General Post

Perfectionism is impacting how I explore my Jewish identity

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I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I don’t know when perfectionism started, but I think it was sometime between sophomore year of college and getting my first masters. I remember it being a reaction to understanding that I was paying for school myself. If I fucked up, it was a waste and there was no one to catch me.

I also don’t know when I started working to let it go, but I think it falls somewhere between 2016 and 2018.

I still find it popping up in unexpected places like in how I’m exploring my Jewish identity.

I’m scared to mess up. And as some of my Jewish friends explain – this fear is pretty normal in Jewish culture. There’s a fear of never being Jewish enough because you can be ethnically Jewish, culturally Jewish and religiously Jewish.

I’m working on becoming more culturally Jewish.

Even though it’s a common fear, I recognize that the fear as a whole is irrational. I won’t be disappointing anyone.

Here’s what I’ve learned this year: there are many ways to practice traditions, spirituality and respect in Judaism. You can meet dozens of Jews, and they each have a way they like to do things – and they’re each right.

For me, exploring this part of myself is combining practices from both Ashkenazi (which I am) and Sephardic tradition. And I’ve also looked to see what Jews in other countries like Yemen do too, and why. Diaspora is common among a lot of cultures and Judaism is no different.

When we look at food and it’s influence in a culture it’s important to look at accessibility and geography – this plays a much bigger role in why some foods are incorporated over others. Like for Passover, while Ashkenazi’s may stay away from foods that swell like rice or oats, even though they’re not yeast foods, Sephardic Jews from Spanish speaking countries may continue to include them as well as others like beans or lentils. These foods may or may not be included because of regional food culture and perspective with interpretation of removing leven foods may be applied.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two holidays I’m still figuring out. I gave myself time during them to sit and reflect and write, but it’s far from tradition.

Hanukkah this year has included a mini travel menorah and candles. I’ve given myself time after sundown to light them, recite a prayer and reflect. And right now, for me, the time of reflection is most helpful and wanted. It’s ok that it’s not perfect or that my pronunciation of Hebrew isn’t good – I’m showing up and trying. I need to remember that.