A bit of a rant but curious if anyone else can relate to my situation. I grew up in a small town in the South where we were the token Jewish family. Luckily, i had a great childhood and most people were nice and curious about the religion —I actually felt very strongly and proudly Jewish growing up.
However, I craved having a community and decided to go North to a college with many Jewish activities and organizations. I spent my entire freshman year attending nearly every Jewish event— Hillel, Chabad, Hebrew classes, all types of Shabbat services, dialogue groups, etc. And it broke me. I didn’t connect or click with anyone, and i felt so alienated from all the Jewish people I met. I didn’t fit (or want to fit) into any of the boxes they tried to class me in. I couldn’t play Jewish geography (since I never lived near other Jews before), I was either too Jewish or not Jewish enough, my family wasn’t rich or connected. I was too Zionist for the progressive Jews and too lefty for the conservative ones. I knew fewer Yiddish phrases than the nonJews in my school, and I never grew up with much Ashkenazi food either and didn’t understand its appeal. I was told I looked “too Jewish” but also had some people be surprised that I was Jewish at all. Anyway, I ended up making some amazing friends in college, but unsurprisingly none of them were Jewish.
The experience sadly disconnected me from feeling Jewish or wanting to do anything Jewish at all for a few years. I dated non-Jewish men and stopped observing most of the holidays unless I went home to visit family.
Finally, after a hard breakup and a quarter-life crisis about my job and life direction, my sister convinced me to go to Israel and clear my head for a few months. And it was life-changing. For the first time, i found myself around Jewish people who didn’t try to box me in. I could be Jewish any way I wanted to be Jewish, and the culture was so rich with people of so many different and interesting backgrounds. Also the food is amazing! Obviously Israel is far from perfect, but it was exactly what my starved Jewish soul needed.
Why was it so much harder for me to feel connected to Jewish people in the US? Does anyone else feel this way?