What It Means To Be Jewish: The Three Pillars That Shape Your Teen’s Jewish Identity

With our unique history and the challenges of the modern world, Jewish identity has become more and more muddled, especially for young people. 

How can we instill a positive Jewish identity in teens, who feel that it is not necessary to live a happy life. 

Judaism has been around for thousands of years. The Jewish people have gone through innumerable trials and tribulations and have been on the brink of extinction. We have been persecuted routinely throughout history and exiled from many lands. With our unique history and the challenges and advantages of the modern world, Jewish identity has become more and more muddled, especially for young people.

More than ever, teens are faced with the question of “who am I in the world?”

As children grow into adults, their Jewish identity will probably be called into question. So what can parents do to help their children relate to their Jewish identity? With Judaism being both a religion and a culture, figuring out how one identifies to this complex idea is no small feat. Following are three core beliefs that teens develop a Jewish identity that is strong and robust. 

Believing Judaism Is Important

According to Jewish law, a Jew is someone who was either born to a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism. But those who fall into this category do not necessarily identify as Jewish. One way to make Judaism a significant part of one’s life is believing in its value. Connecting Jewishly can present challenges, especially for teens who venture out into the workplace or university. That is why understanding why it is important is an important factor when it comes to building a Jewish identity. It is important to emphasize how Judaism is more than cultural foods and symbols. It is about a way of life that expects us to live life to our fullest potential. It is about doing a life of mitzvot and good works. It is about Jewish values and traditional practices that reinforce grand ideas, which ultimately are derived from the Divine.

Valuing Where We Come From

Historically, Jewish people didn’t have to struggle to identify with their birthright at all. Like it or not, Jews throughout history were not widely accepted into mainstream society. We are fortunate to live at a time where we are not facing abject persecution, but we can never forget that this is actually a historical anomaly. Where we come from and the forces of history–both the tragedies and triumphs–have shaped us as a people. Knowing where we have come from and how we have triumphed over adversity and thrived is something that we can be proud of. It is what marks the Jewish people as unique.  

Being A Part of Where We Are Going

The goal of the Jewish people is to make the world a better place and to set an example for others. Striving to make the world a better place for everyone lies at the core of Judaism. Being involved in the Jewish community through good works is for many an integral part of connecting positively to their Jewish identity.

At Torah High, it is our mission to inspire and educate students in these three pillars, helping them understand the importance of their Jewish heritage and figuring out how they can personally make it meaningful. Our courses are meant to help teens establish their own connection to Judaism that fits in with who they are and how they want to present themselves to the world. It is a prescription that helps our teens flourish and achieve a foundation for success.

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