At the moment, I am a 13-year-old male. (I will be turning 14 on September 7.) I come from a secular Jewish family (although I have a few Catholic and Lutheran relatives.) I, more than any other member of my family aside from very old relatives who immigrated from the Czech Republic, am extremely attached to my Jewish culture.
Judaism, as a faith, social/moral system, and culture, has given me a serendipitous feeling of belonging rivaled by few other things. Through Jewish culture, I feel a wonderful connection to thousands of years of religion, culture, and philosophy.
But we live in a world of non-Jews. From Muslims to Hindus to Christians (all respectable faiths) to Americans to Germans to Yemenites (again, all respectable cultures and nationalities.) Because of this, sometimes I wonder why I stick to Judaism.
Should I simply assimilate to non-Jewish society? Should I abandon Jewish customs and ideas to fit in? It would appease the people around me, which makes me think I should, but it fills me with joy and belonging.
Very little can rival the joy, the comfort of a Sabbath evening surrounded by illuminating candles eating Jewish cuisine with my father, as we sip from the kiddush. It’s beautiful, but the distinction from “normal” society makes it feel semi-burdensome.
I’ve been wrestling with this concept for a few months now, and thought this would be the best place to discuss it.