Jewish Heritage Month, 2020
May 2020, Jewish Heritage Month. Being a Jew of Faith, what does that mean to me now?
My faith includes a belief in Adonai, the Hebrew name for God. Not all Jews share that belief. Some Jews are agnostic or even atheists but feel connected as cultural Jews. My father fit into that category.
My faith is more of an integrated, spiritual experience that is a part of all that is important to me. It includes a connection to God, trusting in love, having faith in myself, my family and my friends, and it’s nurtured in the power of prayer, contemplation, and the experience of joy. When everything I know as true gets turned on its head by someone dying or by a pandemic or by any major impact or assault to who or what I rely on, that’s when I double down. When I speak of faith, I’m not talking about a “blind, put my head in the sand and ignore the facts” type of faith. No. I’m talking about a deeper, unshakable faith and recognizing that I have more control than I realize if I can get clarity on what I CAN control. My faith affirms that all will shift and resolve itself in time. It affirms that as I move through life’s moments and trials, I will build a stronger inner resolve, that my courage will trump fear, and that my stability will come from being grounded, not by avoiding turmoil.
It’s simple to see but not particularly easy to absorb.
As May wraps up, I want to take this moment to honor my Jewish Heritage because, among other affiliations, I am Jewish or, said in the parlance of 2020 times, I “identify” as being Jewish. When I slowed down to think about my connection to faith and realize how much it has influenced my life, I got an avalanche of a download!
On the positive side, my faith has given me:
- A clear set of values to live by.
- An eternal optimism and childlike wonder.
- The inner knowledge to know what matters most.
- A call to always be growing and expanding.
- Gifts to use to contribute where and whenever I can.
- The wisdom to leave abuse behind.
- Confidence to know I can have a place at any table.
- What it means to be a great human being, mother, wife, daughter.
- A deep joy in being alive, to feel gratitude, and carry an inner fire of celebration.
- Understanding and the ability to embrace the value of my Jewish community and it’s global network.
- A Torah guided GPS on most everything from food choices, to marriage, to transacting business and everything else, really.
- A clear mandate to right wrongs with a focus on prioritizing social justice.
- The uncanny ability to spot another Jew anytime, anywhere.
- A passion for GREAT food and a lot of it, a staple for any respectable Jewish celebration.
- A nose for good humor and great storytelling. I can laugh and cry on the turn of a dime.
- A weird kind of resilience superpower, empathy and compassion.
On the NOT so positive side, my faith has given me:
- A nagging pessimism that can surface when I’ve been pushed to my edges.
- A subtle caution for my safety at all times.
- The kind of struggle that shows me what hell feels like.
- An inferiority complex. I’ll never match up! Seriously? We are supposed to save the WORLD?
- Overwhelm in realizing the enormity of that call to order.
- Discrimination where I have been protected by armed guards for being a Jew.
- Deep sadness when I see suffering.
- Impossible standards to live up to.
Here is my opinion on what I’m really called to do while I’m still here:
It’s not to accept things as they are but to imagine things as they ought to be.
I’m called to be a realist and an optimist at the same time. When I attended a talk with the late Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, at a private affair put on by my synagogue, he talked about humanity choosing optimism over pessimism because “optimists and pessimists die the exact same death, but they live very different lives.”
Then I was given another once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Edie Eger in February of this year. Before the meet up, I read her book, called The Choice. I connected with her love for dance as I too am a dancer. But my deeper connection came from seeing what powerful survival really looks like. Edie survived the Holocaust, literally by the grace of God and with the help of the allied troops at the end of WWII, while her parents were exterminated at Auschwitz. It’s her drive to embrace love, forgiveness and live life to its fullest that makes Edie’s work as a psychologist stand out. “We can choose what the horror teaches us,” Eger counsels. “To become bitter in our grief and fear. Hostile. Paralyzed. Or to hold on to the childlike part of us, the lively and the curious part, the part that is innocent.”
In honor of Jewish Heritage Month, I raise my glass to the lessons of my faith.
I raise a glass to those who could have given up but continued on with the drive and belief that the best revenge is to live well, to love deeply, and to celebrate and laugh often. I raise my glass to healing.
As my great parents, grandparents, parents and every Jew I know would say…
L’ chaim! To life. Now let’s eat!