On February 15, 2016, I had a life-changing experience. I discovered my Jewish heritage via results of DNA testing. The next day, I reached out to the Jewish community, and it was the start of a positive and welcoming relationship with the tribe I never knew. My first contact was through TC Jewfolk, and my magnificent mensch, Libby. By randomly reaching out on Facebook, I was able to kick off my Jewish journey and find a friendship.
I have been accepted into a group of kindred spirits who have been willing to share their knowledge, meals, homes and holidays with me. I have literally visited and been welcomed into the homes of strangers to learn about the customs and culture of the Jews and explore my Jewish roots. This has been no easy task for me mind you, as I do not normally make a habit of contacting complete strangers or spending time at gatherings with people I don’t know. The funny thing is they have been so open, willing and welcoming. These people have answered countless questions, invited me to join them in numerous activities, and most importantly, listened to my story. I’m finding that strangers make great teachers and hosts.
Thus far on my Jewish journey, I have seen a consistent theme of community and lack of judgment. Maybe that is why I am so intrigued and drawn to learning more. I have yet to be judged regarding my Christian upbringing. I have yet to be told that my religion is wrong or be treated negatively because I grew up with different customs and experiences. Instead, I have been invited and included and given opportunities to share my thoughts and my history. I have not had to hide who I am or pretend to be someone I am not.
The Jewish holiday of Purim is approaching. Truthfully, it’s a holiday I know very little about. What I do know, is that it includes a strong focus on identity and community. Purim promotes pride in identity, hope, and inclusion. As noted in an article by myjewishlearning.com, “We should not make assumptions about people based on their skin color or ethnic identity. We should make the effort to see what lies below the surface.” Purim is celebrated for “the hope that it gives a minority living in an oftentimes hostile majority culture.” You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the idea of coming together as a community and celebrating triumphs over evil. The message of Purim is very timely as well, as we see so much hostility and discrimination in our world today.
As I continue to explore my Jewish heritage, I am grateful for the community of people who have supported me and enlightened me along the way. I look forward to honoring my Jewish side by continuing to learn and connect with those who are willing to receive me.