Updated: Jul 30, 2020
There are so many moments in a person’s life that are deemed powerful and meaningful and others that get discarded and forgotten. As college students, some of us chose to only focus on the things right in front of us, like getting to class on time or which dining hall to eat at. Many of us forget that there is more to our journey through college than just the basic necessities. Things like “what do I believe in” or even “what values do I hold true to my heart” get misplaced in our minds and even forgotten. At Elon, there are numerous amounts of opportunities that get thrown our way to help us find the parts of ourselves that we never even thought were there. Yes, being a student is a major part of our lives, but I also want to push you to see that there is more than that. To help this journey become more clear, I would like to tell a story about part of my journey.
It is the end of my sophomore year at Elon and I am starting to freak out about graduation, what I want to work on in my career, and how I’m going to make all of the things I need to happen actually happen. I knew that I was going to be able to graduate early yet I had no idea what was coming next. I felt lost because I knew that I didn’t know who I was or where I was going in life. I decided to sit down and really think about it, and after a while I got frustrated and drew a big blank. All I knew about myself were the basics: my age, my major, my name, and some of the things I like to do in my free time. There were so many things missing like what career do I want to go into, what is my view of the world, what do I believe in, and who/what means the most to me in this life.
As the end of the semester approached, I heard about a job opportunity through an organization I’m involved with that the Truitt Center was looking to hire new Inter-faith interns. My first thought was, “how the heck could I do that if I don’t even really know what I believe in?” But being the crazy person I am, I jumped at the opportunity and applied for the job. I literally sprinted from the Hillel house to the Truitt Center to catch Carrie Seigler, the Multifaith Coordinator last year, before she finished her day and went home. I walk into the Truitt center, keep in mind being super out of shape at the time so I was practically panting, and I catch Carrie right before she leaves. I talked to her about all of my concerns about the job, and before I knew it, I was applying for the job to be an interfaith intern.
At the beginning of August, we attended a conference called ILI, or the Interfaith Leadership Institute, in Chicago. I was so confused when I got there, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that I was Jewish and I knew that I love my faith, but I needed to figure out how to incorporate this into my life. At the conference, we had and interfaith panel the first night where three women of different worldviews talked about their experiences within their faith. All of the women spoke about their journey to finding their faith, and it was so inspiring to me. I knew it was okay to be Jewish, and it pushed me to want to explore.
As a child, I had always been told by my parents that I was going to be a Rabbi, or a leader in the Jewish community, one day. I was taught how to observe shabbat (picture shown below), I went to a Jewish summer camp, and even went to synagogue almost every week. I connected so much to the songs we would sing and how it just echoed throughout the community. This idea of being more than just a congregant and community member intimidated me, and as I grew older I pushed down my faith. I didn’t want to put myself in a vulnerable spot where I would have to be a teacher of the Jewish faith because I was scared that what I had to offer wasn’t good enough.
When I got to Elon, the Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Meir Goldstein (pictured below), had worked at my synagogue when I was little, but at the time I was too young to remember him. He opened up to me and told me that he always could see the little sparkle in my eye when I talked about Judaism and he knew that one day I would be in his shoes leading the community. With Rabbi Goledstein’s support, Elon began to feel like a safe space to explore if I really wanted to pursue being a Rabbi.
I began going to Hillel more and met a bunch of Jewish students (pictures below) who encouraged me that it was okay to be passionate about being Jewish. I connected with the new Rabbi at Elon, Rabbi Sandra, and discussed what rabbinical school could look like. We have discussed what schools are available to study at and even what kind of environment I would like to be a Rabbi in. It soon became so easy for me to talk about being Jewish, and in most cases it was something that I wanted to talk about.
I am nowhere near reaching the end of my journey. There are so many more aspects of my faith that I have the time to explore before I make the leap to go to rabbinical school. What I’ve learned is that it is okay to not know your path or what’s coming next. It’s okay to not know what you believe in or what faith you want to practice. I want to encourage you to give yourself the opportunity to explore what faith means to you and how it plays a role in your life. I know it has and continues to be a meaningful experience for me, and I know it can be the same for you!