Our Two Cents: Not ready for Jews-only lifestyle

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to [email protected]

I am a young woman (age 26) living in San Francisco. I am culturally Jewish but don’t feel compelled to practice my religion in any organized way — meaning I don’t belong to a synagogue and have not gone to a service in a very long time. My issue is that I have a group of Jewish friends who identify much more traditionally with their Judaism than I do and often pressure me to participate in more Jewish activities (e.g., JDate, monthly Jewish social events, and services on High Holy Days) than I would do on my own. Don’t misunderstand, I have no problem being Jewish, and I love these friends, but I’m not sure I am ready to jump into all their “Jews-only” activities. They are also making the case for marrying someone Jewish, but I am open to other options. Any ideas how to strike a balance here? J.H., San Francisco

Sharon: There is a way to balance your friends’ desire to pull you into their Jewish activities and your own sensibility about what it means to be Jewish. Your friends see you as a part of “the tribe,” so to speak, and therefore want to include you in all the events that they enjoy living in a Jewish-centered life. I suggest you pick one or two activities that seem the most fun for you to experience with your friends and bow out of any function that does not resonate with your own sense of self. The good news is that everyone is really a Jew-by-choice in modernity, so joining your friends when the spirit moves you sounds about right to me.

Alexis: Listen, it sounds to me that your friends simply want to include you in activities that they find fun and meaningful. If traditional High Holy Day services are not for you, your friends should understand that and respect your choice not to attend. As for Jewish activities, I’d recommend trying some out before you pooh-pooh them. Just as you’re open to Jewish and non-Jewish men alike, you may want to try secular and Jewish extracurricular events. Most of the 20-somethings I know identify as “culturally Jewish” as well — with less stress on the religious rituals and more emphasis on the character of the culture they’ve inherited. Given that reality, I imagine you’ll have a wonderful time at these “Jews-only” events, with others very similar to you.

Saul: I don’t think anyone should do anything or go anywhere that makes them feel uncomfortable — including going to social activities. However, my experience is that Jewish groups are just another great way to make friends and meet more people. Trust me, “Jews-only” events are welcoming to everyone no matter where you land on the religious spectrum.

Jessica: Who are your friends, and can I be friends with them, too? They sound great! I think it would be worth it to give these events a try. If anything, maybe you’ll meet new cool friends, and if not, at least you gave it the chance I believe it deserves. I think we all should practice being more open to things that may make us feel a tiny bit uncomfortable. I find comfort in being a part of a Jewish community, and I hope you’ll embrace it at a level that feels right for you.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.