The Communicator

The Communicator

The Communicator

Trying To Fit The Pieces

Photo by Nicky Andrews

I stopped believing in God at 14 years old.

Being Jewish has always been one of the bigger puzzle pieces of my identity. Raised in a conservative synagogue, services, Shabbat, daily prayer and Hebrew school were constants throughout my childhood. Judaism touched my neshamah [soul] in a way like no other, encouraging me to explore even further — I became the first Bat Mitzvah in my entire family. The synagogue was not only a place of worship; it was another home where I celebrated and learned.
But the roof started to collapse.

COVID-19 emerged rapidly, and as isolation was enforced, I felt disconnected from the community that meant most to me, but I wanted to remain active in Jewish life; I attended services online, participated in Jewish teen meetings and gathered near the Shabbat candles every Friday night. But as I would close my eyes, something felt off.

God was absent.

This feeling persisted, and I felt hopeless. I missed the warmth of my congregation and the virtual vessel didn’t fill that void.
Come 2022, my mom forwarded me an email labeled “Teen Mission.” Inside was a packed month-long itinerary, promising an enriching trip to Israel alongside Jewish American and Israeli teens. It sounded both terrifying and exhilarating, yet I knew I needed to go, and possibly find my solution in the world’s most religious place. I was so tired of feeling like a shell of myself.
And it was the best month of my entire life. I made two Israeli best friends — Ziv and Or — and we did everything together. We embarked on the strenuous Sea-to-Sea hike, belted Shabbat songs and stargazed in the Arava desert as our stomachs ached from never-ending laughter. With them, I never felt judgment or fear; I only acted like myself, feeling excited and energetic every day.
As we were about to depart for a three-hour long bike ride, I started to feel sick. I had COVID.
In my colorless motel room, I felt like I was back at square one: alone, physically and mentally. Wistfully, I unpacked my belongings and found a book: “100 Years of Solitude.” How fitting, I thought. With nothing else to do, I moved to a deserted porch with the book in hand.

Immediately, the pages transported me to the mystical, tiny town of Macondo. I found myself within the complex characters, from Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s attentiveness to his studies to Úrsula’s honesty. Characters, like Buendía, felt out of place within their community. I realized I was the same.

My religious puzzle remains unsolved, but I came home with more pieces than before; I left with a deeper understanding of myself and what community means. Immersed in a small yet culturally rich region, like Macondo, I realized my relationship with God is just that — mine. As the characters in “100 Years of Solitude” view solitude differently, my relationship with God differs from Ziv and Or, my congregation and even my past self, and I respect them regardless. I may not believe in God, but my connection with those around me is just as strong, no matter our differences.

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About the Contributor
Ruth Shikanov
Ruth Shikanov, Print Editor-in-Chief
This is Ruth's seventh semester on staff and first year as one of the Print Editors-in-Chief. You can typically find her commuting between her classes or doing homework, but in her free time, Ruth enjoys being outside, walking her dog, Juno, reading, going on runs near Bandemer and trying new recipes. She cannot wait for all of the amazing work that will be created in Room 300!

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