‘The idea people have of Judaism isn’t really what it is’

In honor of Jewish Heritage Month, Jewish students share how Judaism has played a role in their lives


A DIVINE TRIP Having spent her second semester of her junior year in Israel, Namoi Fefferman, senior, takes a picture of the city she was staying in Jerusalem. One of her classes was Jewish History, in which she would travel and learn about the history of the historic sites around her. “I have previously been to Israel once and I loved it there,” she said. “I wanted that education, a place where I feel like I would have gotten a deeper meaning with the education.“ (photo sent by naomi fefferman)

Josephine Mittelberger, design editor

Every year Jordan Fefferman, sophomore, goes to a Jewish summer camp, OSRUI,  in Wisconsin for about seven weeks. She is completely disconnected from the world, with no phone or access to the internet, and is able to be a part of a tight knit community of people with a similar heritage and background.

“Mi shebeirach avoteinu/M’kor hab’rachah l’imoteinu/May the source of strength/Who blessed the ones before us,/Help us find the courage/to make our lives a blessing/and let us say, Amen.”

It was last summer July 4 when the world did not seem so far away from her little camp. That day marks the Highland Park shooting, when a region with one of Chicago’s highest concentrations of Jewish residents lost seven lives and 48 more were injured.

“Mi shebeirach imoteinu/ M’kor habrachah laavoteinu/ Bless those in need of healing/with r’fuah sh’leimah/ The renewal of body/the renewal of spirit,/ And let us say, Amen.”

The camp told the older students of the shooting and a service was held later that day. With some of the campers being from Highland Park, the service was one of the most powerful sights Jordan had ever seen—not a single eye in the room was dry.

“Growing up, going to temple and being around other Jewish people was a great experience,” Jordan said. “Everyone was always super accepting, community focused and giving back. All the values that I grew up learning through Judaism, I use in my life, and it made me a good person.”

While Jewish History Month can be used as a rememberance for the persecution of Jewish people, it also encapsulates how important the community is to so many Jewish-Americans. For Naomi, Jordan’s sister, senior, the community in Munster is a place she can turn to easily. Although she is not particularly religious, when she goes to services and prays, she finds herself in a clear headspace and is able to take in that moment.

“It just gave me a whole other support system,” Naomi said. “Without it, I don’t know who I’d be today. It makes me feel like I’m playing a part in something that has bigger meaning. I’m a part of a small community and it makes me feel good.”

On top of her part within the Jewish community in the region, Naomi has been able to study abroad in Israel her second semester of her junior year. She stayed right outside of Jerusalem in a kibbutz. She completed all of the required courses that we have in MHS, but she had Hebrew and Jewish History classes that would take her all across the country where they would be able to learn at the exact places they happened in history.

“My favorite part was the Eilat trip where we went to Masada, the big hike and the Dead Sea. We got a lot of opportunities to explore the different areas on our own with our friends that we meet,” Naomi said. “The trip gave me a better answer to what Judaism means to me. I still don’t exactly know what it is, but it got me a step closer.”

Although Simon Nirenburg, junior, has yet to visit Israel, he has been to Jewish summer camps. He explained the experience as very different because Munster’s Jewish population is extremely small, so he’s felt separated his whole life. When he went to summer camps growing up, he compared it to people going to college and finally meet ingother people that have similar interests; while in high school, it is much more isolating. In Munster, if he wants to meet with anyone from the Jewish community, plans can easily slip through the cracks because of conflicting events and how small the community is at MHS.

“We can all relate—we’re all friends, we all have that shared heritage—but there’s fewer opportunities to make our social events happen,” he said. “You have to really make an effort to try and stay connected, so it makes it a little problematic, but it’s fun in that there’s an inside joke of like we all know each other.”

His connection to Judaism has also been integral to his passion for science. Growing up, he noticed that Judaism has a strong intellectual tradition of asking questions in order to understand the world—and it stuck with him. What keeps him motivated is also integral to Jewish culture. With many of the traditions revolving around the fact that Jewish people have survived numerous persecutions, Simon is constantly reminded to stay vigilant.

“I feel like Judaism as a whole, there’s that constant reminder that I’ve always had that I want to be a part of this,” he said. “I don’t want to let this culture die out because my ancestors went through so much suffering and so many people died to keep this culture alive, and it’s my responsibility to pass it off.”