Now it’s time to expand a little on what it means to me to be Jewish.
First, a blanket statement to clear up a commonly held misunderstanding – I do not believe in god or in any higher power or deity in any way, shape or form. I do not believe humans were “put” on earth, and do not believes our lives serve any higher purpose. I believe that when we die, our bodies rot (assuming we were buried) and that is that.
Judaism is a religion that my family has been a part of for as long as I know – it is possible (perhaps even likely?) that they converted to Judaism at some stage, but that is further back than we can trace, so it isn’t really relevant. Because my family has been Jewish for so long, Judaism is a hugely important part of my heritage, where I come from and who I am.
Because of this, I spend a lot of time reading, writing, learning and teaching about Judaism. It has a fascinating history, much of which contains messages which are still relevant today. To be honest, I’m a bit of a geek (although I look more like a raging hippy), and I love reading and learning about all sorts of things. This flows nicely into my fascination with Jewish history, culture and practices.
As with the majority of New Zealand Jews, I have grown up in a household which was traditionally Jewish, meaning the major festivals were celebrated, as was Shabbat (every Friday night/Saturday) on occassions, but the majority of Halacha (Orthodox Jewish law) was not followed.
The rituals and festivals steadily became more and more a part of my life as events, but the content of those events rapidly lost meaning as I realised that, not believing in god, there was no point in me saying these prayers blessing and thanking him.
So, I was left with an issue. How could I still keep celebrating these traditions and festivals, while making them relevant to me? The only answer was to keep the themes, but to alter the content. So, I write my own “meditations” or thoughts, and source from many other thinkers and writers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in order to formulate my own ceremonies which are meaningful to me. This is commonly known as cultural or humanistic Judaism, and is growing as the Judaism of choice, especially amongst youth who would otherwise be alienated from Judaism.