In my hometown of Vineland, New Jersey, we have a great diversity of people of all backgrounds, cultures, nationalities, and of course religion. Being that I have always been one to socialize with anyone and everyone, it has allowed me to look past my differences among people in society. Even when I was young, I stood by the belief that as long as you treated me with respect and kindness, I opened myself up to just about anyone I could hold a conversation with. Being that my town has a significant and strong Jewish community, I grew up being friends with quite a few Jewish males and females. I was opened up to the Jewish community at a very young age. In the third grade, we learned about the holocaust, and even got to meet some concentration camp survivors. I remember the day at the synagogue so vividly in my mind for it made a great impact on my life even today. At the young age of 8-9 years old, I got to learn and see firsthand just the horrible things that these individuals had to endure just because of their Jewish heritage. From that day forward I grew a great admiration and appreciation for the Jewish faith, culture, and members of the Jewish community. I even got to experience two of my friends become a man and a woman in the 7th grade for I was invited to their Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and impressed a friend of mine whose Bat Mitzvah I attended by remembering and reciting a few lines of the scripture in which she read about a week after her ceremony when we spoke to her in class about it.
What I admire most about Jewish Culture is their sense of community. During times of great success, and even times of great oppression and grief, the Jewish community never loses faith or hope in one another. Many of times in life, most people lose hope in themselves and those around them when things deviate negatively from the norm, and easily shun out others as being inferior during times of great success. As one can see throughout history, Jews always band together in times of great struggle as you can see with the religious tales of the prophets, or navis, as those in the Jewish culture would say it. From the time of the persecution in Egypt, to the oppression of Jews in Ancient Rome, to 20th century oppression, persecution, and execution of the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe, the people of the Jewish community never lost hope in themselves and humanity as a whole. In the end, I believe people get the wrong impression of Jewish people for their tight knit community which is perceived as one that shuns out outsiders, but this is wrong. Then again, if your culture was persecuted and oppressed for thousands of years simply because of your religious beliefs, how would you feel?
After reading the book by Albert Einstein for my senior thesis paper, I was able to get a better grasp on Jewish culture. "The Jewish faith is rich in culture, and they remember that difficulties and obstacles are a valuable source of health and strength to any society. We should not have survived for thousands of years as a community if our bed had been roses; of that I am quite sure. (Einstein, 103) Although their list of friends is short, they choose wisely by seeking out those men and woman of strong spirit and deep sense of justice, who devote their lives to uplifting human society and liberating the individual from degrading oppression. I have a friend of mine, Sean Kashani, who has recently moved to Israel to study Judaism further, whose words and actions remind me of the greatness of this faith and his devotion to it. Since he has transformed his life into that of religious devotion, he has become a great man who kills others with kindness, and is quite the role model for men, women, and children alike towards becoming a better person both morally, culturally, and physically. At the same time, many find them to be very stingy, but I have learned to grow a great sense of admiration for they only do so to make an easier and better life for their offspring as they reach maturity, and what man or woman does not want to make sure their family is not taken care of when the time has come for them to part ways from their parents. I also take joy and happiness in their belief that life is sacred. We all should take this belief within our own short, mortal lives on this great Earth. Although the meaning of life is simply unclear to any of us, life is simply a gift that we must cherish for as long as we shall live. "The life of the individual has meaning in so far as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful. Life is sacred--that is to say, it is the supreme value, to which all other values are subordinate. The hallowing of the supra-individual life brings in its train a reverence for everything spiritual--a particularly characteristic feature of the Jewish tradition."(Einstein, 91) Jewish culture says that serving God is the same as serving the living, and that the prophets of Judaism such as Abraham spent their entire lives preaching this belief.
In the end, I believe that the Jewish culture should be studied by all regardless of your religious beliefs, for the simple fact that a well-rounded individual shall be enlightened further in their own religious beliefs in doing so. I once again, have great admiration for their people and culture, for I was haunted my entire childhood of dreams of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi's chasing me in my dreams every night for 3 years straight with deep detail and vividness after that day in 3rd grade when I learned firsthand their struggles through the holocaust which helped me build great empathy. This is the first time I have ever publicly told anyone about these dreams other than my own mother.
Einstein, Albert. The World As I See It. Carol Publishing Group. 1998. Translated By Alan Harris.