Rachael is an almost-native San Franciscan who began exploring Judaism around 10 years ago. Her journey led her to finding a spiritual home at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav where she has had the joy to study with amazing rabbis, friends and students. She has just had a child and is excited about this newest twist in her spiritual life.

IB of JVoices: What does it mean to you to be Jewish?

Rachael: I guess its a little different for me since as an adult I chose to be Jewish, and I feel like it’s a choice that I reaffirm often. Becoming Jewish for me means choosing to believe in something outside of my own self and my own self interest – it means not just trying to accept a concept of god, but also to accept my relationship to and within a community. It means taking tz’dakah and tshuvah personally – I have a commitment and responsibility to the wholeness of the world that I didn’t necessarily feel or accept before. And there is the fun stuff – the studying and debating and becoming a part of a long long long tradition of study and debate, the singing & praying and perhaps best of all the eating.

IB: What makes you feel connected to other Jews?

Sha’ar Zahav is the community where I “came into” my Judaism. A lot of my connection came from the welcome I felt at CSZ – initially attending services, then studying there through the adult ed programs and then being involved on some committees. Now I am living in Massachussetts and I am feeling a bit at ends – but I am tethered to a Jewish community now via my wife, our son and her family who have vigorously embraced me. On shabbat when we have dinner with her brother or her parents and we say the blessings I know my “family” will be gathering in SF in a few hours at Sha’ar Zahav and saying the exact same words in blessing.

IB: What makes you feel disconnected from other Jews?

Rachael: The Israel debates.

IB: What kind of Jewish community do you have, and what kind of Jewish community do you desire?

Rachael: Now that I have a kid I think a lot more of how to raise him to have a positive sense of his Jewish self. I’d like to have a family that observes a shabbat ritual, I’d like him to feel a sense of community & belonging that includes a sense of responsibility to the world/community also. I hope he loves learning and takes on the privilege of study and debate that I enjoy so much. I want him to know that there is a purpose and sense to life, and to know what it feels like to walk humbly with ones concept of god.