When it comes to connecting with one’s heritage, it may be hard to target an idea or belief that drives a person to do so. For those Russian Jews who yearn for that connection, who need something to look to beyond rabbis and Shabbat dinners with all flavors of kugel, there is a way.
In today’s world, our lives revolve around technology and social media. Day in and day out, we text, Tweet, and see what other people are doing through a constant flutter of photos and status updates. We long to be connected to everything and everyone, feeling naked without our phones or compulsive checking of Facebook. But when the day is done, what do we really get from refreshing the webpage just to see all the photos our “friends” are posting from yet another party that looks identical to all the rest?
When I was younger, I was never too excited for Passover. Eight days of no bread?! How would I survive? Later, in my teenage years, I used eight days of no bread and other kitniyot as a means of being on a diet. But the past few years, I have come to appreciate how important Passover is to me, and my identity as a Russian Jew.
Growing up, Purim was my absolute favorite holiday. I went to a yeshiva for elementary school, and Purim was always a big hit there. The school put on a quasi-carnival with raffles and games, leaving me covered in shaving cream after attempts to shave a balloon without popping it. Everyone dressed up in lavish costumes and celebrated the extraordinary story of Esther overcoming the evil Haman to save the Jews from yet another attempt to destroy the nation.
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what makes some people uncomfortable with varying degrees of belief within their own religion. Certainly even within the Russian-Jewish community, there are misunderstandings about what Jews of a stronger religious lifestyle represent. I wanted to know what creates a divide between being Jewish by blood and stringently following the laws of the Torah.
Love and relationships are a complicated part of our lives. Many of us see relationships in a subjective way; biased and based on how we were raised and the relationships we are surrounded by. Yet there is a clear cross-cultural difference in how individuals communicate with each other, and the expectations that are upheld between one another in relationships. Born into a Russian-Jewish household, I was raised differently from the average American girl, which has made dating outside of my culture interesting. When I share stories with my mother about certain “male friends,” she is always a bit surprised by the differences she finds in what she knows as dating and what I have experienced.