In the eight years since I last wrote a column for the Jewish Voice on my thoughts about being Jewish, my faith has grown ever-stronger.
In 2008, I moved to Rhode Island, returning to New England after living on the eastern coast of North Carolina for 15 years, where there were few Jews and even fewer practicing Jews. During that time, I stayed connected to Judaism through services at a historic synagogue 30 miles away, and also through my parents, who had retired to Florida from Connecticut.
My father served as the lay leader of the Marco Island Jewish Center for 13 years, and my parents would drive to North Carolina to lead the seders I had planned in my town. The chef at one of our local restaurants took the Passover recipes I gave him and made everything for our seder from scratch, including the gefilte fish.
I remember when I was given the rest of the homemade gefilte fish to take home after one seder, my father said to me, “That’s your reward!” He was right.
Through it all, I maintained a strong Jewish identity, and yearned for my Jewish roots and to be among my people.
In 2007, I had an opportunity to return to New England, specifically Rhode Island, where my parents had moved after living in Florida for 25 years.
Since my return, I have deepened my Judaism with great interest, enthusiasm and pride.
Although I was raised in a Reform synagogue, I have been actively involved in my Conservative synagogue in Providence, and have learned about Orthodox Judaism through my brother and his family.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned, and incorporated into my life:
• Refraining from lashon hara (“evil tongue”), the term for gossip.
• Understanding mitzvot and that they include kind words and deeds, or even just a smile or phone call.
• The importance of paying attention to all of God’s graces and gifts, even when seemingly small. I now have a greater belief in miracles, too.
• A deeper appreciation of the strength of the Jewish people. Interviewing Holocaust survivor authors and being on the Yom ha-Shoah Commemoration committee at my synagogue has strengthened this appreciation.
• Embracing kindness, goodness, integrity, wisdom and knowledge are embedded in Judaism and its teachings.
Judaism isn’t just about ritual, rules, customs and rites of passage — we are a people of great resilience, education, tenacity, diligence, vibrancy, consciousness and hope. When God handed the Ten Commandments to Moses, it was for all Jews. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and other movements came much later.
I feel fortunate and proud to be born and raised a Jew and I am most proud of my religion and heritage today. Our people have survived so much, and through it all, we have used our resilience to thrive.
PATRICIA RASKIN, president of Raskin Resources Productions Inc., is an award-winning radio producer and Rhode Island business owner. She is the host of “The Patricia Raskin” show, a radio and podcast coach, and a board member of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.