Jewish High Holidays have a new meaning for me this year

Throughout my childhood, Judaism has been a key component to my self-identity. My parents have raised my brothers and me in a conservative Jewish home. Keeping kosher, being bar/bat mitzvahed and having attended Sunday school are a few of many commitments to my religion.

Each year, my family and I celebrate the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. These few days each Fall are special because of the time I spend with my immediate and extended family. Some of my fondest memories with my cousins are from high holiday dinners. We would gather at the kids table and spend the night together. Although my cousins are older and we were all at different points in our lives, these nights didn’t seem that way. We would laugh hysterically and cherish our time in each other's presence, competing over who could eat the most of my Aunt Linda’s chocolate chip muffins when breaking the fast.

This is how I view my religious identity: family oriented. While it’s difficult for me to comprehend the true meaning behind biblical stories and their application to our world today, it’s crucial for me to be present at every Jewish holiday with my people I love.

This past summer, I traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip. Not only was this my first time in the Jewish state, but also my first experience leaving the country. Almost immediately, I felt a connection to my surroundings. It’s difficult to describe a land so magical, yet so controversial. A population of not only Jewish people, but individuals of various faiths and beliefs.

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Over the span of 14 days, I realized how similar and yet opposite Jewish people are. What’s important to me may not raise a question for others. Nonetheless, every inhabitant in the land of Israel can agree on the importance behind the land and the history it holds, not only for the Jewish people.

This year, I have a new understanding for the Jewish high holidays. While I continue to prioritize the time with my family, I have a newfound appreciation for customs and beliefs of Jewish people across the globe, specifically in the land of Israel. When I sit down at the kids table this year and catch up with my cousins, I'll think about Israelis celebrating in the Jewish homeland, and what the holidays mean to them.

Melanie Soverinsky is a senior at Michigan State University studying Communication with minors in Sports Journalism and Public Relations.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Jewish High Holidays have new meaning this year, across the globe