// Post by Ariel Constantinof
Growing up I was not told I was Jewish. Actually, I believe I wasn’t really told I’m anything.
Looking back, my very young parents were actually modern in thinking, not forcing their own beliefs upon me most probably.
But I do remember when, at the age of 7, my family moved from Israel to Romania, Bucharest, my parents’ hometown that I never got to know.
Once we arrived there I remember a few things that actually left a mark upon my existence:
1. It was all grey and sad. The city, the country, the people – at least if you compare it to my first years of life in Israel.
2. People were way more religious than I was used to. Although I clearly remember the religious people of Israel too…
3. My grandmother was the first one to ever force a religion upon me, and that happened shorty after we came to Romania. I vividly remember the day she took me and my smaller sister to church. We had no clue where we were going and what was happening there.
I actually remember that exact time she took us there, because I completely disliked it.
I also remember that moment as a fire-starter in my brain. That was the time I understood that, in my family, there was a small conflict of religions. But, really, I wanted nothing to do with any religion. As a kid I just wanted to play video games. Ah, and also go back to Israel.
So that’s when I started thinking about my identity, my religion, my family, my beliefs. I could not stand what was happening in the church I saw in Bucharest. I could not believe a word. And it felt wrong.
In order to stop my grandmother from forcing me and my sister to come with her to church, I found the unique solution of saying out loud that I’m Jewish.
And, trust me, that worked well.
Being a jew and screaming out loud about it in 1997 in Bucharest was a disaster my grandmother could not really take.
Shortly after I started learning more about the religion I thought, at that time, I chose – Judaism. I started going to Jewish camps and understand that religion, for me, was far from praying like those people in the churches I saw with granny.
Religion for me was translated to core values, to attitudes, to kindness and especially traditions. I loved being able to sing the right words along side other kids in camps. I loved knowing what every tradition actually meant.
Ever since then, my grandma never asked me to join her to church again. And I only started exploring on my own, as an adolescent, with my Christian friends – when I would join them on Passover at church for the fun of it. Don’t get me wrong: I was no making fun, it simply was fun to hang around with them and see them sing stuff and share candles of light at midnight.
Twenty years later, 2018, I ended up joining The Junction Annual, the place where I met about 150 other people from around the world, that have a pretty similar story.
People who have my values, my kindness, my traditions – open minded people who want to make this world a better place.
When I came back home to Bucharest after this event in Milan, I had about a week of being stuck in that reality. Of not wanting to reconnect to my “local life”. The impact was big. The connections I made were and are strong. The way I see life is still, since 20 years ago, affected by that day I chose Judaism in order to avoid going to church with my grandma.
Here is our amazing video from Milano, May 2018, The Junction Annual: PLURALITY.
Here are a lot of photos from our event.
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