Confirmation Speech by Jessica Heinz, Chalutzim 2012
In 2010, .2% of the world’s population was Jewish. .2% of the world read Torah, fasted on Yom Kippur, and celebrated Hanukkah. Less than that celebrated Shabbat every week. We all know the awkward experience of correcting misconceptions that our peers and friends have about Judaism. Some of us are more qualified to answer these questions than others, but our answers are usually the same; no we don’t eat bacon, yes our services are on Friday nights, and no, the pronunciation of Yahweh was not brought to our attention until 6th grade social studies. Most of us in the confirmation class have anywhere from 0 to 10 Jewish kids in their grade, and we have become used to the idea of being a minority.
We never truly realize how brave one must be to accept the minority position and stick with it. The fact that all of us are here tonight shows how dedicated we are to Judaism and how it will be a part of our lives forever. We have all been deeply affected by this religion through the thoughts it has provoked or by the experiences it provides.
A number of us have spent our last few summers at OSRUI. For those who don’t know, OSRUI is a large camp where Jewish kids all over the United States can come and live a completely Jewish lifestyle for anywhere from 2-8 weeks. This summer I was lucky enough to go to Chalutzim, a Hebrew immersion program where I spent seven weeks in Oconomowoc. I left with people that I felt a deeper connection to than my friends from school. I now have friends in Israel, friends that I plan on keeping for the rest of my life. But I also left more attached to Judaism than I was before.
Some find this process tedious; two services a day, prayers before and after every meal, and deep discussions about our connections to Israel and what it means to be a Jew. And by the end of my seven weeks I looked forward to services, for it was a time where I could be at one with my surroundings, and be thankful. Of course, learning Hebrew helped. Learning the language of the Torah, learning the language of my people, made me feel like the missing link, this missing connection and ability for communication, was suddenly present. I know that Judaism, this minority position, will be a part of me for the rest of my life. And I didn’t need to be brave because I was no longer a minority. I was surrounded with hundreds of other people with the same beliefs.
Being part of a minority makes us brave, but there must be a place where we don’t have to be brave, where we are comfortable in our own skin, where we don’t need to explain why Jews keep kosher, or why we’re not free this Friday. We need to find that place where we feel Jewish without feeling different. In this way, we can let go and give into the effortless bravery of just living.