Photo courtesy of Micaela Ezra
Now more than ever before, so many of us are leaning into our Jewish (or Jew-ish) identities. Amidst all the uncertainty of this moment, there’s something grounding about embracing tradition and spirituality.
But for those of us who may not have been so Jewishly involved for most of our lives, getting started can feel overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start – and even harder to get past the sense of impostor syndrome that can creep in when you feel like everyone else knows more than you do, does more than you do, and just generally fits in better than you do.
But the truth is, there is no one right way to be Jewish (or Jew-ish, of course!) – the right way is the way that’s meaningful to you and will make you feel connected to your Judaism. And no matter where you’re coming from, we believe from the bottom of our hearts that there is a place for you in the Jewish world – and if you’re struggling, we would love nothing more than to help you find it!
The good news is that there are so many beautiful and non-intimidating ways to bring your Jewish identity into your home – and today we’re talking about a few of our favorites (and next week, we’ll be bac in this space with part two!).
Observe Shabbat Your Way
When it comes to building a Jewish home, there’s nothing like instituting a Shabbat observance practice. This doesn’t mean you have to go full-on shomer Shabbos – there are so many small, accessible ways to bring the spirituality of this special day into your week, and there’s bound to be one that’s meaningful to you. You could light candles on Friday nights, turn your tech off (for a full 24 hours or just a couple on Friday evenings – whatever works!), buy or make challah, host Shabbat dinners, or keep up with the weekly parshah (Torah portion).
Acknowledging Shabbat is one of the most beautiful and meaningful ways to bring spirituality in your life, and the fact that Shabbat comes around each and every week means you’ve got plenty of opportunities to try different things out and see what sticks.
Invest in Judaica You Love
There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with beautiful Jewish ritual objects and art to infuse your home with a sense of spirituality. But make sure you fill your home with pieces that speak to YOU, personally – whether that means traditional or modern, boho or whimsical, luxe or DIY. A lot of us end up accumulating bits and pieces of Judaica that don’t really do it for us, and if this is you, know that there’s no shame whatsoever in swapping out items that don’t spark joy for new versions that are totally you – yes, even if the stuff you’re not so excited about was gifted to you by a well-intentioned friend or relative.
Our friend Micaela Ezra, the mega-talented textile designer behind AHYIN Judaica, has long championed the traditional Jewish concept of hiddur mitzvah – enhancing a mitzvah (commandment) through aesthetics – on grounds that feeling genuinely enthused about, say, your Shabbat candlesticks will make you all the more likely to pull them out on Friday evenings.
Mark the Holidays
If you’re reading this, you may already be good with lighting your menorah on Hanukkah, sitting down at the seder table come Passover time, and fasting on Yom Kippur. But there are plenty more holidays throughout the Jewish year that lots of Jews aren’t necessarily in the practice of celebrating. From Tu Bishvat (the birthday of the trees!) to Shavuot (commemorating the day God gave the Torah to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai) to Simchat Torah (celebrating the conclusion of the yearly Torah-reading cycle), the Jewish year is full of special days that can go so far toward grounding you in your spirituality and identity.
And, as with Shabbat, you don’t have to go full-on for these festivals if that doesn’t make sense for you – there are all kinds of small ways you can work in holiday observance, from leading a Tu Bishvat seder (which basically consists of drinking wine and eating fruit – what’s not to love?) to eating delicious dairy foods and decorating your home with flowers for Shavuot to joining a congregation and dancing with a Torah (at least in non-COVID times) for Simchat Torah.
Start a Rosh Chodesh Group
In Jewish tradition, Rosh Chodesh – the new moon marking the beginning of a new lunar month – is considered a special day for women. Some say it’s a reward because the female Israelites didn’t offer up their jewelry to be melted down to create the Golden Calf, others say it’s an acknowledgment of women’s connection to the cycles of the moon, but either way, there’s a longstanding custom for women to refrain from work (well, certain kinds of work, anyway) on this day each month! As nice as that sounds, it’s probably not practical for most of us.
But something you can do is start (or join) a Rosh Chodesh group, a community of women who come together each month to celebrate this special day. Some groups are focused on the social aspect of taking time for yourself to connect with other women, while others focus more on Jewish study and/or spirituality – depending on the interests of your group, there are so many ways you could go about running a Rosh Chodesh group. And yes, your group can absolutely be virtual!
Get a Jewish Calendar
Speaking of being in tune with the Jewish year – one easy way to do this is to get yourself a Jewish calendar, either in print (there are so many beautiful options out there) or as an app on your phone. It’s such a simple thing, but just becoming more conscious of the patterns of the Jewish year, the changing of the lunar months, and the approach of holidays can subtly shift your consciousness toward the spiritual.
Watch this space for part two next week – and in the meantime, be sure to follow us on Instagram at @yourjewishlife for more accessible, inclusive, and fun Jewish content!