Thursday, April 23, 2009

College changes you.

The Daily Princetonian today ran a story on students changing their religious intensity in college. They interviewed one person who became Orthodox, and another who had lost his faith, in amongst the other Christian students who had moved from this level to that.

I started to get more serious about Judaism in college. In high school, well, I was going to Ramaz, that was enough to say I identified as Jewish, no? That, and helping with outreach efforts at Lincoln Square Synagogue. I couldn't really observe at home, since my parents were not yet interested in raising their own observance level. But at college, I resolved not to eat non-kosher meat, although I would eat veggie options in the regular dining hall, and I would not work on Saturdays, although I would study and do computer/written assignments. Not too much, though, since I was going to shul morning & afternoon, so I didn't leave myself much time for studying schoolwork. The rest of the road to observance came on slowly, much of it after marriage, where both my wife and I could grow together.

I knew other guys who really turned their lives around, perhaps with the help of the major Baal Teshuvah yeshivas, and others who sorta lost interest in the whole thing, even after a year in yeshiva in Israel. The first, founded of one of the best-known Torah websites. The second is still a serious Jew, teaches at Reconstructionist conventions, etc.

College is a time for self-investigation, and often the first place where one can really choose one's way of life, being out from under one's parents for the first time. One thing I'm glad of, is that Ramaz prepared us to deal with a seriously secular and particularly anti-religious world, and remain serious Jews, even if we didn't stay (or become) Orthodox. Like it or not, there are Jews of all stripes in this world, and educated and helpful Jews in all denominations enrich the lives of all affiliated Jews.

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