I am aware of the strangeness, to the point of being almost oxymoronic, of the title. “Alone, as a Jew? Wherever you go, there’s a Jew! There’s even a song about it!” Putting aside the fact that that’s not even remotely true, that is not directly the concern which I have faced per se.
The thing is, at my college, there are other Jews. There’s a small Hillel and a number of students who are Jewish but uninvolved. The thing is… Well, I’m the only one (literally, as far as I know, though there may be one or two others) who is religious, at all (my father uses the term “not liturgically inclined” for this sort of group). I don’t go to Hillel events anymore because they serve non-kosher food there and they routinely commit shabbos violations as a matter of course, like going out to dinner or watching a movie on Shabbos, so I don’t feel comfortable being there anymore. Even little things, like not covering the challahs, happen and they bug me more than they probably should. (I also got into a fierce argument once because of the vice president of said Hillel’s belief that all orthodoxy is inherently misogynistic. I confess that no matter one’s beliefs on the matter, it was my fault that the argument occurred, and I could have avoided it if I had been thinking more socially about who I was with.) At the neighboring school’s Chabad house, students are routinely on their phones on Shabbos at the Chabad rabbi’s table, and I don’t know how to tell them that I find that disrespectful so I just keep silent (I imagine the Chabad rabbi just gave up that at some point after he realized there was no winning it). Nobody my age, with a very sparse few exceptions, seems to care or be observant at all. I feel like the last vestige of… something.
Meanwhile, I find myself drifting away even from the conservative movement because I get frustrated at laxness and what seems (to me) to be not caring about the service, skipping parts or doing the Amidah together just to save time or putting out food during Tsom Esther or things like that. It’s not that I like mechitsas* – at least, I don’t think I do – but it seems like those are the only places that really take the service or yiddishkeit seriously, for whatever definition of “serious” I mean in this case. And of course there’s rarely people my age there – they all are reform (I remember students at the aforementioned neighboring college refusing the rabbi’s offer of free boxes of matzah, because “I was raised reform”). Meanwhile, I’m praying three times a day and rarely leaving the house without a siddur, doing weird observances nobody has ever heard of like refusing to listen to music during sefira, keeping strictly kosher, refusing to date non-Jews, and otherwise being religious enough that even my father clearly doesn’t approve – and he’s a rabbi. (Ex, he told me that it’s fine to say sheheheyanu over my master’s thesis defense, and thinks I’m being needlessly restrictive by saying that the local orthodox rabbi and others on this very subreddit said it is not permitted.)
It would be easy to say something rude and self-centered like “I’m fighting the good fight against assimilation that all these Reform kids lost”. I won’t deny that I’ve occasionally thought that sort of thing – and yes, I know it’s rude and wrong, so no need to tell me. But more, I just feel weirdly alone and very self-doubting. Wondering if I going crazy. Am I obsessing over minute religious details that everyone of my generation knows are stupid? Am I the last vestige of some ridiculous observance that society is throwing away, and good riddance? Am I just some neurotic weirdo who follows stupid rules for no reason other than some old guy 2000 years ago said to? Everyone else seems to think so.
I don’t know if this is stupid or not, but I’m curious if anyone has felt similarly. How do you deal with being one of a very few religiously observant people in your area? Do you deal with similar self-doubt on whether there’s a purpose to it or if you should even be bothering? Or am I just lacking in religious conviction, and if I had it I would stop caring about being alone?
* I confess that, while I have been going to services that do have a mechitsa lately, I maintain saying that I don’t approve of them, to others and to myself. On some level, I suspect that I may in fact be coming to like them, but can’t admit it to myself or anyone else, because societal values/what I was raised with push so far against the concept of genders being treated in any way differently (see the aforementioned “All orthodoxy is misogynistic” attitude, which is something I was raised with) that I am worried coming out in favor of them means either I’m a horrible person, and/or not a horrible person but will be seen and treated as such by most of society. This is just a hunch and I’m not sure what I really think, but it is an example of the sort of self-doubt and uncertainty that my increasing observance has led me to.
submitted by /u/Kesseleth