Writing Practice: On Being Jewish

In an effort to encourage readers to explore what it means to be Jewish in their daily lives, The Jewish Writing Project will offer suggestions for writing practice from time to time.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never kept a journal before, or if you prefer writing on yellow legal pads, or if you type your thoughts directly onto your computer after everyone else in your house or apartment or dormitory has gone to bed.

What matters is that you begin writing.

Who knows? Maybe a story or poem will emerge, or you’ll find the thread of a memory that you’d forgotten for years, or you’ll realize something about your Jewishness that you’d never known or thought about before.

* * * * *

For some of us, being Jewish is an answer; for others, a question.

“I’m Jewish,” some of us might declare, “and I live this kind of life, do these kinds of things, look at the world this way.”

That might mean you observe Shabbat by unplugging the tv or not turning on lights or walking to shul. Or it might mean you eat only kosher food, or you attend minyan every morning and evening.

“Why am I Jewish?” others might ask. “Why should I live this kind of life, do these kinds of things, look at the world this way?”

You want to know who can say how you should live, or what kind of food you should eat, or how you spend your weekends.

Each approach-–answer and question–-view being Jewish from different ends of the same telescope.

Between these two views is a spectrum of choices that await us as Jews.

Whether we follow halachah or observe only those portions that seem relevant to our lives or don’t observe at all, every Jew decides within these categories of observance or non-observance how to live his or her life to the fullest potential.

Observing Shabbat may mean spending the morning in shul or relaxing at the beach, studying Torah in the afternoon with a group of friends or reading a novel that you’ve been longing to read all week.

Whatever ways we practice Judaism, we make choices that allow us to identify strongly (or not strongly) as Jews.

Each of us chooses to be Jewish.
Writing practice:

1. If being Jewish involves a variety of choices, take a moment to make a list of the choices that you’ve made to be Jewish.

2. Set aside a few minutes–-say ten or fifteen, or more if you can spare the time-–and think about how you feel about being Jewish. (Is it an answer or a question?) And think about why you feel that way.

3. Can you describe the choices that you make on a daily or weekly basis that enable you to identify as a Jew?

4. List at least five examples of ways that you are Jewish… or things you do to make yourself feel more (or less) Jewish.

5. And, finally, ask yourself how these choices influence the way you see yourself as a Jew and how you view your relationship to the Jewish community.

6. When you finish, put the list aside for a day or two, then go back to it and review the list again. How does reading it make you feel? More Jewish? Less Jewish? Proud of being a Jew? Embarrassed?

7. Spend a few minutes noting your observations, and then begin writing them down.

8. To share your observations and discoveries with us at The Jewish Writing Project, simply click on the “comments” button below.

1 Comment

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One response to “Writing Practice: On Being Jewish

  1. rachel

    That’s a wonderful guide, just to get people started. I wonder (and it maybe a question that reveals my naivety) is writing, writing, writing a peculiarly Jewish compulsion? Are we driven to record so much, for a reason? Is it genetic? Food for thought, indeed…


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