Merry Chanukah

by Jared Glassman

Growing up Jewish was always a struggle for me. Something didn’t feel right when I sat in temple listening to the bald man with the yarmulke on his head speaking in a language I didn’t understand. I pretended to look at the prayer book, but really I was trying to top my last Flappy Bird score on my muted phone. Was this what faith was supposed to feel like?

This time of year especially, brings up these thoughts for me. During the holidays, my family has the privilege to celebrate both holidays, Chanukah and Christmas. However, something inside me feels different when I put the star on top of the Christmas tree, rather than lighting the candles on the Menorah.

My Jewish father felt strongly that I be raised Jewish and my Catholic mom was accepting as long as I grew up with religion. Going to temple was always a drag, but as I got older and closer to my Bar Mitzvah, Judaism became more prevalent in my daily life. After years of preparation in Hebrew school, I expected to feel a religious bond. However, even when putting on the tallit and reading from the Torah at my Bar Mitzvah, I felt emptiness. I was troubled by the nagging question — is Judaism the right religion for me?

After my Bar Mitzvah, I forgoed any new practice in Judaism and one day decided to go to church with my mom. As I walked in, I felt a sense of community, something I longed for in temple. As the service started I questioned if I really belonged there, but that thought vanished in only a couple of minutes. Father Frank, with his long dark beard, stepped down from the altar and started to speak about life. His deep voice carried and I felt like his words were directed at me. My concentration was now on the priests’ messages rather than the phone on my lap.

As I learned from my experience, religion is a choice. Religion doesn’t define us, but it is something you can find comfort in when you’re in a state of struggle. Faith is different for everyone and our pathways to getting there differ. Judaism was a lead point for me to get to Catholicism.

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