Blog  NFTY-SW President Reflects on the High Holy Days

NFTY-SW President Reflects on the High Holy Days

By Mat Sherman, NFTY-Southwest Regional President

The time of year has come and gone. That time of the year when our parents drag us to temple for the high holidays. For some of us, this is the only time we spend at temple the whole year. During services, all we can think about is what is going on after services. While we pray for the new year, some of us just sit, read the translation or in other words, have our bodies in the service but our head in the clouds. Disengaged is a very proper way to say it. Disengaged from the service, Disengaged from the high holidays, but most importantly, disengaged from our Jewish identities.

I’ll be blunt. I am not a religious Jew. I am the president of NFTY-SW, I songlead at my temple every Sunday, and I will wear this star of david around my neck until I reach my grave, but I am not a religious Jew. But I must say, I am damn proud to be Jewish. I struggle with my Jewish identity but I do not reject it. 98% of you were brought up Jewish and had Judaism shoved down your throat up until your bar mitzvah and then the learning drastically stopped. We suddenly realize that we aren’t forced to learn it anymore. This is the most crucial point in ones Jewish journey.

15% of the world’s Jewish population belong to a temple not including Israel. You could end up with the 85% that do not. I can assure you that you do not have to be religious to explore your Jewish identity. For me it is about the kehilah kedosha. The community. But it is ok to be an individual in that community in order to fit your needs as a reform Jew. In fact, you should strive for it. For most prayers, when every other congregant is chanting Hebrew words they don’t even understand, I read the English quietly. Not because I am disengaged or don’t care enough. It is because I want to get the most out of services while I am there.

I challenge you all, during  this sweet new year, to truly explore your Jewish identity for you and no one else.

To those of you who struggle with your Jewish identity, know exactly where you stand in Judaism, or just want to have a life changing experience, I invite you all to come to an upcoming NFTY-SW event. Remember that kehilah kedosha I was talking about earlier; well NFTY defines that for me. Or go to a jewish camp. Study torah once a month. GO TO ISRAEL! Anything that works for you should be worth trying for because your Jewish identity is something you will never want to lose.

You are standing in front of an open door. The door of your jewish identity. If you walk through it, you have no idea where it can take you or what it will do for you. There are endless pathways and other doors once you walk through the door. It will change your life. Or. Just like 85% of the world, you could shut it. No one is forcing anything upon you anymore. It is YOUR choice. and that door is staring you right in the face.