I am growing up in a religious family. I was raised going to services weekly, attending both Sunday school and Hebrew school, going to a Jewish summer camp, and attending high holiday services. Every Friday before my parents and I went to services, we would do the shabbat blessings. My older sister would do the candle blessings, I would do the kiddush, and my little brother would uncover the challah that my mom had made. Every hanukkah we opened gifts, made latkes, and lit the candles each night. As I got older, I came to realize that my Judaism was only a routine, and nothing else to me, but that has changed in the past year and a half.
I would say that the most pivotal moment in my Jewish journey has been attending Chalutzim at OSRUI. In this Hebrew immersion program, we spoke only Hebrew, learned about Israel as well as our connection with Israel and Judaism. Hebrew has always been a point of interest for me, so getting to learn and apply Hebrew everyday was a gift in my life. As I said, I grew up going to services every week, but I never found services at my home temple as engaging as they were at camp. Sitting with all my friends in nature, doing hand motions and singing energetic songs strengthened my connection to Judaism. The friends I made in Chalutzim are some of the people I am most grateful for in my life; we always had something in common, that we are jewish! Some of my favorite camp memories come from shabbat. After services and dinner we go to shabbat shira and sit together as a unit. Me and one of my best friends push our way to the front of the circle every time. We sing songs, do motions, and sum up our week to the rest of the camp. After shabbat shira, we go to rikkud (israeli dancing). Rikkud is one of the most chaotic situations i've ever been in. We have a ritual in chalutzim that before rikud we all scream the song “get loose get funky” and then the israeli music starts! Although it is only 20 minutes or so, everyone is laughing and dancing in their shabbat clothes and I can never stop smiling.
Now, my Judaism is strongly represented for my love of camp, and my ability to build connections. When I was nominated to be a Peer Ambassador, I saw it as an opportunity to be a leader, but more importantly, to build connections. I am looking forward to gaining skills in leadership and understanding my place in the world in regards to my Judaism. More specifically, I want to learn how to lead programs, have more meaningful discussions, and be more creative in planning!
About the Author: Ruth is a sophomore at Deerfield high school where she plays soccer and basketball. She is an active member of her Israel club and Hebrew honors society. She belongs to Congregation BJBE and Congregation Beth Am. Ruth loves cooking, baking, exercising and hanging out with her friends. Through her attendance at OSRUI, her Jewish identity is strengthened through connections.