I’m matrilineally Jewish, and I grew up in a secular interfaith family. We didn’t have a lot of positive Jewish traditions in my family, which I attribute to the unfortunate fact that my maternal grandmother was both abusive and a bad cook. I started exploring my Jewishness a little bit in college, but I was always shy about it because, not having grown up practicing, and having a name that doesn’t indicate my Jewish heritage, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I tended to feel comfortable venturing to services only if I had a friend to accompany me. This was the case throughout my twenties and early thirties in Boston, as I tried out different communities now and then, until I attended services at Nehar with my friend Joha… in February 2020!
After that, I attended services via Zoom just about every Friday and became
involved in the Nehar community. Attending virtually from home removed the emotional barrier to entry I’d experienced before in attending in-person services in various congregations — I didn’t have much doubt about whether I belonged there, because I was on my own couch at home, and the little Zoom box that showed my face and my name somehow seemed about as valid as anyone else’s. With that barrier to entry removed, it’s been possible for me to begin learning that members of this community have many kinds of relationships with Jewishness, and that, among other things, I don’t have to have a concrete or personified understanding of the divine to belong to this community, or to find deep spiritual meaning in the traditions we enjoy together.
I wish for all of us a sweet New Year that removes unhelpful barriers to entry and that provides new opportunities for community and connection, and I’m so happy to be able to celebrate with you in person.