Bar Mitzvah kiddush means free lunch





26 June 2011
I felt something missing my first week in Sydney. And for some reason, I knew it was something Jewish.  Perhaps it's because I associate my summers with Judaism… five years of sleepaway camp will do that to you. Perhaps it's because there's only one other Jewish participant on my trip. Regardless, I felt the gaping hole. And I can't say it pleased me, at all.

My parents have friends in Sydney… an absolutely lovely, Jewish family. The husband, Mark, had met my parents during his three year stay in London back in their 20s. Mark, in fact, had fancied my mother, a factor I find quite entertaining. 21 years later and Mark and his wife are still in contact with my parents. I was graciously invited to their Friday night, Shabbat dinner. For the first time during my stay, I felt at home.

Over the past two years. I've found myself turning more towards Judaism. Having come from a traditional home, I've always identified culturally with my religion. My years at Jewish sleepaway camp, formed and defined my connection to Israel and my love for Judaism. It’s because of camp I have developed an appreciation for the religious and spiritual side of the religion, evident through my love for Kabbalat Shabbat services. It’s funny… as a young girl, I despised the restrictions our family Friday night, Shabbat dinners entailed. Friday night, of course, was the night my whole entire middle school would get together at the movies. I, naturally, was not permitted to go. Staying in on Friday nights was the rule, not an option. I’m not that 8th grade girl anymore... I find myself wanting to celebrate Shabbat, whether it be going to services or skipping a night out for a Shabbat dinner in.

Judaism plays such a role in how I identify myself. Which, I believe, is why I feel a difference and slight void the moment I am removed from my Jewish setting.

My trip to Sydney is the first trip that has no Jewish connection to. (Which is completely fine!) But as a girl who is used to always being around Jews during my summer holidays, it's a slight step out of the comfort zone.

So let me clarify- it’s not a “if you’re not Jewish, I feel uncomfortable, we’re not friends” kind of mentality. Or an “I think Jews are better than you” mindset. Not at all.

What I mean is that being Jewish automatically means you share a common culture and tradition. One of my camp counselors once told us of a March of the Living group that sang Adon Olam, a closing prayed recited during services, as a way of communicating with each other; The group was from all different areas and although didn't share a common tongue, did share the common language and understanding of Judaism. That’s what being Jewish means to me. It’s about a connection and a commonality among all. And that is why it’s my comfort zone being surrounded by Jews… I know I’ll share something in common with the individuals. And as a result, I usually know what to expect out of both the people I meet and experience I partake on. 

I didn’t know anyone going on my trip. Which truly is incredible… I’ve been given the opportunity to learn and interact with individuals from all corners of life. It’s taken me out of my summer bubble and opened my eyes and perspective to those around me. (I'm going to church with two of my friends next week!) But I do miss having that large Jewish factor present in my every day life.

Which is why I spent my Friday evening at a family for shabbat. And then walked to the Central Synagogue Saturday morning for services.

There was a bar mitzvah in shul Saturday morning. Which means there was a fantastic kiddush following services (aka free lunch. Jews and food. Oy!).

Saturday marked Gilad Shalit’s fifth year in captivity. It was special to be in services for it as it reminded me once again of how strong our ties our within our community. How the Jewish community as a whole, Australia to the states, Europe to Israel, binds in support for this one Israeli solider, held in captivity by a terrorist organization for the past five years. It's this sense of community that makes me feel at home.

Regardless of observancy levels, regardless of beliefs, we as Jews are connected.
I’ve got Friday night plans for the remaining Shabbats during my stay.

Comfort has now seeped into that void, a void that no longer exists.


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