6 unique ways to connect with your Judaism this weekend

It has been an emotionally exhausting few weeks — I hear you. Here at Unpacked, we’ve covered everything from updates on the Israel-Hamas conflict to the rise in antisemitism, how to navigate online activism burnout and a therapist’s tips for emotional coping.

There’s been one theme that has strongly underscored all our coverage: the antidote to antisemitism is to live proudly as a Jew.

One of the most powerful things we, as individuals and as a community, can do is ground deeply in our heritage, history, and culture. Resilience is in our DNA.

As we enter another Shabbat, here are some ways to nurture your Jewish identity this weekend.

1) Spend time with your Jewish friends

It’s been said again and again. Community is everything. A sense of peoplehood is one of the defining characteristics of our tradition.

Go for a walk, bike ride, picnic, dinner, whatever your jam is, it’s important to carve out some time to intentionally interact with your community.

2) Engage with Jewish content off social media

Most of us get the majority of our news and information from social media. That’s probably also how most of us (especially in pandemic times) have connected to Jewish content — who doesn’t love a good meme? But we’ve also seen that social media can get really noisy and overwhelming, really fast. 

Luckily, there are so many other ways to consume Jewish content in more mindful ways.

Here are some to inspire you: 

  • Read a Jewish book
  • Jam out to Jewish/Israeli music
  • Listen to a Jewish podcast

3) Lean into Shabbat

These days, disconnecting feels more important and necessary than ever. Whether you regularly keep Shabbat, have never given the concept a second thought or are somewhere in the middle, I think it’s fair to say we could all use a mental health break.

One place to start: shut off your phone.

At worst, you’ll miss a few Instagram stories. At best, you’ll have a perfectly acceptable excuse to ignore texts and calls for a whole day — Kidding. But seriously, you don’t need to follow all the laws of shabbat to use the day for relaxation and connection.

For example, just the simple act of baking challah can often be restorative. During the height of pandemic lockdowns, it’s what kept many of us afloat.

Other small acts like lighting candles, attending service or going to a shabbat meal can provide us with a deep sense of connection and meaning.

4) Get creative

Creativity can be an incredible way to ground yourself, relieve stress, and connect with your identity.

Journaling, painting, playing an instrument… There’s no one right way to express your creativity. 

One tip: you don’t need to go into it with a purpose or goal. The ultimate intention is to have fun and let loose.

For lovers of journaling, here are some great prompts for journaling about your Jewish identity:

  • Brain-dump all of your feelings and emotions without any purpose, censoring, or constraint.

Question prompts:

  • What do I need to feel safe?
  • How has my Jewishness changed my perspective on the world?
  • Which virtue do I value most and why?
  • What do I know about myself and my history?
  • What sustains me?

5) Sometimes the way to the heart really is through the stomach

For some it’s challah, for others it’s kibbeh (for me it’s bagels and lox). We all have that one food that, for one reason or another, reminds us who we are as a Jew.

“They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” Ring a bell?

Food is essential to who we are as a people.

That being said, one easy (and delicious) way to connect with your Jewish identity: make your favourite Jewish food or go to your favorite Jewish restaurant.

6) Delve into your Jewish family history

As Jews, retelling the story of our people is a pillar of our tradition. 

It can be incredibly meaningful to delve deeply into your individual family history or the history of the Jewish people as a whole to reconnect with identity.

Some places to start:

  • Watch old home videos
  • Read a book about Jewish history
  • Pull out those photo albums your mom loves
  • Call your Bubbe and Zeide
  • Visit a Jewish heritage site in your city
  • Dig up an old family recipe book