Learning To Be Jewish In My 30s

Ten months after I started on this Jewish journey that began in my late 30’s, it continues on. That journey has brought new experiences, such as attending my first Passover Seder, as well as friendships, and self-examination. I have found this journey to be enlightening, yet overwhelming at times. There is so much to learn, not only about Jewish history and customs, but about how it all relates to my own history as well.

The road to self-discovery can be a bit daunting and lonely. Lucky for me, I’m building a network of menschen to provide guidance and kinship along the way. Thanks to DNA and the internet, I have also been able to connect with biological cousins who are willing to assist me in my relative research. My goal is to someday uncover the roots of my Jewish family tree.

Growing up as a gentile, my knowledge of Jewishness was severely lacking. The closest I ever came to experiencing a Jewish event was during childhood while having sleepovers at the home of my friend’s Jewish father in St. Louis Park. To counteract my shiksa shortcomings, I have been doing my own version of Jewish learning 101. So far, this has included reading books including “Between Gods: A Memoir” by Alison Pick, “Suddenly Jewish” by Barbara Kessel, “Why Be Jewish?” by David Wolpe, and “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank (I meant to read it years ago and sadly never had). I have also been exploring websites, my personal favorites being www.myjewishlearning.com and of course, TC Jewfolk. I have also met with a real-life rabbi, watched the PBS documentary “Defying the Nazis: The Sharp’s War”, and most recently, attended my very first erev Rosh Hashanah dinner.

I was invited to gather with a family-friendly tribe of Jews (and a few non-Jews too) in celebration of the New Year. We noshed on many delicious delicacies, my personal favorite being the challah dipped in honey. I also enjoyed sampling the traditional Manischewitz wine. Sadly, I was sipping it solo, as nobody else seemed to care for this kosher cocktail. Overall, it was a food-filled evening of fun. I hope to continue to able to attend more Jewish holidays in the future.

My purpose in this journey has been to learn more about myself and whom I came from. As an adoptee, this knowledge is an important, yet missing, piece of my life-puzzle. Those who are not adopted, or who have access to their ancestry and family history may not understand this desire or the feeling of needing to belong. I do not know where this journey will take me or how it will end, but I do know that I will never regret starting it.

I think my first Rosh Hashanah arrived at the perfect time in my life. These last several months since the discovery of my Jewish roots have been a period of introspection for me. I look forward to this new year of discovery and revelations. Shana Tovah U’metukah.