What comes to mind when you think of your earliest Jewish memory? For me, I remember my dad teaching me the Shema when I was five years old. The last line instructs us to “inscribe them [mezuzot] on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” My dad explained that because of this instruction, there are mezuzot on the doorway entrances of buildings and rooms and we kiss it as a sign of respect. Naturally, I took that to the extreme and whenever we would sing the last line of the prayer, I would sprint to the mezuzah in my room to kiss it and run back before finishing the last few words of the prayer. This happened every night for years during my childhood. Nobody stopped me- it was my first Jewish memory that exemplified experiential Judaism as it related to my five-year-old life at the time.
Fast forward twenty years later and I have continued to experience Jewish moments and create new Jewish memories that are instilled in the concept of experiential Judaism. As a kid into my teens, I attended Jewish summer camp and ultimately forged a Jewish identity that could be seen in my plethora of camp t-shirts, singing camp songs to my heart’s content, and experiencing the Hebrew language as part of daily camp life. My teenage years featured endless amounts of USY, undertaking the value of Tikkun Olam as a value in my life (that would remain for years to come), and my first critical thinking opportunities as it related to being Jewish. In college, I learned how to advocate as a Jewish woman, combat ignorance, and work as a Jewish leader as a camp counselor and unit head. Most recently, I traveled to Israel for the first time as an Atlanta Community Birthright participant, served as a JumpSpark Strong Women mentor, and continue to create new friendships in the Atlanta Jewish Yong Professionals community. So, in a true Talmudic analytical questioning, “what does it all mean?”
Your memories stay with you as they each represent a small impactful experience in your life. Jewish experiences build upon one another to not only create a rolodex of memories to look back upon, but to also create a strong identity built upon years of experiences, albeit positive and negative. I’m grateful to my Jewish community for curating a Jewish experience that allowed me to grow, question, challenge, and thrive into a prideful Jewish young adult.
As I look back on my own memories, I can see the challenges and many opportunities that teens and young adults face in their Jewish journeys today. My goal while working as a Jewish professional is to create Jewish experiences and build relationships to find your “running to the mezuzah” moments- what ultimately connects and excites you to being Jewish that will serve as a catalyst to eventually create your own collection of Jewish memories along the way.