by Noah Goldstein
I was talking to my brother one day about Judaism. I know that it’s quite a topic to be talking about on a Friday night at the mall. An interesting topic had come up. It was that, being Jewish isn't just a religion as much as it is a lifestyle and a community working together with the religion. When I looked back at the statement, I realized that it perfectly described my life as a Jew. I am completely a part of this Jewish community in many ways, but not all of them are very religious. These are things like being in the temple youth group, RTSY, doing community work with my peers, and my relationship with all of the people in the temple.
First off, RTSY, which if you don't know already, is the amazing senior youth group that we have in our temple. Being in this “group” is not at all what they call it. They say “group” but they mean friends. I say this because that's what we are in RTSY; no matter if we're leading a service or going bowling, we're all friends above everything else. Being in RTSY makes me feel so much closer to the community that I’m a part of, because it lets me open up and allow my actual self and Judaism mix, something that I can't always do when I’m trying to learn in class.
Next: Looking at doing community work with my Jewish peers. Over my years in the temple, I’ve done lots of community service and helped out at various functions with my peers. Now, when I say “community work,” I don’t just me community service. I mean any time when I’ve been out with my friends, representing our temple. These are things like Marlboro Multicultural Day, a Taste of NJ, and St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church soup kitchen. All of these things lead me to realize that the relationship I have with the temple, isn't just with the temple, it's with the community. Not only that, but the range of that community doesn’t stop at our temple walls. It flies and reaches out to any and all who need it.
Lastly: my relationship with the people in our temple. This one needs another story to go along with it. As a high school this year, we went to an assisted living home, and helped out older folks with the celebration of Hanukkah. This was a beautiful experience, and the second best part was to watch as we made a difference in their lives. However that wasn't the best part for me. For me, the best part was how absolutely beaming Mrs. Klein was after we were finished. The main part of my day was helping older people, but the part that actually put a smile on my face was how happy we had made Mrs. Klein. When I think back to that story, I realized that I know why that was the highlight of my day; it's because Mrs. Klein isn’t just my teacher, and nor is Rabbi Weber just my rabbi, or any other of the temple employees or members simply their roles. I don’t think all of my fellow students feel as I do, but I see Temple Rodeph Torah as my second home (I’m certainly here enough), and I feel so connected to this community that everyone in it is my friend. On top of everything else they do, they're all friends.
To wrap up, the word community means so much to me that it is overwhelming. It is literally something that is on par with the importance and strength of the religion itself. The fact that it has led me to consider people I may not know yet as my friend is a testament to how closely knit this community actually is. It lets me open my personal side and my life to Judaism through the youth group, and it has put me in a situation where I know I have a second home where I feel that I belong just as much as I do in my personal life.