When I was 16 years old I decided I didn’t want to be Jewish anymore.
I had been raised in a traditional home, with weekly Friday night dinners, seasonal Chanukah parties, and even the yearly sukkah. I attended Jewish day schools and Zionist camps in my youth, and a Jewish high school in my teens. My mother, a child of Holocaust survivors, tried hard to raise me and my siblings with a strong Jewish identity.
But despite all of my parents’ efforts, Judaism just didn’t seem so meaningful when cast in the shadow of the social reality my school and camp life presented: Tretorn sneakers, Roots leather jackets, moussed curly hair, BMW’s on 16th birthdays and TV show addictions. I felt Jewish people were shallow, materialistic and petty. And the Judaism presented in our classes was not particularly inspiring or relevant.
Then, in 12th grade, I had a “cool” Rabbinics teacher. He had been a hippie in the ‘60s, and knew all the ins-and-outs of who we were, and what we were up to. He was funny, and smart, and candid. He never shied away from talking about who he used to be, and the challenges of being who he was now.
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