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Tel Aviv Student Reflects on Be’eri Seminar

Participant in Beeri student leadership program sent us a letter sharing that as a result of the seminar she feels new ownership of her Jewish heritage

Reflections of a Tel Aviv high school student who participated in the Be’eri-BINA (a leading organization at the intersection of Jewish Pluralism and Social Action in Israel) student leadership program, Journey into Israeli Society, on the topic of Secular Holiness, led by Amit Alon, Be’eri Regional Facilitator for the Tel Aviv area

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about today’s session [on Jewish-Israeli identity]. I shared every word that was said today with my mother, my father, and my sister. This was the first time in my life that I have been exposed to this way of thinking and these types of ideas….I always thought that there were only three possibilities: to be a secular atheist; to be secular, believe in God, but not observe the commandments; or to be religious. Today I encountered something else, something which might suit me.

I always thought that since I don’t agree with Judaism (in the sense of the Jewish religion) I am not a believer. I am Jewish, but not religious and therefore felt detached. My mom doesn’t believe at all and my father is a secular believer but not observant. Each Yom Kippur I ask myself if I should fast or not. Today, after the meeting with [Be’eri facilitator]Amit Alon, and after all of the debates, and after listening to other opinions, I really feel that I have found my place, at least for the present stage in my life….I think I do believe in the universal values of Judaism, which are not only laws and religion. I know I won’t take for granted that Orthodox Jews are the only religious Jews and things should be as they decide.

From now on, when I’m asked what it means to be Jewish I’ll have so many things to say—unlike at the beginning of the meeting today when I had nothing to write. Although I think that the thinking we did might be too intensive for us, teenagers, we do have to understand that there is an alternative for people my age who are in the same situation. I know that I will share this with more and more people that I know, because I feel it is so important. I am still digesting everything and still stuck with the question of my identity.

I do know that I am totally Jewish and that Judaism is not just halakha. And mostly, I know that it is important to hold on to the feeling that being Jewish is not just Jewish religion, it is spirituality and values that get passed on and that this is what unites us all. Spreading this idea will be our way of preserving our religion, preserving Judaism. All Jewish movements should be accepted and everybody should have the right to express his/her Judaism and not let one single denomination be the ruler.

Having said all this, I want to thank you and to everybody else for the opportunity to take part in this project, which gave me so much. It is a subject I knew so little about and I even wasn’t even able to think about it.

Thank you again and many thanks to everybody who made it possible (the Be’eri project founders and staff, Amit Alon) and especially to you Noa [the seminar leader], for helping us to see it all and guiding us to this place we’ve never been to before.

Adi Yehuda

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