Seeking Out a Jewish Summer

Seeking Out a Jewish Summer photo

As the summer starts to settle in, the slump begins settling in as well.

After Shavuot ends next week, Jewish events and programming tend to take a bit of a vacation. While some of us have Birthright Israel trips, Jewish summer camp, summer school, or other programs that will keep them engaged in Jewish community, there are many who will probably find themselves bored, disconnected and unsure how to stay engaged in Judaism, if they should at all.

Thinking about this question, it reminds me of the phrase "to go out and seek mitzvot" to do. There are opportunities to engage in Judaism and celebrate and deepen your Jewishness during the summer -- you just have to find them.

In the past, I personally struggled to find ways to plug into my Jewishness during the summer, especially in college. I did not grow up Jewish, so college was the beginning of my transformation into a practicing Jew and my only place for exploring and nourishing my Judaism. So once school let out, it meant going home and disconnecting from Judaism to an extent. Since home resides in the Chicago hinterlands (the neighborhoods on the fringes of the Jewish communities in Chicago) and I volunteered to work nearly every summer, it therefore fell on me to seek out the means to develop and grow my Jewish identity.

In my three years since college, that necessity became even more prevalent. Working in the retail world offers little in allowing me to be an observant Jew, much less one seeking to become Orthodox, so I began looking harder and smarter -- networking and stubbornly kicking myself to get out there -- to compensate for the loss and continue enriching my Jewish soul. Although there are still hurtles I wish to overcome, such as finding a higher-paying job to support an Orthodox lifestyle once I begin the conversion process, I feel I am at least entering the impetus of that larger journey.

Maybe your need to grow Jewishly is different from mine, but there are all kinds of things you can do to keep Judaism active and meaningful in your life during the summer. Start by establishing a small goal, and then consider if this is a personal mission or something you can share with friends, and also just how far out you want to journey.

For those wanting to keep it small, I would start by making a stronger effort to plan time for Jewish friends and people you would normally see and spend time with in Jewish circumstances. Whether it's shooting the breeze with friends over a drink, hosting a Shabbos dinner -- those little get-togethers can lead to more. My Alpha Epsilon Pi friends from college held a barbecue and even just that conversation with friends and enjoying good food on a nice summer night was enriching.

For those seeking to explore the larger community or find out about events to help inspire them, your job is simply looking at the calendar. Your local Jewish Community Centers, synagogues and the Jewish United Fund have calendars detailing events occurring throughout the summer, believe it or not. It only takes a short scroll through their "Upcoming Events" pages to find something that peaks your interest.

Additionally, Chabad houses across Chicago as well as JET (Jewish Educations Team) run by Rabbi Zev Kahn and Rabbi Shalom Garfinkel provide opportunities during the summer to enrich your Jewish soul. Just a few weeks ago, I attended a guest lecture hosted by Ohr Samayach that discussed a range of topics that I am still going over in my head and thinking about while applying them to my secular and Jewish life.

I mention these because there are opportunities abound, it rests on your initiative. As Jeremiah puts it simply: "And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you." (Jeremiah 29:12). So seek out learning, and God shall listen.

Barrett Ried Goldflies photo 375
Barrett is a native Chicagoan and graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). While attending, he pursued is natural love of history and anthropology, as well as discovered his passion for Jewish culture and the Jewish faith. Currently he works as... Read More

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