Breaking the Cycle of Unwelcome in Jewish Life

For many of us going to a new synagogue or Jewish environment is tough. We spend time beforehand wondering if we will know anyone, will we feel comfortable, or something as simple as will anyone say hello to me.

For me, this last piece has always been something I’ve spent my time thinking about. When my sister and I walk into any Jewish setting we can get looked at differently and asked strange questions. This is because I am the white biological child of two white parents, and my sister is biracial adopted child of the same two white parents. We have always encountered the issue of welcoming and inclusion, even from an early age, and as we grew up we experienced the nuances and subtle unwelcoming that can happen, intentionally and unintentionally within the Jewish community. However, because of our parents we know who we are and that being a Jew is important to us. I have spent a large part of my adult life trying to find my own Jewish self and find what speaks to me about my faith. In this process I somehow always go back to the idea of community, welcoming and inclusion, that sense of belonging that we are all looking for.

About seven years ago I married my husband and in doing so welcomed a new person’s traditions, beliefs and feelings into my life and that of my family and my husband did the same. We struggled for a while and at times still do on how to make all sides of our identities and families feel welcomed in our home and our lives and to honor all the traditions that are important to us as individuals and as a family. A few years ago we were able to take one of my family’s oldest traditions and include part of my husband’s family in it. It was really special to be able to share Thanksgiving with my old family and my new family. It was a chance to do something new and create a welcoming and sweet holiday for all. It was and still is the beginning of our journey to make our family one and at times it’s not simple but we continue to look at the joy it bring us and others when we do it well.