I believe in faith. By definition, faith means a belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion. Sometimes, it comes down to more than whether you were baptized or circumcised, or what symbol you have hanging from a chain around your neck. Sometimes, faith lies completely and totally inside of your heart.
My father grew up an Orthodox Jew in Long Island, New York. After he graduated college, he met my mother, a devout Catholic, and decided his love was more important than his strict religious upbringing. He raised my siblings and I as reformed Jews. To my older sisters, Sunday school and Friday night services were an unnecessary evil, and as soon as they were confirmed into the Jewish faith, they stopped practicing their religion altogether. Before my Bat Mitzvah, I mirrored their opinions. When it came time to study for my Bat Mitzvah, however, all the years of doodling and talking in Hebrew classes caught up with me. Suddenly I was expected to read and write in a language I hadn’t paid any mind to in years. Now, in addition to learning a Torah portion and writing a speech, I had to relearn the entire Hebrew alphabet, letter by letter. To be honest, I probably don’t remember any of those Hebrew letters and vowels I crammed into my brain those long afternoons in my rabbi’s office. But the important things, like prayer, I remember. Even more, I respect them.
My dad gave me the choice after my Bat Mitzvah to continue my Jewish studies, or to stop attending Sunday school. Because my friends’ parents were not so lenient, I decided to stay enrolled in my religious school as an excuse to spend more time with my friends. I had a complete turnaround. I enjoy learning about Judaism. I’ve learned that being religious doesn’t mean agreeing with the teaching of your religion one hundred percent of the time; it means finding what you do believe in, and applying it to your life.
Being a Jewish teenager living in the Bible Belt has its challenges. But once I felt comfortable enough with my religion, it doesn’t bother me when people disagree with me, or try and sway my beliefs. My faith has kept me strong, and has taught me that no matter what, its important to say true to myself.
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