used interchangeably- especially by non-Jews as the menorah is not as universally recognized. A Hanukkiah is specific to Hanukkah and has 8 candles plus the ninth Shamash candle (so a total of 9 candles). A menorah is a more standard 6 candles, plus a seventh helper candle (a total of 7). There is a difference, and to see a standard menorah on a Hannukah shirt bugs me. 

Every night of Hanukkah at sundown we kick the evening off with lighting the menorah, some families might light multiples) before getting down to the celebration. 

Games for Hanukkah

Another obvious one if you know anything about Hanukkah is the game of Dreidel, but maybe you don’t know the history of the game…

So back in King Antiochus’ reign, the Jews were not allowed to study Torah or practice any of their beliefs, this is all well-known knowledge at this point. However, the Jewish people have always found a way, even if it is under darkness and in total secrecy. The Torah Scholars in Antiochus’ day would quickly hide the torah scrolls and studies and pull out the spinning tops when the Greek soldiers would approach. They were “playing” not studying. Later this game would get the name “dreidel” (Yiddish for “to turn around”) and the letters on the dreidel stand for “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” or “A Great Miracle Happened Here” (I would have the appropriate Hebrew here, but Word and WordPress do not take kindly to inserting Hebrew into English- it reads different and then messes the entire document up). 

Dreidel is a fairly simple game that can descend into competitive chaos and great fun. Each side represents a different task- Nun – nothing, Shin – put one in, Hay – get half, and Gimel- get everything. Each player can start with the same amount of gelt, and then the center pot has enough gelt for each player to have one (so 6 players, the pot needs a minimum of 6 pieces- you can choose whether this comes from a separate amount or if the players put in to start). If you do not have enough gelt you can also use chocolate chips, raisins, pennies, whatever little treat. Each player gets a turn to spin the dreidel and follow the direction. Once a player runs out, they’re out! The game ends when there is only one player left with all the gelt. 

What we eat during the Holiday

I’ve actually been asked this this year and the answer is…a lot of food. Food is at the heart of the Jewish community- we show so much of ourselves, our community, our family with food. It’s one of the unspoken love languages (we will ALWAYS try to feed you or fret over food in some way). Most of our holidays have some element of food specifics- i.e., we eat a round challah on Rosh Hashanah, fasting is how we atone for our sins on Yom Kippur, we don’t eat leavened bread during Passover, I mean every holiday has some food element- whether it’s in the traditional foods or a more major atonement or guidance revolving the holiday. 

Hanukkah is no different. Most of the foods that we eat and enjoy revolve around…oil! Shocker since we are celebrating the miracle of oil and light. 

First up- latkes. Latkes are a potato pancake. Literally. That’s it. Shredded potato’s (with some other ingredients) fried in oil and then consumed with either apple sauce or sour cream- which triggers some lively debates (apple sauce for the win over here). 

You’ll also here a food called Sufganiyot, which are fried jelly filled donuts- think of it like if a beignet and a jelly donut had a baby. A delight (if you like that sort of thing) for the senses! 

Again, the main theme with both of these is that it is fried in oil. When we taste and smell the fried oil it is supposed to remind us of the miracle of the oil lasting all 8 nights. 

Most of our holiday celebrations are met with a main course of Brisket. Fun fact- brisket is the easiest of the meats to slice Kosher and it is more affordable, which is why we tend to eat it on all the holidays (it’s also delicious). 

Final- almost all Hanukkah celebrations contain some extent of Gelt. Meaning “money” (Yiddish), Gelt are wrapped chocolate coins commonly used when playing dreidel. They also signify the “gifts” that were originally given to children during Hanukkah. 

Finally, a note on gifts. 

Gifts are a fairly modern idea that mostly American/European Jews participate in, that’s right modern and only on our Western side of the continent (Israeli’s do not gift give during Hanukkah). The thought is that when Jewish families became more “mainstream” and Jewish children more integrated into our heavily Christian leading society, the idea of giving a gift during Hanukkah was introduced as a way for children to not feel “left out” in the rush of Christmas gifts. This tradition is vastly different from family to family, community to community, heck even year to year. 

Any Hanukkah questions? Leave them down below!

AntiSemitism and Judaism

I’ll be honest- I’m really conflicted about writing this blog post. I feel like this is something that I NEED to talk about because it is RAMPANT right now in our world, but I also…don’t want to oversaturate or focus too much on it for a variety of reasons- some of which I’ll touch on in this blog post. I’m going to try and edit this blog post, but it is also going to be a bit freeform, going from point to point and just a bit stream of consciousness as I work through my thoughts and feelings. 

I feel like there are incidents that occur with regular frequency against the Jewish community (anything from physical assaults to vocal microaggressions) that don’t get talked about. I’ve come to expect this, but when there is a large news making incident against and involving the Jewish community that quickly gets deflected away from the Jewish community, that is, by and large, swept aside by the non-Jewish world, then we need to talk about it. 

By the time this will actually be posted the Synagogue Hostage situation in Colleyville, TX will have probably been completely “resolved” – and by that, I mean the news cycle has moved on and everyone has forgotten about it…except the Jews. There have also been several additional instances of Jew Hatred ranging from a woman yelling slurs and spitting on children, to rhetoric and swastikas being written on subway signs in NYC to name just TWO of the things that I’ve seen. So, let’s bring everything back up. Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the bigger issue at hand…antisemitism. 

But first, let’s talk about the word antisemitism. 

Antisemisism was first used in the late 1870’s by a German to describe the anti-Jewish campaigns that were occurring. It really and truly gained traction during Nazi Germany as a way to…placate those who may have questioned the anti jewish state the country was heading toward. The definition and examples have been expanded as the years go (and the ADL has some great resources in regard to this), but at its core it’s hostility or discriminations to the Jews, whether its towards them in a religious or racial way.  There are a couple things to note about the word…

  1. Jew Hatred stems further back than the introduction of “antisemitism”. It is the oldest hatred that we know, dating back to before Christ. This is a known and documented fact. 
  2. The word Antisemitism is actually not “correct” as it refers to “Semites” which, in some instances, can also include Arabs and other groups, not just the Jews. However, “anti-Semitism” was created to specifical relate to the Jews. Often times this fact gets shoved in when talking about “antisemitism” as a way to discredit or minimize actions.

So, in all honesty, I hate the word antisemitism. I hate it for a couple reasons; the first being that it was really brought to popularity by people who wanted to put a “stomach-able” label to the true horrors they were inflicting on others. While the Jewish community has really kind of taken over ownership of the word and have used it as a way to light upon certain hatred and hostility, we CANNOT ignore the origins of the word and who brought it in to regular use. It has by and large been used as a label to “hide behind” instead of blatantly stating what’s happening. The second reason that I hate the word is that, to be honest, it’s just becoming overused and watered down as a tool. While words have power, if a word is used to often (even if it’s justified) it becomes less powerful. I’ve long felt like “antisemitic” or “antisemitism” has lost its “effect” on the non jewish world and this has just become more obvious to me over the past year. I’ve, by and large, tried to cut that word out of my vernacular. I really want to start giving a bit more power to my words, choose them a bit more carefully, and really call things as they are. So, let’s start calling it what it is- Jewish Hatred. 

There is no actual place in Judaism for or that refers to Antisemitism. Let me kind of explain what I mean. Jewish holidays celebrate a few different things, some are in regard to the earth and what we are given by Hashem (such as Tu B’shevat which just passed- this is a celebration of the trees), some are in regard to Jewish triumph (such as Hanukkah), and some are a celebration of Jewish freedom (such as Passover). Our highest holidays of the year (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are days of atonement and judgement. While holidays like Passover and Hanukkah reference hatred, control, slavery, a desire from outside forces for Jews to submit/change, there isn’t a direct reference. It’s more of a celebration of the Jews moving forward and continuing to survive. In fact, a lot of Judaism is a celebration of tradition, survival, justice, and the beauty of our world (and thus taking care of those things). While the hatred of Jews or othering of them is implied, it’s almost just an after statement in a way. 

There is no place in our celebration for hatred from others (or towards others- in fact you can argue that we just want acceptance for who we are and anything that has been done has been not done from a place of hatred, but that’s a whole separate post for a separate day). It’s a celebration of our traditions, our very people, surviving, moving forward, continuing on. It’s a celebration of our world, of the beauty that is in life. And so, most of the time, for most Jews, that’s what we want to share, that’s what we want to focus on, that’s what we want others to SEE when they see US. We don’t want to see, on our end or on others, the sheer amount of hatred there is. Judaism is so beautiful in so many ways and that’s what we want to focus on, share about, and just live. 

So, why can’t we? Please refer to my previous post for more thoughts and words HERE

Hanukkah 2021

Last night at sundown started the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. This is a minor holiday that was added to our holiday list after the Tanach was established. However, this holiday has a mighty, important story that we should all learn and know. To be honest, Hanukkah is my absolute favorite Jewish Holiday, with Rosh Hashanah being a very (almost tied to be honest) second. It has nothing to do with the gift part of it (which many people would assume), but with the story of the miracle of light. The miracle, the holding out of hope, the celebration of this one little miracle (as opposed to some of our other miracle celebrations). The entire holiday just gives me the warm fuzzies and makes me feel just…hopeful, grateful, and good. 

So, at its basic level, Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. It celebrates the rededication of the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem. 

In the 2nd Century Antiochus IV and the Seleucids ruled over the territory and attempted to force the Jews to assimilate. They took over the temple of Jerusalem, sacrificed pigs and welcomed prostitution within the walls, built an alter to Zeus on a holy spot of Hashem, and outlawed several Jewish laws and practices. The Maccabees, Jewish warriors, refused to assimilate. They not only revolted against the Seleucids and drove them out, but they also revolted against those Jews who had assimilated. They waged a Civil War within the Jews and fought hard to bring back the Jewish beliefs and practices. Now, when the war was done and they went to rebuild and rededicate the temple, there was only one bottle of oil for the menorah (a 7-branch menorah- different from the hanukkiah we light during Hanukkah that has 9 branches). A miracle upon miracles, that oil lasted for 8 days, giving the Jews time to make fresh new oil to continue lighting the menorah every day. 

So, the story of Hanukkah is twofold, one is the miracle of the oil; the small pot of oil lasting for 8 days. The second is the fight against the assimilation of our people, the fight to keep our beliefs and traditions despite those who would destroy it and us. And for both of those reasons, I hold the holiday very close to my heart and it’s one of my favorites. 

Ok, so now that we know the history and such, let’s talk about the…” Christmas-ization” of Hanukkah. This is something that I’m a bit…well I have complicated feelings over. I’ll start by saying that as a family we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, which most definitely plays a role in some of my opinions, but also as a child who experienced being “othered” for not celebrating Christmas/being Jewish, AND someone who is re defining what being “Jewish” and using my voice means/looks like, I feel like how I approach this is…notable. 

First off, by now you should know/realize that Christmas and Hanukkah are not the same. At all. And I’m not even saying in a commercial/capitalistic sense, but also just in a basic story of each. Christmas is the story of the birth of Jesus, who would go on to become the savior. Hanukkah is the story of a revolt against those who would have us change our ways, change our beliefs, change who we are, who would crush us into the ground. So, not really the same story at its most basic level. 

Second, these two holidays are not celebrated in the same manor. Hanukkah is celebrated over 8 nights, with fried foods, dreidel games, gelt and gift giving, and song and dance. When the Jews immigrated to the US they included gift giving as a way to offer something to Jewish children who go to school and hear about gifts/Santa (however some could argue that this is just an extended version of the tradition of gifting gelt that dates back to the early 1900’s). Hanukkah is also celebrated on a bit of a simpler “stage” than Christmas. At its basic-ness, we simply need a hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah- 9 candles instead of 7), some candles, and the prayers. Now, some families go beyond that, and set up larger displays in their homes, which is fine, but it is a far stretch from some of the Christmas decorations and idealizations of the holiday. 

With that being said, I appreciate stores trying to be inclusive and offer a wide variety of products to cater to every holiday in the winter. But, as we previously come to understand, these holidays are not the same. They are different both in basic story and in how they are celebrated. So, with respect to capitalism and big stores attempts, I do not want a “Hanukkah Bush”, nor do I want a “Mencsh on a Bench”, or “Hanukkah Charlie”. I don’t want to go into a store and see an attempt to take the holiday of Hanukkah and give it a Christmas rip off product. I don’t think that is wrong to feel AND while I was going to say that I appreciate the stores trying to include a wider variety of holidays, I really actually don’t. Hanukkah is not Christmas and when we understand a bit more of what the story of Hanukkah is (beyond the festival of light and the miracle of the oil), this becomes a bit more upsetting. The idea that The Maccabees were fighting against the idea of assimilating and changing our core, who we are, and our belief system, makes it so much more important to see the reflection of that in what is offered. And while we can argue that some…adapting is necessary in our survival and that the Jewish people have become experts at adapting our beliefs and rituals to fit just about anywhere (hello that is something we are very good at), that doesn’t mean that we need to be marketed to in this way.

I should say- I think each family should handle holidays in ways that work with their family and their beliefs. I would never judge a family on how they want to celebrate or practice. What I would like to see is stores doing a bit more research and understanding in the holidays themselves, rather than just shilling whatever out to consumers (a good example being making “Hanukkah Stockings”). It doesn’t take a lot for a business to do just a bit of research. 

I don’t know if I’ve worded my feelings above in a way that makes sense (and I did do a podcast on this, which may be a little cringeworthy, but there we are: HERE), but that’s my Hanukkah post for this year. I hope you’ve learned a little bit of the history of Hanukkah and my opinions on where we stand now.  

Rosh Hashanah 5782

Shanah Tovah U’metukah! Happy Jewish New Year!! Today is a big day across the board in our home with the Jewish New Year coinciding with our eldest’s first day of kindergarten (yes, I’m sobbing, but we’ll be ok), but this is going to specifically talk about the Jewish New Year. I’ve spoken before (quite a bit) about my relationship with Judaism (read all about it HERE and HERE), but last year I really took a firm step back in and didn’t look back. 

As I’ve said, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and kicks off the start of our High Holidays (or some of the most religious days of our year). Similar to the “standard New Year”, the Jewish New Year is a time of reflection and of intentions. In fact, the whole month leading up to the New Year is a time of deeper reflection, of looking inward, looking at our past year, deepening our relationship with our spirituality/religion, and then, finally, looking forward to the new year. All comes to a head on Rosh Hashanah, which is a day on which we are called to account and our actions weighed for the Book of Life. It is both a solemn occasion AND a celebration as we “start all over again” with a fresh year. 

Tradition has us eating sweet food, wising one another a “Shanah Tovah U’metukah” or a Good and Sweet New Year, attending synagogue services and listening to the Shofar blasts (easily my favorite part- followed closely by the Apples & Honey). However, after the celebration we spend 10 days repenting, being judged by Adonai, and engaging of acts of repentance for our sins of the previous year. Those 10 days culminate in Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, our holiest of High Holidays. Yom Kippur is our day of atonement, and we spend the day observing a fast, spending time praying, attending synagogue. 

This year, I spent the month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish Calendar, doing some journaling prompts and trying to deepen my relationship with being Jewish. The prompts are from Rebekah Lowin, you can find them HERE, who I recommend if you want to see just how incredibly beautiful life and Judaism can be. I would also check out Ariel Loves on Instagram (HERE) and her Jewish Family Magic (HERE), for a wide variety of information about the various holidays, months, and life being Jewish. Anyways, I felt like over the past year I really deepened my religious connections, I found a community (of sorts), and found my way back to a part of myself that I had put in a box. I started on this journey just before Rosh Hashanah last year (I think a month or two prior- it’s in the “It All Rests on the Challah” post linked at the beginning of this post), so it felt fitting to continue deepening it over this past month and Rosh Hashanah 5782. 

I am treating this new year as THE new year, whatever intentions or words I set now, are the same words/intentions I’ll be setting come 2022 (although I’ll refresh those in a post then too) and I’ve found that the journaling that I’ve been doing over the past month has really helped with that. I want to share a couple of my thoughts from ALL that writing and reflecting and how I plan on incorporating those thoughts into this New Year. 

First up, on the first of Elul, I wrote about what “word” I wanted to mark my 5782 journey. Because there is nothing like starting with the hardest thing first. But, no worry, I did a little deep dive and figured out a word to a feeling to what I wanted. See, I’ve always said that I just want to be that happy spot, that light moment, that good thing that you experience in your day to day. Those are the moments/things that I cling to when I’m having an off/bad day, those are the moments/things I want to provide others with, and what I think makes all the difference. BUT I’ve never really found an English word that described that. So, I turned to Yiddish and/or Hebrew (this was in part because I couldn’t find an English word and in part because I really wanted to lean into this side of things a bit more). Enter: MECHAYEH or “that which gives life”, the idea of a thing or feeling that just makes your day (the example given was a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day). It is exactly what I want for my 5782, what I want to give off for my 5782, and where I want all my focus to be for 5782. On the things that give me/us/everyone LIFE. 

Another entry to share is from the Eight of Elul, where I wrote about habits for the year. Not the big goals, the massive, almost unachievable resolutions we are all guilty of making, but rather one small promise. One little achievable thing I could do every day that would make a difference in myself. That’s hard, especially for someone who…well goes big or goes home. It took a lot of thought, but I settled on “Getting out of bed when my alarm goes off”. We all do it, we all wait till the last minute, hit the snooze button as many times as we can, or just lay around on our phone until something else calls to our attention. When I don’t do this, I have a mile’s better day, feel clear headed, and don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. So, that is my little promise to myself to do every morning. Get out of bed with my first alarm and get on with my day, instead of procrastinating until the last minute. 

On the 23rd of Elul there was a prompt regarding lending our life to those who need us. Now, you would think this is fairly obvious for me as a mom and a wife- I’ve got two little boys who rely on me 25/8 and a husband who relies on me to keep everything moving, BUT I want to make sure this coming year that I am looking forward and outward. I am stepping into a new community role that I’ve never done before, and I want to look further than my immediate family/friends/micro community to see further ways to help. I think there are always those that need help and I want to be able to help however I can. I look at it in a larger circle of “those who need us” I want to enlarge that circle a bit more for the upcoming year (and then continue that on).  

Finally, on 28 Elul there was an entry regarding what feeling we want to embody, to wake up to on the New Year and what we can do to make that happen. Honestly, I want to wake up feeling at peace, feeling positive, and seeing the beauty in our life. I want to kickstart new habits, which always transition a few weeks before the New Year. I always make small changes leading up to a bit “re set” (does this even make sense at this point?) and so, Erev Rosh Hashanah I’ll be doing all the little things- cutting off screen time early, reading, going to bed early, face wash, etc. Just to help kick my year off right.

To be honest, I’m really looking forward to this new year, to a chance to continue to deepen my relationship with my ethnicity and community, and to share a bit more about it along the way! So, Shanah Tovah U’metukah everyone! Have a happy and sweet New Year. 

Let’s Talk About – Judaism and Being Jewish

Something that shifted for me, almost ironically so, in 2020 was my faith. I found myself coming back to who I was, in terms of faith, and unearthing a part of me that had been silent for a long while. I’ve talked a little bit about this HERE, but this really started a bit before our move to Germany and then really solidified while we were here, with a trip to the Old Synagogue of Rome (HERE) reminding me of the very things I liked and missed.

Something important to note about Judaism (that I’ve noted before, but it’s important) is that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It doesn’t matter if they are practicing the religion, they are a Jew. It doesn’t matter if they have converted, they are a Jew. Being Jewish is so much more than just practicing the religion. It’s unique in that it’s an ethno-religion, which simply means it’s an ethnicity, as well as a religion (not a race- an ethnicity). Basically, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It’s something that is both used against and for Jews. 

Let’s kick things off at the very beginning. I was raised “in the faith” we will say, but in a reform manner (don’t worry- I’ll break it down in a minute). My mom is Jewish, as was her mom, and so in and so forth. In Houston, where I grew up, we had a sizeable Jewish community. My neighbors were Jewish, close family friends, and we celebrated all the holidays together. We had a beautiful synagogue where I was an active participant both in the services and schooling, but also in the choir. My faith was an important part of my early childhood. 

And then we moved. There was a lot that went into the decision to move, there was a lot that went into the actual move, and a lot of things that came out of that move (both good and bad), but something that we lost that I had never truly realized was our Jewish Community. I didn’t truly recognize how much this move wrecked my faith until much later on (when I was like 20 something) and we went back to Houston for a birthday party and visited our old Synagogue and community. It really struck me then how far I strayed away from practicing the faith. 

I want to clarify something as we are going to get into some nitty gritty here…

I have always considered myself Jewish. ALWAYS. That has never changed. Being Jewish is just as much of part of who I am as my long brown hair, brown eyes, and so forth. I have a kinship with “my people” that extends beyond whether I practice or not because, again like I’ve mentioned, Judaism is an ethno religion. There is a connection with all of the Jews, one that I feel keenly quite often (more than I even talk about). Whether I actively practiced or not, I still had faith in the lord, and the core principles of Judaism guiding me. I had to navigate some pretty tricky waters and I reached out to other religions to learn and understand. I traveled quite the…”journey” and I’m at where I’m at now because of it. 

ANYWAYS, I’ve majorly digressed here. 

So, we moved and while we found a synagogue and a small community, it wasn’t the same as I had had. For the first time I was the “oddball” of my area and I struggled. I struggled with being different (I had this large southern accent and was not the…”status quo” in my school) and while I wouldn’t say I hid my religion; I definitely didn’t talk about it as much. This was the time where everyone is entering adolescence and so things are already awkward and different, and here I was this strange new girl. I was different all around when all I wanted was to fit in. I think we all know those feelings as they go beyond faith. 

Once I became Bat Mitzvahed we definitely dialed back on the religious front. We would still go to synagogue for High Holidays, and we kept relatively kosher, but it there was a definite difference pre and post. Again, I think a lot of this was in relation to not having that community. To not really loving our synagogue. To not connecting in a new area. It was kind of the perfect combination of all the wrong things. 

Things slowly started to continue to fade away until finally they just went dormant. I don’t know that I would say that I didn’t keep kosher (as I actually still did- dietary things always stuck with me), but I definitely didn’t practice in any noticeable way. I met my now husband, who comes from a large (compared to mine) Catholic family. Neither of us really practiced religion in any secular way (in that we didn’t go to church or synagogue, nor did we practice any important holidays from our respective religions). The only holiday we ever participated in was Christmas, when we would go to his family’s home and I got that magical big family Christmas that I always dreamed of.  We got married in a small ceremony in a small church in Kentucky and that was perfect for us (I would NEVER change our wedding for anything- it was easily one of the most incredible days of my life). 

Fast Forward to now. When we went to the Old Synagogue of Rome and we walked through the museum where they talked about all the Jewish rituals, the importance of those rituals, the various stories and histories, I felt a panging in my heart. A longing for that feeling that my faith had always given me. I felt at home in this area, talking about all the things that I had participated in, all the things that I had missed from those rituals, it felt good and heartbreaking to walk through. I had felt this before, these little inklings over the years, but standing here, in this moment it clicked in my heart, soul, and mind. I wanted that back. 

It’s been strange, living here in Germany and being Jewish (even without being a practicing Jew). A place that is a source of so much pain, and seeing sites that cause that pain, hearing about the anti Semitism that started almost “innocently” that then led to a mass murder. To, once again, feeling like I had to hide a part of me- that may be a bad way of phrasing, but I don’t advertise that I’m “Jewish” here in Bavaria. It’s not because I feel like Jews are being openly attacked or anything, just more so a personal security, don’t paint a target kind of feeling, which is a sign of something that I’ve hinted at this entire post. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to “other” myself and there is enough anti-Semitism that still OPENLY exists in our world that it makes me hesitate to be so open about this part of my identity. 

But, if I’ve learned something over the past two years, and throughout this entire journey, it’s that trying to hide that doesn’t do anything. I had someone this year question my faith. Question this part of my life. Belittle my Jewishness and make it something that was nonexistent. And when I tell you it fired me up, it fired me up. I’m not a person that gets riled by other opinions of myself, but this one, to be blunt, pissed me off. It also made me realize just how real ignorance (and stupidity) still very much exist in this world. Hatred still exists in our world. People still try to find others to blame for problems. And me celebrating my faith and religion isn’t going to change that fact. 

So, what does being Jewish look like to me now? Well, not much has changed. We aren’t a big “go to church/synagogue” family and that isn’t something that I foresee changing in the near future. We are interfaith, this past year celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, and I have started integrating little things into my everyday celebrations of faith. I celebrated Rosh Hashanah this year, fasted on Yom Kippur, semi abstained during Passover, I make Challah, when we move I plan on lighting the candles on Friday Nights. I’ve been wearing more of my Jewish jewelry, recently having received my “אִמָא” (Imma-Mom in Hebrew) necklace. I’ve also picked up a couple other pieces here and there on our travels. I’m looking forward to what this next phase in my faith will look like.