The Jewish Way

Susan - Morristown, New Jersey
Entered on January 20, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

I was raised Jewish. My family attended an Orthodox synagogue and my brother and I attended both Orthodox Hebrew Day School and summer camp. We attended services on the Sabbath, my mother kept a kosher home and I married within my faith. I continued the tradition of keeping a kosher home, and worked hard to raise my children with the same strong sense of Jewish identity my ex-husband and I shared. I was a Bat Mitzvah at age forty in the sanctuary where my three children would eventually each celebrate their own Jewish coming of age. I volunteered in both the synagogue library and Judaica Gift Shop, taught at the Nursery School, and whenever called upon, participated in our congregation’s efforts to assist congregants and their families in times of need with simple things like home cooked meals and carpools. Our lives revolved around being Jewish – it was at the core of both our family and personal identities. I believed in and thought I knew the Jewish way.

When I made the decision to separate from my husband and eventually divorce, I never thought that this Jewish way of life we knew might become one of the casualties that decision; that I would eventually come to question the Jewish way of life we had participated in. I believe in our religion’s basic tenants of Mitzvot (good deeds), Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and the Ten Commandments. For me it had always boiled down to the Golden Rule – do unto others. So it came as a surprise that when my family became the family in need, our synagogue and our community went missing. This is not to say that a few of my wonderfully amazing caring friends from the temple were not there for us. They were. But after a long term relationship with this home away from home the synagogue never reached out to offer help of any kind. As our situation deteriorated I became cognizant of the fact that I felt we had, in some way, been let down in by our community. Eventually our world righted itself, my divorce became final, and we, my children and I, gathered ourselves back together and began a new way of family life. We were shaken, but stronger, closer and happier than I ever remember being. I eventually resigned my family’s membership from the religious institution we had called home for almost two decades.

Many times during the last three very difficult years I needed to reach out for help of all kinds. In doing so my family discovered a whole new world of people who have gone above and beyond to assist and comfort me and my children. Most of them know nothing about the laws of Kashrut (keeping Kosher), or securing a Mezuzah to a doorpost. What our community showed us was not the Jewish way I had learned and practiced, taught and modeled for my children. I still believe in the Jewish way and apparently so do many others. We may not have found it where we went looking, but in its place we found another community who seem to know the Jewish way even if that’s not what they call it. And for that, my family has been both blessed and enriched in a way we never knew before.