This I Believe

Jordana - Skokie, Illinois
Entered on May 21, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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This I Believe

In a Jewish school, I am often asked what impact does God have on my life? Or, what role does religion play in my life at all? Every time I reflect on the same answer without voicing an opinion. I listen to my classmates’ answers as they talk about their view on religion and its importance in their lives. I personally don’t believe in God, however, during my 11 years of a Jewish education, I have adapted to more important values that have emerged from my religious surroundings. I believe that there is nothing closer or more needed in anyone’s life than a strong, familiar community.

In my Conservative Judaism class, I learned about four very distinct levels of Conservative Judaism. The first one believes that God wrote the Torah and gave it to the people. The second says that the Torah was divinely inspired, and the third says that the people wrote the Torah as the events transpired. The fourth one, however, sticks strongest in my mind; the fourth level says that the people wrote the Torah with morals and values to be followed in order to maintain a healthy and comfortable community. As I studied this I was oddly amazed that I, an atheistic student who has attended Jewish private school for over a decade, was actually able to classify myself as part of a community that is nonetheless based on the same morals and values despite your belief in whoever wrote them down.

Since this revelation of mine, I have been more driven to seek out my place within the much wider community, perhaps try and discover how my religious life compares to the real world.

Just recently I was presented with a question about the Western Wall in Israel, “is God’s presence more holy at the Western Wall than anywhere else? Even considering that God is believed to be everywhere, why do some people seek to connect with God just at this one wall?” Considering the very religious topic, I tried to understand what the answer might be from the non-religious point of view. The most amazing thing that struck me was how powerful and perhaps clever this religion is; the power of God’s “holy presence” at this wall brings together one of the closest communities that I could possibly imagine. Being there myself, I experienced a contagious sense of culture, familiarity, connection and community; not with God, but with every single person to whom I had a common connection with at that wall.

I believe in the strength of a community and its impact on the lives of each individual as it is accepting to various types of beliefs. I believe that I have found my place, I am familiar and I am comfortable in the religious community. That is how God impacts my life, by bringing me closer to my friends, family, and the ability to search for and find a connection with those in my community.