I grew up in Tel Aviv among a very secular family and friends, and moved to North America 20 years ago, have been living here since then.
Religion does not play a big role in my life. I fast on Yom Kippur, light candles on Chanukkah, and do Kidush on Friday evenings sometimes if I’m with my family, and that’s about it.
However, I do feel VERY strongly about being Jewish and very connected and proud of the Jewish people, historically and today. Being Jewish is a very important part of my identity, something that I want to pass on to my children. But I don’t know how to describe what my Jewishness means.
My girlfriend is not Jewish and does not know many Jews, and is trying to better understand me. She recently asked me what does it mean that I’m Jewish if I’m not religious? Why do I feel Jewish? How does it come into play in my daily life? If I don’t practice religion, then what does it really mean when I say that I feel Jewish and how would I want to pass it onto my children, is it just the holidays? To be honest, I never thought of these questions, I always just took for granted that I’m Jewish and that’s who I am, and haven’t thought about the deeper meaning of why I feel that. I was pretty stumped when she asked me this because I don’t quite know how to describe it. She also asked me why I feel a tie for Jerusalem, and I don’t know how to answer that – even though I’m not religious, I feel like Jerusalem is just so deeply rooted into our ancestry and identity, I just cannot explain it.
I’m wondering if other non religious Jews have any personal insights into what being Jewish means to you. I know it’s a very personal question but I’d love to hear from others to see if anything resonates with me because I don’t know how to put my feelings into words.