Hello everyone, this is going to be a long post. I guess I’ve been feeling sort of down about something. I just wanted someone to tell. The issue I’m having is that I don’t feel comfortable in my Synagogue. I don’t like the way that I feel when I’m there. I don’t like going anymore, I don’t really like a lot of the people there (though many are great and amazing), and I feel little connection with the Rabbi and community. It could be the age difference. I am an 18-year-old guy about to go to college (literally in a few days), and most people there are older. I don’t feel this way about Synagogues in general. I love Judaism and my Jewishness, but the way I feel there makes me hate myself. I guess I feel this way because I feel like most people there look at me like I’m ignorant. The Synagogue I go to is Modern Orthodox. There aren’t many Synagogues in my city (about seven off the top of my head), and preferably I would want to be a part of a Sephardi community. However, there isn’t a Sephardi Synagogue in my city. To get back to why I think people look at me as ignorant is because I didn’t grow up that religious. I was a part of a Reform Community for several years before my family started going to the Orthodox Synagogue. I still have learning to do, but overall, I feel very knowledgeable about Judaism.
We left the Reform Synagogue because we had some traumatic experiences there, which has honestly left me with some bitterness. We started going to this Orthodox Synagogue because my mother liked the Rabbi. Things were different, and I eventually got used to it and started to prefer it. I fell in love with traditional Judaism. And things got better at this Synagogue. The traumatic experiences we had at my previous Synagogue didn’t happen here, and things were nice. I’ve been here for years, and I got used to things here, yet I don’t feel a part of anything. I don’t feel like I have any value other than my brothers and I making a minyan and helping my mom with kiddush and cleaning the Synagogue after they leave it a mess. People there literally started to call us the 30%, which honestly doesn’t feel good to hear. We told them that we don’t like it, and they stopped, but it still doesn’t change much. I feel more like a maid than a congregant. Ironically, when COVID happened and made me stop going to Synagogue was the best thing to happen to my Judaism. I started to learn more and did a lot of reading. I began to learn more tefillah, more about our history, our people, Israel, antisemitism, etc. I believed in Hashem and the divinity of the Torah but wasn’t doing much in actuality. I guess you can say I became more serious about Judaism. I can still do more, and I’d like to, but I’d like to think any form of observance is praise-worthy.
To get back to the issue I’m having. I’m just a bit worried. I had a horrible experience in the first community, and now I don’t feel a part of my current community. Now I’m heading to college (In the city I live in), which has a Hillel and Chabad, and I’m worried I won’t fit in there. Maybe because I’m Sephardi, perhaps because I’m somewhat religious, I don’t know. I’m just nervous. I’ve never had Jewish friends in my life. I went to public school, where my brothers and I were the only Jews. Hillel is having a dinner in a few days where I’ll finally meet some people, and I’m just so anxious. I want friends, and I want to be a part of a community where I feel valued. Honestly, I was planning on sort of ditching the Synagogue I go to for my Chabad on campus and see if I like it better. Do you all have any advice? Should I lower my expectation in case I’m disappointed? Thank you.