Monday, September 28, 2009


So, for those of you goyim (Yiddish for non-Jews) out there reading the blog, Yom Kippur just ended at sundown today. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement for Jewish people, who refrain from eating, drinking, bathing, washing, wearing leather shoes, using money, or anointing themselves with perfumes or lotions. I am one of these Jewish people, and today I observed the holiday alone here in Panama, as I did during the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Where Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of a New Year on the Jewish calendar, when we ask to be written into the Book of Life for another year, Yom Kippur is the action that makes it happen: by cleansing ourselves through the above actions, we are ensuring that we enter another year free of sin and ready to turn over a new leaf.

As a personal sidenote, this year is the first in my life where I have not attended services at a synagogue. It was also the first time that I haven’t celebrated without my family or friends, and it was extremely difficult for me. Panama as a country has over 10,000 Jews, but when I was researching synagogues, the only ones I found were Orthodox and demanded proof that I was born of Jewish parentage and was ordained in the Orthodox Jewish community (which I’ve never belonged to; I was raised in the Conservative Jewish sect). Thus, I could not find anywhere to worship for the first time in the twenty years that I’ve been alive.

However, this forces me to find beauty in the people around me, and I’ve been blessed to be living with eleven other people who were extremely respectful of me and my culture during this rough time. They definitely helped me to find God in places where I hadn’t looked before, and for that, I am truly grateful.

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