It was a Tuesday, which meant I had CCD. As my mom drove the 10 minutes it took to get from our house to church, I dreadfully looked out the window and felt like a prisoner already. I would have much rather spent the rest of my afternoon playing with Jesse, my childhood best friend, than having to sit in a stuffy and overly-lit basement with a bunch of other bored 13 year olds. Class starts and Father John starts rolling out a TV stand and I switch my attention from blankly staring at my shoelaces to the video in front of me. In the video, a clear cup of water gets black ink dropped into it. A hand appears with a spoon trying to fish the ink out and obviously fails, turning the water dark and nebulous. Father John turns the TV off and proceeds to explain to us the meaning behind the strange video. He said something along the lines of
“If you have sex before marriage, you will never be able to go back to the pure person you were before and god will be dissapointed in you”. The class clown of my CCD class raised his hand and asked if it’s the same case if you have gay sex. Father John responded by saying
“It just doesn’t fit, if you know what I mean” while he hit his fists together. I was astonished and disgusted by that comment, while the rest of the class seemed to think it was pretty funny. At this point, my confirmation was a month away and I started to question if I wanted to be a part of the Catholic community. It didn’t take me very long to make up my mind, I decided I didn’t want to go through with my confirmation. You could say my mom wasn’t too thrilled about my decision after 9 years of religious school. I didn’t want to ditch religion completely because I do believe there is a higher power and I feel like it gives me a sense of purpose to do well in life. So, I decided to explore my father’s religion, Judaism.
The jewish religion is very accepting and holds great value to helping others. By deciding to practice Judaism, I felt like I was being true to my values. Judaism is so big on justice that they even have their own word for it: Tzedakah. This translates to “righteous behavior” and is viewed not as a matter of charity, but rather a moral requirement. With the intent to live a righteous life, you begin to embrace different perspectives and inclusiveness becomes ubiquitous.
February of my Junior Year of High school I went on a service trip to Nicaragua with my towns youth group, which comprised of my temple and the Presbysterian church. The third day we were there, which was by far the most memorable day of the trip, we went to a church that was in the middle of nowhere called La Iglesia de los Últimos Días. The special thing about this church was that the walls were adorned with not only crucifixes, but Stars of David as well. There was a small band in the front of the church that was accompanying their salsa music with hebrew lyrics. Regardless of faith, everyone was participating in the celebrations and having a great time.
I layed in bed that night on the bottom bunk understanding that, at their heart, all religions want people to feel welcome and that they have a sense of meaning and motivation in life. Judaism aims to instill good values in its followers through the teachings of the torah. Through this it creates a supportive and virtuous community that prides itself on loving and accepting all. Choosing to practice Judaism was a huge rite of passage in my life because it was the first decision I had made entirely on my own. I was able to change something I wasn’t happy about, while having my values as a driving force.