Dear Child by AMHSI Spring Fellow Channie Goldman
You recently asked me, as a result of your suffering from it, why I chose to raise you as a Jew? Or in simpler words, why is it worth it to be a Jew when carrying that title automatically makes for a more turbulent life? I do not think words can suffice in answering a question whose answer to me, personally, is the most utterly visceral feeling I’ve ever known. I cannot do justice to an explanation as to why I am in love with living a Jewish life, and why it is my obligation to pass it on to you, but I will do my best in giving you my personal answers.
First, I’ll approach this from a cultural and historical point of view. Judaism was the first monotheistic religion. Our people and culture date back so far and when looking back, we were constantly fighting over thousands of years, all for one goal- to live peacefully Jewish lives. That fight, to simply be who we are, and that took so many Jewish lives and an unimaginable level of spirit, deserves more than a generation of Jews who do not even acknowledge as such. It would feel to me as though not carrying on the incredible love and wisdom of Judaism, everything our people gave their lives for, would be disrespected and lose significance. Our people’s history is this incredible chain that despite countless assaults throughout our history which is full of pain and suffering, has remained unbroken.
The thought of breaking it now seems unthinkable. The people you’ve come from gave everything for you to live as a Jew. I feel as though acknowledging that is the very least we can do.
I also believe that raising you as a Jew was the best way to instill in you the most beautiful way to be a genuinely moral human being. Judaism is a way of living- it requires action in the name of goodness, and not just your statement of belief. Saying you believe in something does not make you a good person- in fact; it doesn’t even mean that you believe in what you’re saying. Judaism is the epitome of “actions speak louder than words” In order to be a “good Jew” you must be a “good person,” and there is no way around that. Judaism not only emphasizes being a kind and just person, it is required. Judaism provides 613 ways to be a good person- but more than that, they’re commandments, they’re laws. We are commanded to live righteous lives. Not just encouraged. To me, giving you a Jewish life is giving you a moral standard that is just in your nature to adhere to. Your Jewish upbringing, I feel, is the best way to create a child who is loving, inquisitive, and kind. All characteristics Judaism provokes its followers to possess. It is Jewish nature to expel love. I could not think of a better way to raise a child- not to mention the beauty of carrying on the traditions of our people always have, and will continue to do from generation to generation.
I am also a firm believer, and I believe that the Jewish people as a whole are as well, as they say, “nothing worth having comes easy.” To me, being of the people of Israel, is in itself an honor, but so is it to live according to a law that builds you into the best possible version of yourself. Undoubtedly, being a Jew comes with its challenges, as anything worth having does, but its rewards are a perspective and a love for the world is so beautiful- how could I not want to give you that as a gift? If something is not worth fighting for, is it really worth anything at all?
The greatest gift I’ve ever known- the gift of Judaism, is what I have given you, with the intentions of you getting to the quintessence of life. I hope you let it guide you, as it has always done so for me, and help you love life as I love you.