Fourteen years ago, I left Minnesota for Richmond. I watched the greenery of Minnesota disappeared beneath my feet. I left behind the tundra, tough-loving state for another state, it wasn’t my choice.
Fourteen years later, I returned and Minnesota never felt like home. No matter where I’ve lived (and I’ve lived in many states – Minnesota, Florida, Virginia), there was nothing compared to landing in Israel for the first time.
While I have never been Orthodox – my family doesn’t keep kosher, we observe the High Holidays, we drove over 90 minutes to synagogue for religious school, Judaism became a part of me.
One question asked of me when I applied to the CAN248 program, “Why do you return to Judaism?”
It is a good question. I have been in foster care homes where the only books and movies were Christianity or Bible-related. I have been told that I will go to hell if I didn’t convert. Why was the first thing I did when I landed in my Christian sister’s home to ask for a synagogue to attend for confirmation? Why, when I was on my sixth brain surgery in a year, did I call Bet Shalom’s rabbi and ask them to visit me? Why have I, after all this time, returned to Judaism?
When I walk along Israel, I see crusade ruins, I see urban, rural, I see kippa wearing Jews, I see people praying at the western wall and I see home. I see people celebrating the heritage I have fought for every single second as part of their day. When I see public transportation shut down, I see a way of life.
My great grandfather was only a child when he came over at 14, his father came before him, working to bring the rest of the family here. They came from a shtetl in Poland, they and all those before them walked in Israel. This where my home is, it is where we all turn to face during Friday night services.
The answer to why I keep returning to Judaism is within Tikkun Olam. Repair the broken world. No matter how far I travel, I’ve always been embraced among the Jewish community for who I am and because of that, I strive to be a better person. I strive to leave a better world behind.
When I had no one to turn to, my faith is what kept me going, knowing and believing there is a better world out there. My great grandfather came to the US, but we all came from Israel all those centuries ago. We wander, but we always wander home even in the diaspora. I am connected worldwide and returning home today – to Israel.
Why do I return? Because Judaism is the foundation of who I am today through all the people I have met.