Reclaiming My Jewish Self

editor Monday 6 August 2018 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

By Susan Rothstein.. How a trip to Uganda led me back to the Torah. I didn’t have a bat mitzvah when I was 13.

Growing up in a Reform family in Washington, D.C., I went through the motions of religious school, confirmation, and the celebration of Jewish holidays. But in the 1960s, Jewish girls didn’t typically study for a bat mitzvah. So when my brother was called to the Torah, I watched from the sidelines with my sister. I thought I’d never have that kind of moment for myself, as I internalized the message that Judaism didn’t have a place for me. [Picture top right: Flag of the Republic of Uganda | Credit Wikipedia].  But Judaism can find you in the most unlikely places at the most unexpected time. In my case, it was decades later on a packed, sweaty bus ride in Uganda—on a trip that brought me back to Judaism, and the Torah.

Tikkun olam—the Jewish obligation to heal the world—is something my parents modeled as active volunteers well into their 90s. My mother was a regular presence in our public schools, assisted with Red Cross blood drives, and, like most Jewish women of her generation, was active in our temple’s sisterhood. Once my father retired, he tutored weekly at a local elementary school where he helped struggling students learn to read. On Christmas Day each year, my parents served meals in the nearby hospital so that Christian members of the staff could celebrate with their families.

Their actions left an indelible mark, but my personal connection to the religious side of Judaism wore thin. As an adult, I considered myself a “cafeteria-style” cultural Jew, picking and choosing what I wanted to observe, none of it particularly deep or meaningful. Yet the Jewish imperative to heal the world stayed with me, the main thread connecting me to my heritage. I followed my parents’ example in myriad small ways, as a volunteer with the local food bank and my children’s schools as well as a potpourri of other actions, but the idea of a big, bold commitment to tikkun olam eluded me. Read the full story.

From:
https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/262681/reclaiming-my-jewish-self-uganda

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