A New kinD of yom kippur for a new kind of jew

Ezra Gershman, Jewish Day

Gershman describes his search for a place in the Jewish community. (Published: 2018)

I usually loathe Yom Kippur. What is the point of fasting for 25 hours and going to services to say prayers that I don’t know or understand? I just don’t connect to any of it. Usually I just end up staying in my bed, wallowing in my hunger.

This Yom Kippur was different, however.

For those of you who don’t know, I am newly in college. I spent Yom Kippur on campus and attended the services of the Brandeis University Conservative Organization (BUCO). I went in not expecting anything that different from what I was used to. I did not expect this Yom Kippur to be completely revolutionary.

Maybe it was the hunger pangs speaking to me but being at the BUCO services was such a comfortable experience. There was lots of singing, and we went slow enough that I could learn most of the tunes. And the atmosphere was so unifying. It really felt like a kehillah, a community. I know that in my ideal world, this was how I wanted my Judaism to look.

Lately I have been doing a lot of soul searching to figure out what my Jewish beliefs are. I grew up in a Modern Orthodox community, going to Modern Orthodox day schools, but I always felt different from those around me. Whether that be due to my internal gayness, the fact that davening is not my favorite pastime, or that it just wasn’t the right fit for me, something was off.

When I switched to JDS from Berman Hebrew Academy, I had the chance to explore other

denominations of Judaism. I could see how other Jews lived their lives, but in the end, I would always


come home to the community that didn’t fit me. I was able to see everyone else’s Judaisms at JDS, but then I would come home and practice the Judaism that did not 100 percent fit me.

Since coming to Brandeis my thoughts about my own Judaism have completely changed. I am

realizing more and more what I value, and I am finding out what is less important to me. I also am now living in a community that has all different types of Jewish spaces, where I can observe how others observe their Judaism AND I can go and practice in the way that I see fit. Before, I felt very confused about where I belonged in the Jewish world; however, thanks to Yom Kippur, I think I have found my place. It is a form of Judaism that is different from my parents, and that

is okay. It isn’t to say that I devalue my parent’s observance either, because it is just as valid. The Ezra that went to Berman and the Ezra that went to JDS are very much still a part of who I am. Nothing is going to change that.

What Past Ezra observed and what Future Ezra will observe are all a part of my Jewish journey. It has been a long road of soul searching for me to reach this point. This Yom Kippur made me think. I thought about who I was. I thought about the Jew who I wanted to be. And I thought about the Jewish community that I yearned to be a part of. And I am a part of a community. Nevertheless, I’m not done soul searching. In fact I don’t think anyone should ever be done. But I know that right now, I have a place where I can be myself. I have a space where I can continue to grow, learn and evolve. And that is my kehillah.