However, it was a turning point in my Jewish life.  Instead of davvening, I read the books the rebbitzin had on the shelf.  I almost learned more about Judaism in that two-hour service that I had in my entire Reform Jewish educational career.  The next time I went, I just watched the people praying.  I learned a new way to Jew.  When I went back to school, I sought out my local Chabad.  The beauty of this particular group is that there are shuls in nearly every town and the structure is similar. If I learn how to davven in Boulder, I can do it in Jacksonville.  And the community stretches all over the world.

Thus, by my senior year, I had become a fixture at the local Chabad synagogue.  I worked hard to jumpstart the Hillel on my campus, and led a Friday Torah study with whoever showed up (mostly Christians, but that led to lively debates).  I had created my own identity in this community.  I was no longer  "the daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. Davis," but I was a member of the Jewish community in my own right.

The author attending a Chabad Shabbat with friends and the son of the rabbiOne of my favorite Chabad rabbis once shocked the shabbis dinner table by stating that he did not keep Kosher.  A slightly scandalized ripple passed through the students, alumni, and visitors.  How could this Orthodox Chabad rabbi not keep kosher?!  Once the ripple had settled, he explained that he was raised in a kosher home and was never around non-kosher food or people who did not keep kosher until he was married and serving as a rabbi in Denver.  For him, it was not difficult, it wasn't a stricture he had to keep; it was his way of life.  But, he said to all of us in attendance, those of us who have made the choice to observe the laws of kashrut, we are the ones who keep kosher and fulfill the commandment.  This struck me with the force of a revelation.  All the decisions in my life had led to this moment.  I was free to choose for myself, and I chose with all my heart.  I chose to follow the commandments and honor the Torah.  I chose to be a part of this community of faith.

The author holding the Torah this past year at her father's synagogueCollege is not only about education.  It is also about self-exploration and self-definition.  Part of my exploration was figuring out what I liked about Judaism and what worked for me.  I enjoy the traditions and the deep sense of belonging in a community.  The time I took during my four years of college to find my Judaism has shaped the years I have spent outside of college and will continue to shape my life. I learned to practice Judaism daily without relying on anyone else. I am thankful for that time of wandering through the desert of my own observance. Though my family shaped me and their Judaism colored my own, in college I became myself in full.  Freely, joyfully, and fully, I became a Jew.


Talia Davis serves as the Community Manager at Patheos, overseeing social networking, online discussions and blogs, and public relations. She has extensive training in theater and social media, and is currently pursuing a Master's of Applied Communications at the University of Denver.