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What It’s Like to Be a Jew

Sometimes, it’s scary, difficult and tiring. But it is also simultaneously joyful, exciting and a great honor.
[additional-authors]
April 3, 2024
Ketut Agus Suardika / Getty Images

Here’s what it’s like to be a Jew.

Every day when I wake up, I go online to see who hates us today. I look at depressing images in the news about our hostages, frightening updates about college campuses and worrying statistics that America is becoming more antisemitic.  

Whenever I go to synagogue, a Jewish community event, or a kosher grocery store, I am afraid that it will be attacked. I always look for the exits.  

Whenever I go to a restaurant, I make sure to tip well – even if the service isn’t great – to show that the Jewish people are not cheap. 

If I am out with my kids in public, and they are misbehaving because they are tired or hungry, I worry that people are judging us extra harshly because we are Jewish.

I do not feel comfortable in any political party, because I’ve put my faith and trust in politicians and commentators on both sides only to be let down. At the very least, they have shown that they don’t care about the Jews, or they become outright antisemitic, and I feel personally betrayed and stupid for ever liking them in the first place.

When non-Jews make a joke about Jews, I have to differentiate between whether they’re just trying to be funny, or if they are actually antisemitic. It’s not logical; it’s a feeling, a pit in my stomach, and I can sense their true intentions.

I am in a constant back-and-forth debate with myself whether I should pack up and move to Israel because of the way the U.S. seems to be turning on its Jews.

I don’t want to speak up too much about antisemitism, because I don’t want to seem one-note or annoy non-Jews or come off as a victim, even if I am genuinely hurt and afraid. 

Now, the flipside. 

Here’s also what it’s like to be a Jew.

I have an incredibly supportive community, where people care about each other and are there for you when you need them the most. If you are sick, they pray for you. If you have a new baby, they deliver you dinner for a month straight. If you are in mourning, they show up to your house with warm hugs. 

I am part of a people who have gone against all odds, defeated our enemies who tried to wipe us out numerous times, and came out stronger than ever. 

I can count on my wonderful rabbis to offer me wisdom when I need it the most, to provide me with incredible insights and give me a new perspective on what’s going.

I have the Torah, which is full of inspiration and serves as a guide on how to live the most meaningful life possible. 

I get to take a break from the stress of everyday life on Shabbat and just rest, just be. I can spend precious time with family and friends, recharge and reconnect to my soul. 

I have the privilege to participate in beautiful traditions, from the Pesach seder, where we learn our fascinating history every year, to the High Holy Days, where we aim to repair our relationships, fix our wrongdoings and strengthen our character. 

I have Hashem, who is both a King and a Father, who watches over the world, but also cares about me. No matter is too small; I can pray for anything and be comforted because I know He is listening. 

That is what it’s like to be a Jew. 

Sometimes, it’s scary, difficult and tiring.

But it is also simultaneously joyful, exciting and a great honor.

We cannot let outside forces like antisemitism bring us down or make us any less proud of our Judaism. It is a time for being proudly, and publicly, Jewish, and celebrating it any chance we get. 

We cannot let outside forces like antisemitism bring us down or make us any less proud of our Judaism. It is a time for being proudly, and publicly, Jewish, and celebrating it any chance we get. 

Because when we spread our love and light in this world and fulfill our unique mission — well, that’s what it’s really like to be a Jew. 

How does it feel for you to be a Jew? Email me: Kylieol@JewishJournal.com.


Kylie Ora Lobell is the Community Editor of the Jewish Journal.

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