By Sara Berkowitz
Since moving to Boston ten years ago, I’ve been exploring ways to enhance my Jewish Journey.
Growing up, my Judaism was structured by family, synagogue and camp. Through passed on traditions I understood what it meant to be Jewish. Moving to Boston as an adult brought me to a fork in my journey. I had to ask myself whether I wanted to drive forward, intentionally, into the Jewish community of Boston, or stay on the more familiar path of family and friends. I wanted to explore, but was nervous that embarking on the unfamiliar would involve letting go of my personal experience of Judaism. For years I received emails about Jewish events and communities to join and yet I never attended. It was hard for me to imagine committing to a defined Jewish group and instead I continued to connect to Judaism in my usual way, with those I know. Four years after first hearing about Eser, the young adult learning series through Hebrew College, I finally decided to try a new path.
At each Eser session, before diving into one of the Top 10 Jewish Cultural Creations, we were given the opportunity to talk about our Jewish Journey. Each participant shared their own experiences of Judaism. It was through these conversations that I came to realize that intentional Jewish communities (like Eser) are filled with individuals on journeys. Committing to this experience does not mean giving up any part of our past, but rather using the past as a means of connecting in the present. Jewish geography, similar family histories and basic curiosity brought me closer to the people in Eser and encouraged me to come back. The content was also great, and yet for me, it was the connection to others that mattered. By bringing together people with various backgrounds and giving them space to share their experiences, Eser provided an opportunity to look at text, music, art and media in ways that exceeded, in quality and enjoyment, what I would expect from a typical learning environment.
The question of what makes art, music or film Jewish is uniquely interpreted by each of us, and varies at different points of our Jewish journey. The broadness of the topic left space for me to find answers from within my own experiences and those of my fellow Cambridge Eser participants. For me, this is why Eser was so meaningful. It didn’t challenge the way that Judaism fits in my life, but rather provided a setting for me to share my own experience of Judaism and learn from the experience of others. Eser allowed me to cross paths with multiple Jewish journeys, thereby enhancing my own.
Sara works as a clinical social worker while continuing to hold onto her dream of becoming a professional camp counselor. She loves working with kids, being outdoors and finding ways to encorporateJewishness into her everyday life. This was her first year participating in Eser.