Only in America is being Jewish a religion

Maybe Jewish people resemble other cultures, nationalities, and races of where they lived, but our way of living, celebrating, and eating is from our ancestors and continues with our children.

Coach Yulia

I was recently asked why I became observant/religious.

Of course there are many, many reasons, but the one that came to mind this particular time I was asked is:

I was raised with a Jewish identity that consisted of mainly mourning the holocaust and celebrating the modern state of Israel. 
When I learned more and realized we are a people who have been around for thousands of years, and that these events we celebrate (growing up it was Pesach, Rosh Hashana, and Chanukah) happened really really long ago, I began to explore what a Jewish identity was before the Sho’ah, and before modern Zionism.

What I learned is that what made us a nation was not only our shared suffering in Egypt, echoed in the modern day Holocaust, but our shared joy in the experience of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and participating in a covenant with God.

What I used to call “ancient Jewish rituals,” like mikvah, keeping kosher, and keeping Shabbat… I realized are part of our end of the deal that we need to uphold today. As long as God has brought us through all these horrors and has helped us survive as a people, we owe it to Him to keep up our end of the deal.

I now refuse to be defined by what we have suffered through by force, but rather what we agreed to by choice, standing at Har Sinai, saying “Yes, we will do and we will hear”what God is saying to us.

We say, “Shma Yisrael,” that is the creed, the manifesto summed up – and that means – we listen to God, wherever it is still and quiet enough for that voice to come through. Back then we needed the quiet of a desert to hear it clearly. Now we are lucky to have it written down for us, in plain Hebrew, in the Torah.

Have a beautiful, restful, peaceful Shabbat. 🍷

#amyisraelchai #zionstandup

Afshine Emrani
Syria. Syrian rabbi with Sephardic Torah. Circa 1910.


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