My Jewish Life
Posted on 07/22/2013 @ 09:56 AM
When I was young I found out that my grandmother was Jewish, but I didn't know how to be Jewish. My parents do not practice Judaism. When I was little I started to notice symbols that were Jewish like the hamsa, Star of David, and menorah. I was always asking questions about Judaism, but my mother did not know the answers. My interest in Judaism started when I was younger, but I was never able to explore it. About five years ago I met my friend Nastia at camp. This camp was divided into different nationalities including Ukrainian, Jewish, Chinese, Russian, and Moldovan. I was in the Jewish group with Nastia. In this group they explained to us the laws of Judaism but did not teach us how to practice the laws. At the beginning I was not sure if I belonged to this group. A few years later Nastia told me about BBYO. At the time I was interested in different religions and was on a mission to find myself, so I said yes and joined BBYO. Now, here I am on ILSI having my first truly Jewish experience.
At the airport I was really nervous and forgot all of my English words! I was searching for the BBYO group for forty minutes. When I finally found them I had a sign that said "BBYO," and they did not understand what that meant! I was nervous because Nastia was not able to come to Israel. I was scared for what was to come, being the only Ukrainian, and knowing nothing about BBYO or Jewish life. This changed when I started to meet new people. It became easier to be here, to talk, and to understand. I have never been alone. Someone is always helping me and caring about me.
When we started doing prayers before and after eating I was very confused. Throughout the trip people explained all of the different practices including services and Shabbat. My mishpacha was responsible for planning Saturday morning services. During the service two friends, Cory and Ilana helped me understand. People cared about my first Shabbat experience, and I learned my first prayer at my first Shabbat. I was excitedly awaiting the second Shabbat.
The second Shabbat was special because all of the girls felt like a big family. In the evening everything feels deeper. We talked about the spirituality of the elements (water, earth, wind, and fire.) I felt connected to the wind. As the wind blew, it felt like the whole universe was holding us together.
Throughout ILSI I have been feeling more and more Jewish as I connected to all of the places we visited. Learning all of the history of Judaism made me proud of who I am. It is inspiring to see that the Jewish people never give up. Now I feel that it is my responsibility to help keep the Jewish people alive. It is exciting to see hundreds of teens just like me, with different beliefs and opinions, come together as a community.
- Masha, Kiev, Ukraine