“I’m a Jew; A Proud One Too!”

8 years ago lrivkin 0


Rachel Perkins, Columbia, MO

Where I’m from, there aren’t many Jews, in fact, I guess you could say it’s pretty hard to be Jewish in Columbia. We have no Jewish schools or kosher restaurants, and we just recently got a Chabad house. All my life I have been trying to find my true Jewish identity. My family and the Chabad house have been working together to make a bigger Jewish community in Columbia, but it’s still pretty small.

As much as I love my hometown, I wish I grew up surrounded by people who understood me and my religion. I’ve been going to a Jewish camp for the past five years and that really opened up a whole new door into Judaism for me. I would always came home wanting more and to become more religious. Unfortunately, all the excitement of camp would wear off, and I would focus more on the fact that people would judge me for wearing a skirt to school everyday, and I’d have to explain a lot of things like what kosher is and why I can’t eat certain things. Religion became a job for me, a job I didn’t want. I wanted to spend my time hanging with friends on Friday nights—not put my phone away until the Sabbath was over. I didn’t dislike being Jewish, but I needed a push, something to inspire me. When I first heard about CTeen I didn’t have any interest in going. My Rabbi was the first one to bring it up last year, and although it sounded fun, I knew I’d be the only one from Columbia to go, and the thought of spending a whole weekend with people I’ve never met scared me. This year he mentioned it to me again, and I decided to go for it. After signing up I heard from a good camp friend that she was also planning on coming. I was so overjoyed to be spending a weekend with a good friend in New York. The closer we got to the Shabbaton, the more I learned about it. My rabbi showed me videos from their website, and I learned that Jewish kids from all over the world would be coming. I was so excited to go and learn more about who I really am. When I finally went to the Shabbaton I had the time of my life. I met so many amazing people from different states and countries who all understood me. They all knew what being Jewish was like, and taught me that you should never be ashamed or scared to be Jewish. They taught me to express it and be proud. As the song goes, “I’m a Jew, a proud one too!”

Not only were the people amazing, the whole atmosphere was. I got to go to places like 770, and the Ohel. These things taught me about Jewish history and gave me the experience to feel closer with G-d. I got a tour of New York and time to enjoy the city with the new friends I made. I got to have a beautiful Shabbat dinner full of singing and learning. I even took the extra step to keep the whole Shabbat, even though that’s something I can’t always do at home. I was excited to take a break from everything and just relax and focus on getting closer to G-d. Keeping Shabbos can be hard, and even boring at home, but with CTeen it was a blast. All the learning opportunities and speeches to listen to were all so interesting. The speakers they had knew how to talk to a young audience, making their stories more relatable. I spent my Shabbat learning about things that I was interested in. There was a good balance between the learning and fun. After Shabbat we were surprised with even more fun activities. The fun times with CTeen were endless! Getting to be in Times Square with so many amazing and inspiring people brought me the best feeling in the world. I felt like I was at home, surrounded by the most amazing people.

Everyone was so welcoming and no one judged me for requesting help with prayers or for asking what something meant; everyone was willing to help me learn. I took home so much from this experience. I came home with a full belly, new friends, funny stories, and an eagerness to learn. I’m already counting the days till next year’s Shabbaton. Im so proud of who I am, and I’m so thankful I was given a chance to go and learn about who I am, and have fun while doing it!