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Twenty years later I ended up at The Junction Annual

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.

At the end of those 72 hours of new connections, new faces and new amazing stories one of our main takeaways is “Empower in order to be empowered.” Thanks to everyone for this great-great gathering!

// 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.

PS: We’d love it if you could take just under 10 minutes to give back to the community by answering our short and friendly survey that can be found here. It helps us to better understand who the people we are working with are and how well we’ve been doing our job. We highly appreciate every answer!

Join us in 2019!

If you have a story or feeling to share about your participation at The Junction Annual, please do so by reaching out to us over our Facebook page or e-mails! We would love to hear and share your story!

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