Friday, June 14, 2013

What Being Jewish Means To Me: Then and Now

In June of 2008, I asked our graduating 7th grade students to respond to the question, "What does being Jewish mean to me?"  This month, most of them are graduating from high school.  This is a very accomplished group, having already made their mark on the world in innumerable ways.  As we get ready to send them off into the world, it's a good time to look back at what they wrote then.  Good for us - and good for them!  We wish them all the best - and hope they will stay in touch while at school, and visit us often when they are home!  Mazal tov to the graduates! 

Lara Agatstein
Being Jewish to me means becoming a Bat Mitzvah. It is a special 
remembrance that I will have for the rest of my life. I studied six 
months in advance with a tutor named Bracha. I shopped for my tallit, 
dress, and shoes (which I love). During the experience I learned my 
Torah portion, Haftarah, and trope. Then came the final day – March 1, 
2008. It was spectacular. I am Jewish!

Noah Arons
Being Jewish I feel I have a special task. This task is to follow the 
commandments of the Torah and to be a Jew with dignity. Since there 
are not that many Jews I feel that we, the Jewish people, are a minority. 
To have dignity I need to answer questions that my peers have asked me 
and to correct any false statements about Jews that they might have 
heard, such as statements about Jews having big noses and loving money. 
Following the commandments is very important to me, knowing that Jews 
have been following the commandments for about 3000 years. I feel a 
sense of obligation to not let my ancestors down. That is what being 
Jewish means to me.

Lindsay Bralower
Jews have always overcome the hardest obstacles. Whether it was the 
Holocaust or any other difficult time, we have always kept the traditions 
alive. I am proud to be a Jew because I get to share in something my 
ancestors did. Eating matzah ball soup and lighting the Shabbat candles 
are two traditions that I get to keep alive. Why am I proud to be 
Jewish? The real question should be “What isn’t great about being 
Jewish ?”.

Eden Castle
Being Jewish means celebrating holidays with my family. I love eating 
Jewish foods and celebrating with my friends at Hebrew School. I can 
remember all of the things that Jews have survived. It makes me proud 
to be a Jew when we tell the stories of our ancestors. I love going to 
Hebrew School with my teachers and awesome friends.

Daniel Chimes
For 12 years, I have just been going through the motions. I have been 
just following along. Honestly, I didn’t know why I was Jewish. Maybe 
because society said so, or because my parents said so. Why is it that 
people always try to tell you who you are? Judaism is spiritual, and only 
you can know who you truly are. Anyway, I didn’t know what my purpose 
was, why I was born who I am. Then, in March, I went to Israel. Now I 
know why people fight over it. It holds a spell over people. It is a world 
of its own. I don’t think anyone truly knows what looms over this land. 
You could call it religion, but I think that leaving it a mystery is what 
makes it majestic. Anyway, Israel changed me. I found a new side of me 
that has never been opened before. I’m still not sure that I know what 
that part of me is. I still don’t know how to define Jewish, or how I am 
Jewish. All I know is that the bond shared together by Jews all over the 
world is powerful. I only wish that the rest of the world, and even I 
myself, could fully understand this powerful bond. 

Samantha Cooper
To me being Jewish means having a rich and unique history. We have 
survived many years of terror and pain at the hands of our tormentors. 
The thing that saddens me the most are Jews who are not proud to be 
Jewish. The ones who don’t send their children to Hebrew School and 
don’t go to services. The children aren’t raised Jewish, so they won’t 
teach their kids to be Jewish. The Jewish population is getting smaller 
and smaller. It is said that Jewish people make up only a small part of 
the world’s population. On the other hand, there are people proud to be 
Jewish, like me. I always keep Passover and I am going to try to fast 
during Yom Kippur.
The best thing about being Jewish is having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. My Bat 
Mitzvah was the best night of my life. I had so much fun. I love being 
Jewish. L’chaim!

Ian Cohen
My favorite thing about being a Jew is all the great food. We have 
latkes, matzah, hamentashen, etc. Another thing is seeing my friends at 
Hebrew School. I usually don’t see them during the week. I was not born 
Jewish, yet I was Jewish on the first day I was alive. If you are 
confused, I was adopted. Even though I never knew my birth parents, 
this is not something I am embarrassed about. I do know that my birth 
parents did not hate me. They couldn’t care for me and wanted me to 
have a better life. That makes me happy.

Rachel Cohen
The best part about being Jewish, in my opinion, was becoming a Bat 
Mitzvah. I loved standing up on the bimah and performing everything I 
had learned that past year in front of everyone who mattered to me. I 
truly felt like I had gained a special connection with God, and doing this truly convinced me (although I was convinced before) that there is a 
being greater than all of us: God.

Shira Durica
Judaism: tradition, history, joy, tears, and light. Being Jewish is more 
than having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party, or getting the best presents on 
Chanukah. Being Jewish is remembering, practicing, and enjoying. Every 
second with friends in Hebrew School folds into memories. Each note of 
a prayer curls into a vine that holds us together. The feelings when 
reading from the Torah are incredible. The Jewish life cycle is like a 
flower: the buds of birth bloom into a flower, which falls to death, only 
to grow again. There is no end.

Dana Gordon
I am extremely proud to be Jewish. Being Jewish, I am unique and I 
stand out. I am proud to be able to enjoy the meaningful holidays of 
Judaism. We get together with family, eat delicious food, and celebrate 
being Jewish.

Leah Hazen
Being Jewish to me means my love for Israel. Even though I have never 
actually been to Israel I still care a lot about it. My best experience was 
when an Israeli soldier named Benny stayed with my family for two 
weeks. Benny immediately fit in with my family. He was outgoing, and 
taught me a lot about Israel. Just in the short amount of time that 
Benny spent here I learned about how close to home the war actually was 
for him. Benny told me that the war was two and a half hours away from 
his house. To me that is unthinkable. In the U.S.A. the war is far away 
overseas, but for Benny it isn’t that far from home. After Benny’s stay I 
really want to go to Israel, now more than ever. He touched my life in 
such an unexplainable way that my life has been changed forever. To go 
to Israel would be like going HOME!

Eloise Hyman
Why am I proud to be Jewish? Because even though throughout the 
centuries we have been hated by certain groups, cultures, and religions 
(Spain, KKK, Nazis, some Muslims), we still managed to live. The reasons 
for persecution were horrible (because we are different, because we are easy to blame, because we are cool). Also, I loved that I was able to 
introduce my religion to my friends through my Bat Mitzvah, with all my 
friends from school, camp, and Hebrew School there with me. That is 
why I’m proud to be Jewish.

Nick Hyman
To be a Jew to me means to be part of generations of hard-working 
individuals. Throughout history, Jews have lived through persecution, 
hardships, and sorrow. Yet we always kept our cool and never stopped 
working. Jews during the Holocaust lived with the thought that they 
would someday see their family again. Jews have always been connected 
to the family, and will do anything for them, which is why I’m proud to be 
a hard-working Jew.

Ariel Kobliner
I am Jewish because I am going to have my Bat Mitzvah. I have been 
preparing for months and I know that soon all the hard work will pay off. 
Bat (and Bar) Mitzvahs are a huge commitment to Judaism, and I am 
ready to make that commitment. I will be there for all my Jewish 
friends when they make commitments at their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Sophie Koester
I am Jewish because I am proud of my religion. I like to teach people 
about Jewish things. I tell people all about my Bat Mitzvah training. 
Sometimes people ask me what their names would look like in Hebrew, so 
I write it out for them. I also tell people about Jewish holidays and the 

Andrew Krowitz
I have celebrated so many Jewish holidays with my family and friends, 
realizing that Judaism is very important to me. Most of my friends aren’t 
Jewish, so I teach them a lot about Judaism and when they ask me 
questions, it feels good to be able to answer them.

Melissa Miles
Although Jewish holidays are a lot of fun and, I’m not going to lie, my 
mom’s latkes are amazing, being Jewish means something deeper to me. 
It’s having people that care and support me, outside of my small immediate family. It’s having a place to go in a time of need, but most of 
all, the feeling of belonging to something larger than life.

Joshua Olin
Being a Jew is a really great thing. One great thing is having your Bar 
Mitzvah. Also, it was really interesting when we studied the life cycle 
and the Holocaust. It was really cool learning about the Holocaust 
survivors’ stories. In addition, I enjoyed watching the movie “Six Million 
Paper Clips”. I thought that the students in Tennessee had a great idea 
and achieved a lot. I learned a lot this year in the seventh grade.

Julie Piskin
I am Jewish because I go to Hebrew School, and I had my Bat Mitzvah, 
so I am a Bat Mitzvah (since I had my Bat Mitzvah). I go to Hebrew
School for the Jewish experience and I stay for the people and yummy 
food (m&m’s and pretzels). In Hebrew School I am with kids who are 
Jewish, unlike in school where there are only 14 or 18 Jews out of 250 
kids in my grade. So…Jews rock!!

Brian Pollack
Being a Jew is important to me. My favorite memory related to Judaism 
is when I had my Bar Mitzvah. I felt very proud when I was on the bima 
leading the service. Also, I felt important when I was reading from the 
Torah, the sacred text of our ancestors. Another reason that I am 
grateful to be Jewish is because we have lasted for thousands of years. 
We have endured many hardships, but still survived. Many cruel people 
attempted to eliminate us, but the Jewish people have withstood this. All 
of these reasons are what makes being Jewish very important to me.

Ben Rathman
Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is becoming a man. Becoming a man means 
accepting responsibility. After I accept my responsibility I will be able 
to wear my tallit with pride, honor, respect, and dignity. I enjoy being 
Jewish because I am one of very few people who carry on the Jewish 
traditions. Also, I did well on the Judaism exam in social studies. As a 
Jew I am becoming a man. Plus, I get a party at the Hyatt when I’m done.
Jason RathmanI am proud to be a Jew because only two percent of the world is Jewish. 
Because of that, I only have a few Jewish friends, besides my best ones 
at Hebrew School. Since there are 20 Jewish kids in my grade out of 
290, I enjoy telling my friends about Jewish holidays and teaching them 
Hebrew words. The only thing that I love more than that is being at my 
camp with my hundreds of Jewish friends.

David Rutstein
Being Jewish to me is coming together as a family and celebrating the 
Jewish holidays. From the falafel to the latkes the food is great. My 
favorite holiday is Chanukah, and we come together as a family and have a 
latke meal with lots of wonderful gifts.

Oliver Edward Owen Moorman Sabloff
I am Jewish because I converted. I was not originally Jewish. I was 
Christian before, but then my mom divorced and remarried to my stepdad. My step-dad, Matthew, is Jewish, so my mom and I decided to 
convert. First I had to get circumcised. Since I was around four years 
old it was much worse than usual. I was put to sleep by anesthetics and 
then they did the operation. After I recovered I got to go to the mikvah 
with my mom. The mikvah is the bath that you have to go in to convert. 
My mom and I jumped in. I didn’t want to come out because I liked it so 
much. Then my mom had her Bat Mitzvah even though she was an adult. 
I am now studying for my Bar Mitzvah and my mom has already been a big 
help. So basically, being Jewish is about family.

Adam Satz
Being Jewish means being able to celebrate many great holidays. My 
favorite holiday is Passover. I like it because the food is great (excluding 
matzah). Two foods that I like are matzah ball soup and chicken. I also 
like Chanukah because I usually see my aunt.

Lily Schacht
I like being Jewish because I know things that people don’t understand. 
For example, many people don’t understand why prayer books are 
backwards. I say Hebrew is written from right to left, and therefore 
the books should be backwards. They also do not get why Bar/Bat 
Mitzvahs are such a big deal. I tell them that it is a coming of age ceremony, not just another birthday. The person is called up to the 
Torah for the first time. Going to Hebrew School with all of my friends 
for eight years has been fun. Yay Jews!!

Jessica Schoenfeld
I am Jewish because I had my Bat Mitzvah. When I became a Bat 
Mitzvah I was making a commitment to myself, God, and the Jewish 
religion. Now I am able to be there for all of my Jewish friends, when 
they complete their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs and make a commitment, just as 
I did on March 8, 2008, the day of my Bat Mitzvah and the day I became 
a huge part of the Jewish religion, with many more Jewish years to come.

Marc Senatore
Being Jewish means that we fight hard. Jews have had to deal with so 
much racism and discrimination. It’s pretty amazing that we have fought 
hard and survived through it all. We should be proud to be Jewish and 
should never give up, just as our ancestors never did. I would like to 
congratulate all of the graduating seventh graders! 

Justin Smith
Being Jewish gives an opportunity of hope. We never give up no matter 
what. For example, during the Holocaust, though we had a very tough 
time, we never gave up and stopped it. That’s what makes me proud to be 
a part of the Jewish faith. My friends who are not Jewish do not 
understand, which is why this community gives you a chance of 

Sam Sterman
I am proud to be a Jew because Jews have been through so much and still 
have stuck together. Throughout the years, Jews have been hated and 
discriminated against. Jews toughed it out, and here we are today. The 
people who lost their lives for our future are amazing people, who were 
proud to be Jewish. I am proud too, and because of those people, it is my 
time to shine.

Danielle Tuluca
Judaism is about being one. All Jews are one big family. I am very proud 
to be a part of this family. This is one of my favorite things about being a Jew. Every time I come to Hebrew School, I love the whole idea of 
being with all of my friends. All Jews celebrate Shabbat, no matter 
where we are and what synagogue we go to. It’s always good to have 
another family to look after you and love you. This is only one reason why 
I love being a Jew. 

Justin Virgulak
L’chaim. To life. To be more specific, life as a Jew. But for me, being 
Jewish isn’t what a Jew’s life is usually like. I’m also part Christian 
(Catholic). I celebrate and learn about both religions, and some say this 
is the best of both worlds. My Jewish education has been great. Hebrew
School is great, all the new friends and some old ones too. L’chaim to my 
friends and classmates.

Tammy Wise
To me, being Jewish means being able to share special experiences with 
other Jewish friends and families. Also, being Jewish means celebrating 
holidays, having the pleasure of going to Hebrew School, having a Bat 
Mitzvah, and meeting new Jewish people. I am proud to be a Jew, 
because I have met many new friends from engaging in Jewish activities, 
and learned many things from my years at Hebrew School. Lastly, I 
believe that we Jews are one big family that looks after and cares for 
each another. This is why I am proud to be a Jew.

Alison Wolff
Being Jewish to me means having a homeland. Luckily, I got to visit this 
wonderful place. I got to go to so many places, such as Eilat, Jerusalem, 
Tel Aviv, Haifa, and many others. Spending time with my family was 
great! We climbed Masada, swam in the Dead Sea, and tried delicious 
new food! I enjoyed being in Israel sooooooooooooooooooooo much!

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