Guilty of Jewish Guilt

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I’ve never been to Israel. There, I said it. When I was a bratty teen who turned my back on all things religious, it was a point of pride. A badge that said I was too cool for exploring my encumbering heritage. Now it’s a source of embarrassment.

How could I have worked in the Jewish community for three years and not have set foot in the Holy Land? How could I be a 37-year-old woman proud of my Jewish identity and not have experienced the place Jews call home?

That’s what I thought about this weekend when a couple I went out with talked about how meaningful their individual trips to Israel were. They talked about the spiritual connection, and asked me if I’d been. Once again, I said no, feeling, above all, guilty.

So it was no surprise that I picked up a copy of "The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt" this weekend, a compilation of stories from young Jewish women surrounding their complicated feelings about being Jewish. It’s a great read if you haven’t found it already. Women just like us talk about their conflicts with dating non-Jews (“babes in goyland”), fantasies about Christmas, ignoring our Jewish education, and even traveling to Israel.

Editor Ruth Andrew Ellenson asks the questions that so many of us face: How much do we owe to our heritage? Is religion about personal fulfillment on our terms? Should it be? Each author struggles with a variation on these questions. I am left thinking that—perhaps not at this exact moment of time—I better haul my butt to the Holy Land.

What’s your Jewish guilt?

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