On Judaism/Religion/Happiness

I saw this at a bookstore in Auckland and it made me stop. It also made me giggle a little. Was the store implying that religion and happiness are one and the same? Were they just short on shelf space and had to consolidate?

Religion is an interesting thing to me. Personally, I was raised Jewish… and Catholic, simultaneously. Think Star of David atop your Christmas tree and that was essentially my upbringing.

For me, it was hard to believe that either religion was “right” when I was raised as both. If Judaism was the word, why did we also practice Catholicism, and vice versa? Today, I’m a 25-year-old who identifies as Jewish, but only culturally. I feel a little gross writing that out to be honest.

When I see people going to church, or talking about their religion, I almost feel a twinge of jealousy. How nice it must be to truly believe that there is a power above you, guiding your life. How peaceful it must be to know that there’s more to life, after life!

I don’t have that. I have a lot of confusion about religion. In my head, Judaism and Catholicism swirls into a gross cone of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, that was left in the sun for a bit. Who was Moses again? Why is 12 a good coming of year age for a girl?

My brother and I in Israel

When I was 20, I went on my Birthright. Birthright is a trip sponsored by insanely rich Jewish homies (as well as the government) that brings Jewish kiddos from around the world to Israel for 10 day. To prove your Jewish roots, all you have to do is write a little blurb about it. My grandmother was active in the Jewish community and a big supporter of Magen David Adom. My family has a decent number of rabbis. My last name was Feldman. I was Jewish enough to pass.

To be Jewish goes beyond a religion. It’s an ethnicity too, which makes it quite interesting in terms of religions.

Going there, part of me expected to be thrown into the Jewish religion, but instead, I came home with a newfound appreciation for my Jewish culture. I could be Jewish without synagogue. I am Jewish every damn day because of my ancestors. I am Jewish in the same way that someone could be Swedish. That trip helped me settle into myself and my identity a bit.

The Israeli flag

Since that trip, I have been back to Israel twice more. Each time, I feel a bit more connected. I’ve found best friends who are Jewish who help me to understand my roots. I’ve developed an understanding for the intricacies of Israeli culture. Every time I go, I come home with a better understanding of myself and my ancestors.

All the hummus

I think there is a beauty in the Jewish culture that I hope to pass on to my children one day. The family time, the holidays, the time for thought. I love it. Parts of me wish that I was raised “more” Jewish so I could appreciate these more. From what I understand, pillars like these are in most religions, and it makes sense why people follow them.

Humans want to belong. Religion is a group that gives them that, and promises that life will go the way it is meant to go. It gives people hope and grounding. I understand that desire.

Am I religious? No. So I need to find my hope and grounding elsewhere. Do I think that religion means happiness? No. I think that if one relies solely on religion, they’re living quite a naive life. Do I understand and respect why people turn to religion? Yes, I do.

6 replies on “On Judaism/Religion/Happiness”

I really enjoyed your authenticity! I too struggle with knowing where to place religion in my life having been brought up religious. I don’t think its synonymous with happiness as you explain so well but I do believe it brings direction and a sense of community which can certainly bring a lot of happiness.

I find people who focus on the alleged words of god instead of the meaning terrifying. It’s scary how many religious folks focus on hate instead of love. Find the path that works for you.

Leave a Reply