The author's synagogue. Photo courtesy of Dialogue Institute Austin.

Growing Up And Growing Apart

I know that synagogue is a place that has, and always will, stick with me throughout my life.

I have a complicated relationship with religion. I know I’m not special. After all, practically everyone does in some way or another. I was brought up Jewish and have always loved Judaism. What’s not to love? Being Jewish comes with a Bubbe that makes you as many assorted carb products as you can stand and a hundred different Yiddish words to call someone a stupid jerk. But as far as the actual religion part, I never really had close friends at my synagogue. I didn’t like going to Sunday School or any of the many, many Jewish youth groups, but I loved studying Hebrew and going to services. And as I got older, I found myself truly interested in Judaism and could even see myself joining the clergy. However, I still found my social experience confusing. Judaism is such a communal religion that not fitting in at my own temple made me question my experience and identity as a Jew. Weren’t those kids more Jewish than me? 

Since I was a toddler and first began Jewish preschool (major shout out to Shalom Sesame, the Jewish version of Sesame Street—because there’s obviously a Jewish version of everything—which taught me the Hebrew AND English alphabet songs), I’ve been on and off at my temple. At times, like when I was studying to become a Bat Mitzvah, I’d go almost every day, and other times, I would go months without opening a prayer book. I never quite seemed to stick there the way I’d always hoped. When I started high school, a bunch of kids from my synagogue I’d known from the time I could barely walk were suddenly my classmates, which made it all the more disappointing when I still wasn’t friends with them. I loved being Jewish and so did they, but of course, matters are never so simple. 

One of my closest friends in high school is Mormon. Oddly enough, I ended up going to church with her more than I went to my own temple. Of course, this is nothing of a conversion story, but rather one about the lack of belonging. She attended a relatively small church and shared the experience of having no good friends through her religion, so I was invited to her church dances and cupcake socials. In case you were wondering, she still makes fun of me for how awkward I was at the dance. Mormon boys are famously polite though, so as far as I’m concerned, I did great. 

In all seriousness, I hold my synagogue very close to my heart. Our senior rabbi converted my mom before my parents’ wedding, performed my baby naming ceremony, led me while I became a Bat Mitzvah and taught my Confirmation classes. My family has belonged to our temple since my parents first moved to Austin together as an engaged couple. I grew up there through several houses, schools and stages of life, and where I once was a preschool student, I later was a teacher’s assistant in the same classroom. I wanted so badly to belong with the Jewish kids. Being excruciatingly shy didn’t particularly help (that’s a story, though, for another time), and while I still can’t quite say that I’ve found my group there, I know that synagogue is a place that has, and always will, stick with me throughout my life. 

nike air zoom elevate white count sheet youtube

Madelyn Pollack is a senior at Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Stay in Touch

Subscribe to stay up to date about our latest posts, writing competitions and Fresh Ink news