What it is like to be Jewish and agnostic

As I get started with this blog, I want to interview people who have a range of different beliefs and come from a variety of different backgrounds.

I want to speak to people from different religions, both mainstream and more unusual, as well as atheists and agnostics to find out more about their philosophies and outlooks in life.

As well as writing a blog, I am setting up a linked podcast, The Life and Soul.

I thought that I should start by talking a little bit about myself and my own background. If you want, you can have a listen to my first podcast episode! Click below.

As I have said elsewhere – I am agnostic, so I am not sure whether or not I believe in God or not.

I know, however, that I am happiest when I am open to the idea of spirituality, and allow myself to feel connected in some way, rather than completely closed off from it.

In my life, I have felt most spiritual when I have been alone in nature, for example reading a book for hours by myself by the sea or walking in parks and on Hampstead Heath, near where I live.

I am Jewish, although for me, this is much more of a cultural background. It is very important to me because it is part of my family’s history and my personal identity.

I am British, but my dad is originally from South Africa. His grandparents emigrated to South Africa from Lithuania in the 1980s. They would have been forced to leave because of the pogroms, where Jews and their businesses were attacked and closed down in Eastern Europe.

My mother’s side of the family have lived in England for centuries, but we believe that centuries ago, they lived in Spain or Portugal and left because of the Inquisition. It can be very difficult to trace these things as over thousands of years, documents are lost and destroyed.

While I am not religious, I like celebrating the holidays, such as Chanukah, the festival of light or Passover, which celebrates how the Jews escaped from slavery the land of Egypt.

On Jewish New Year, Jews eat apple dipped in honey and wish each other a happy and a sweet new year. They then spend the next ten days reflecting on the year that has just passed, atoning for past sins and asking for forgiveness – perhaps literally, from people that they have wronged. On the Day of Atonement, Jewish people fast, pray for atonement and hope to ‘wipe the slate clean’ so that they can leave their sins behind for the next year.

Growing up, I always took two days off school for Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It added a routine to the year, a time of reflection and also a very important time to spend with family. I always used to go to synagogue with my late grandma, Ninette, who I was very close to, my parents and my sister.

In recent years, I have sometimes missed those days to go to university or work, but it has always felt strange and like I am slightly out of kilter. It is important for me to at least keep this part of the Jewish tradition and I expect that I always will.

On most days of the year, however, I prefer to question life on my own schedule!

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