I’ve spent my whole life trying to find myself in Judaism. I’ve never felt 100% comfortable in any Synagogue, nor have I identified 100% with any Rabbi. I was never part of a Jewish community. I spent a lot of my life explaining to people what it was to be Jewish (often in a very poor way, because schools in Brazil do not teach the basics about any religion that is not Christianity), but at the same time, I too, had a very vague notion what it meant to be Jewish for me.
Despite all this, I have always found a lot of comfort in several Jewish principles, in many small traditions, in small acts that reminded me of the Jewishness in me.
My parents never imposed Judaism in my home. It was always a totally conscious choice for me, because I had to really try to find my own Jewish identity, since there weren’t any Jewish schools in my city, my friends were not Jewish and my family practiced very little. However, being here in Israel, I have been able to understand and explore many of the things that I wish I understood much earlier about my identity.
It’s very significant for me to be part of a Jewish community, and for the first time in my life, I don’t have to explain myself, or what it means to be Jewish. It’s incredibly pleasant to say Shabbat Shalom every Friday, then to have dinner with my flatmates, light the candles and break apart the challah. I feel good, comfortable, and I feel that being part of a community is a big part of being Jewish, from which I was deprived by the limited number of Jews in Natal (my city).
I now understand that being Jewish is a part of me. And that I don’t need to give up on any other parts of me in order to be Jewish.
I’m finally comfortable. Every day I learn a little more about myself in this discovery of my religiosity and spirituality. It comes in various ways: crying whilst families play Lecha Dodi through speakers for the whole neighbourhood, looking for a tallit for my Bat Mitzvah or meeting up with the Rabbi.
I’ve missed my people, and being here, I feel whole. Judaism goes far beyond religion and religiosity. It’s community, it’s being part of a people.
This all leads me to say that on this spiritual journey, I decided I’m going to do my Bat Mitzvah! I feel like it’s a cycle that closes, something that’s complete, something I’ve always wanted to do. Next month, I will seal my meeting with my Judaism, and in Israel.
Bianca Wainberg from Natal, Brazil joined Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa in September 2017. She is currently preparing for her Bat Mitzvah in January!