Community – What It Means to Me to Be Part of This Temple and Part of the Jewish People
I’ve never felt closer to Judaism than when I fell asleep on the sanctuary floor. If it wasn’t for the ark, a stranger looking in would have no idea that this room, filled with giggling teenagers and sleeping bags, is the holy room usually filled with prayer. Nothing we did late at night during our shul in outwardly appeared to be particularly Jewish. Yet as I lay on the floor with my friends, bathed in the blue light of the sh’ma, I felt something connecting me to everyone who had been there before me, something undeniably and utterly Jewish- a sense of community.
As a student at TRT for 10 years and a teacher’s daughter for longer than that, I have come to see this temple as a second home. Whether we are at a youth group event, listening to the Rabbi in class, volunteering, or just hanging out with friends, I have never once felt intimidated by the holiness of this building. Somehow, that makes it even more holy. Watching the room that we pray in on friday nights get turned into a stage for a karaoke competition reminds me that Judaism is always around us. And watching the room where I hung out with my friends be filled with the prayers of all our congregants reminds me of how I belong in this place.
One of the greatest things about this temple is that I was never forced to believe something I didn’t believe, thereby allowing me to form my own Jewish identity. Armed with only the knowledge that God will still protect me no matter how I pray, I was left to form my own beliefs and identity. This has allowed me to become more secure in my faith, which has taken me through hardships and celebrations. Everyone talks to God differently, yet we still all share the common thread of Judaism, which stretches all the way around the world.
During my years at Rodeph Torah, I have made so many lifelong friendships. Our tenth grade class has become more than classmates, we are learners, teachers, volunteers, friends, Jews, and above all, members of this sacred community. Here, we have learned all about Jewish history and culture from the best teachers anyone could ever ask for. But the most important thing I have been taught from growing up at Rodeph Torah is that Judaism, just like this temple, is my home.