What I've Learned About Jewish Culture

Almost a year ago, I got into a new relationship with a guy who comes from a Jewish family. Since then, I’ve attended a fair share of Shabbats, as well as other Jewish holidays. I’ve even been to a wedding and unfortunately, a funeral. The point is that I have been immersed in a culture that I have never experienced before. I have learned a lot about Judaism and the culture and traditions that the religion encompasses.

So, here is a list of three events from a previously unfamiliar culture and what I found out:

1) Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which fell in the second week of September this year. Rosh Hashanah was actually the first Jewish occasion that I attended with my boyfriend and as can be imagined, it’s quite a biggy. Gingerly stepping into a room full of the extended family of a new romantic partner is rather a frightening experience at first, especially when worrying that my lack of religious know-how would cause some sort of problem. However, ten minutes into the party, I realised that there was really no need for panic. The sense of family and community in the room was (happily) overwhelming. I was welcomed so warmly and treated like a member of the family as everyone shared funny anecdotes and caught up with each other’s lives. It was a lovely introduction to the Jewish faith.

2) Shabbat

Shabbat takes place on a Friday, which is the seventh day of the week. The whole family gets together to share a meal on the Friday evening, with some prayers said (kiddush) to bless the occasion. I must admit, my first Shabbat I was a bit nervous: I’ve never been involved in religion before and I was worried that I would do something disrespectful by mistake and offend everyone. My anxieties were immediately relieved when I saw how merry everyone was. There was no judgment at all and everyone was smiling and chatting. All in all, I’ve really enjoyed Shabbats - and the challah bread. That can never be ignored.

3) A wedding

Now this one was the one I was most nervous for. Not only would I be meeting the whole family, but the groom is a Rabbi in training, so I knew the wedding was going to be a very religious affair. I was right about that, but that didn’t mean that my worries came to fruition. Again, everyone was absolutely lovely, and very welcoming and kind. I even got involved with dancing with the bride - and I’m really, really not a dancer. The ceremony was in Hebrew, so I didn’t understand much but was still very moved by how happy everyone around me was. The party was, for lack of a better word, lit. I made sure to be respectful when it came to clothing and physical contact and I’m pretty sure I made it through the night without accidentally offending anyone. Unless offending people with my terrible dancing counts, for which I can only apologise.

So, there are three experiences I’ve had with the Jewish community and it’s safe to say that I have been surrounded by some of the warmest, most welcoming, family-driven people I’ve ever met and it has been thoroughly enjoyable getting to be a part of it in the way that I have.