I Love Being Jewish
When I was in first grade, I wrote the following in my school journal:
“I am Jewish. I love being Jewish. I go to temple on Friday. I love going. I sing on Friday. I don’t bring my dog. My name is Rachel. The Rabbi reads the Torah on Friday. I go to Temple with my daddy. I know all the Rabbis. I go to Sunday school. Being Jewish is the best thing in the world. I have a Torah of my own. I love it.”
Decades after writing this, I have to say that a lot of this is still true.
My name is still Rachel although now “Rabbi” comes before it. I still love going to Sunday School and spending Friday evenings at services. I still know lots of rabbis. And, I still think being Jewish is the best thing in the world.
I don’t remember writing this journal entry, although I do remember being very proud when it appeared in our temple’s newsletter.
I also remember the way that, from my earliest years to my graduation as a senior in high school, every time I walked into my temple I felt like it was my space.
Want to talk with a rabbi? I know where all of their offices are, and they never seem to mind when I pop in to say hello.
Need something from the temple kitchen? No problem. My mom and Bubbe were presidents of Sisterhood, so I know where everything is and would be happy to help.
Feeling bored during services? I can take us to the Bride’s room where the floor is covered in carpet so fluffy that you’ll think you’re walking on clouds.
Feeling peckish on a Sunday morning before school? I can help! I’m friends with Miss Annie, and she always knows where the best snacks are.
Can’t find your classroom? I’ll take you! And, while we walk, I’ll tell you about the many Bearmans who have taught Sunday School classes over the years and the multiple perfect attendance awards that I’ve won.
Wondering if the temple has any secret passageways? Well, it does, and I know exactly where they are.
(On a related note- I may have been insufferable for a good chunk of my life.)
I can never remember a time when I felt uncomfortable in our sanctuary. I belonged there, and I knew that even as small kid.
The sanctuary was the place where the rabbis and cantor, all of whom were my very good friends, celebrated Shabbat.
It was where my sisters and I would spend time coloring, reading, or begging Dr. Charlie for candy while my dad practiced with the band.
It was where my parents had been married and my sisters and I were consecrated.
It was where I would try to sit quietly during High Holy Day services as I watched for my grandpa to give us the secret wave from his seat on the bimah.
No matter where I looked in the huge sanctuary of our synagogue, I saw my family.
Almost every room in the temple came with a memory from my own life or with a story from a family member’s life. There was no doubt in my mind that temple was simply our family’s second home. The fact that it also belonged to thousands of other people didn’t stop me from feeling in my bones that my temple was in a real and meaningful way mine.
Fast forward many years, and I’m still as in love with Judaism as I was in first grade. But, now that I am a rabbi, I believe that one of my most important responsibilities is helping every child who comes through our doors to feel that our temple is theirs too.
At Family Services (and sometimes at other services) a child will wander up onto the bimah. Sometimes they want to come stand with me; sometimes they do a little jump or dance and then head back to their seat; sometimes they tell me that they’re hungry and that I should speed up because they know that when we finish, there will be cookies.
TBC’s sanctuary is a space that belongs to everyone. It is where we dance, sing, and pray. It is where we read stories, have conversations, and sometimes even loudly announce that cupcakes would be preferable to more prayers (It’s hard to argue with that logic!). It is our home away from home and a place that is filled to the brim with memorable experiences.
If you haven’t come to Family Services at TBC, you should gather your friends and give it a try (they’re open to everyone!).
I am always moved and energized by the sight (and sounds!) of so many young people connecting to Judaism and one another.
When I see their bright faces and shining spirits, I can’t help but think to myself, “Being Jewish is the best thing in the world. I love it.”