All my life, I’ve been skeptical about sharing my pride and religion with others because of hate and racism. There are a lot of organizations and groups that dislike Jews and the state of Israel, and are not afraid of saying so. I know people who have been to massive protests where they have felt threatened and terrified for their lives. There is also constant anti-Semitism on college campuses with groups whose sole purpose is to hate on certain people.
Because of all of this, I have always been hesitant about sharing my pride with others out of fear that I would be disliked for simply being a human. I didn’t want to let some haters get in my way. My journey begins here.
I grew up going to a Jewish preschool and later attending public school. When I was 8, I began going to a Jewish summer camp and Hebrew school at the Chabad of Simcha (Santa) Monica, which both really opened my eyes to the world of Judaism where I learned more and more each day, and where I grew to love who I am even more.
My camp counselors, my fellow peers, and I used to walk around theme parks and busy streets wearing my green camp t-shirt and a skirt chanting “I’m a Jew and I’m proud and I’ll sing it out loud, ’cause forever that’s what I’ll be, OH YEAH!” And I remember feeling embarrassed because people would stare and roll their eyes. I remember going back to school and wearing booty shorts and tank tops because I didn’t at camp. Now I realize that the pride and enthusiasm of my camp counselors has not only rub off on me, but has made me realize how proud I am of simply being me.
I’m proud to wear a David star around my neck, I’m proud to light the candles on Shabbat and I’m proud to say that God is always watching over me or that I can always go to Him in any time of need or anytime to just simply say thank you.
My junior year of high school, I joined a Jewish youth group with my cousin who happened to be going to New York for a fun weekend. When I was invited, I said “why not!” That February, I attended the CTEEN International Shabbaton in the heart of New York where I met hundreds of new friends, visited some of the most influential and memorable places in history, learned more about my religion, and most importantly, about myself.
This year, as a senior, being my final year as a CTEENer, I returned to New York with more of an open-mind where I blossomed to be a loud and proud Jewish teen who isn’t afraid to be myself because of the positive people and the most inspiring 18th birthday weekend of a lifetime. I met people who walk around wearing an Israeli flag around their necks and people who speak about their beliefs at school and who aren’t afraid to do so. I was inspired by the courage and the bravery to be myself by people who I had only met once but continue talking to every day. I also had the privilege to visit the Rebbe’s resting place, where I was able to write and recite a blessing and prayer to Him. That experience was one of the most amazing and spiritual moments of my whole life because I felt more connected and empowered than ever before.
Today, I stand prouder than ever, sharing my pride with my non-Jewish friends, joining groups and organizations who promote this pride, and constantly making new friendships with people just like me. I’m very thankful for all of the people in my life who have encouraged me to be proud of who I am and where I come from. I’ve made many friends who aren’t afraid of what others think and live their lives with pride and joy.
I’m proud to say that I’m a Jew and I’m proud to say that I stand with Israel. Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day has just passed and has reminded us all that each day we stand one day stronger and one day prouder. Oddly enough, I want to thank the starers, the haters, the bullies, and the doubters who have made me, as well as many Jews all around the world, prouder than ever of where we stand, in union, forever and always. עם ישראל חי