I was born, raised, and have lived in the South my entire life. Growing up Southern Jewish in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s was an adventure. We were very much a minority. Ours was a small Conservadox congregation.
Although there were not many of us, most of the kids I hung out with were Jewish; partially by choice and partially by circumstance. There were places and homes where we were not welcome. Sometimes bad things happened!
My Jewish identity has always been strong but, like most teens I just wanted to fit in. The more Jewish I was, the more difficult it was to fit in. I married my teenage sweetheart and for years ignored the traditions that were such a vital part of who I am. But sometimes God has a funny way of explaining things.
One day my eight-year-old daughter proclaimed that she had a Jewish soul and wanted to go to religious school. She studied, I reconnected, and Jewish rituals became a part of our family’s everyday life. Seders, High Holy Day fasts, sukkah building and most importantly Friday Shabbat dinners entered the continuum of our family’s life. Our family’s weekly Shabbat dinners allow us to exhale, express gratitude, and create memories that carry us throughout our life.
These rituals provide continuity and balance. They free the mind to nurture the soul. They provide an opportunity to hear God speak. And sometimes we listen. It is so easy to feel disconnected or lost in today’s fast-moving world. Practicing the same rituals, traditions, and life cycles as those who came before us allows me to connect. They help me to connect to those who came before me, those who are around me, and create a pathway for those who come after me if they choose to connect.