I did not think I would value being involved in Jewish life as an adult and mother of three, but when I saw my little ones run up to the bimah for the first time, I had a visceral reaction, as though I was slammed in the chest with nostalgic energy. Magic was in the air, and I was time-warped back to my years as a little girl, and I immediately thought, “I want this for my kids.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked upon their glowing faces watching the ark open to reveal the Torah, in their entire splendor. This was a powerful moment and it was completely unexpected.
You see, its came on the heels of a crisis of faith where I discovered my religion and identity may be Judaism, but my spirituality lies in Buddhism. I am a Jubu.
Going back 15 years, I was a skeptical college kid minoring in Judaic studies. Instead of accepting my religion at face value based on what I was told to believe as a child, I wanted an academic point of view. My college courses had plenty of Jewish thinkers like Maimonides, Martin Buber and Baal Shem Tov; but I wasn’t finding a spiritual connection in those texts.
A few years later, I found and married my “nice Jewish boy” who is my best friend, soulmate—and a skeptic. While dating, he openly shared he wasn’t sure he believed in a higher power. He is a scientist, and the most logical person I have ever met.
Five years and three baby girls later, fatherhood has shown him there is something more powerful than what we can see. Parenthood altered my spiritual landscape too, but I wasn’t finding solace in the Jewish faith, especially after giving birth to my twin babies. My high-risk pregnancy was incredibly trying and it came to a head when I delivered my second twin breech vaginally. She entered the world blue, gray, not breathing and lifeless, and my world was rocked. Medical intervention helped her take her first breath and she has been fine ever since. But in that moment my priorities were set as straight as an arrow. My babies, my husband, and my marriage are what I need to focus all my positive energy on, I felt, and anything taking away from this is not worth my investment.
I adjusted to having two new babies just fine, but I struggled with my ability to “do it all.” At the same time, I felt this incredible disappointment in others when they couldn’t align with my objective of taking care of my new family of five. My expectations were not being met by the people in my life, and I couldn’t handle it. I was disappointed, disenchanted and the broken record in my head was constantly repeating: “How could they?!” This hurt me, as I was missing out on enjoying my new babies because my mind was fixated on others.
I knew had to change my thoughts, so I started practicing meditation. Each time I meditated, even for just three minutes, I was able to stop the negativity in my head. From there, I moved closer towards Buddhism, a practice which resonates with me at my core. I appreciate how the Buddha never preached or handed down rules or commandments. In fact, the Buddha said not to “take his word” but to learn from your own experience. This is the probably the best thing you can say to a skeptic in spiritual crisis: believe nothing, regardless of who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. Buddhism encouraged me to accept myself and trust my own experience of the world. I can find my own spirituality within me, and my own “truth.”
Eventually, I told my husband, with trepidation, “I think I’m a Jubu (Jewish Buddhist)” — and he said, “Duh.” He asked if this would change anything in our home and I said, “No, not really.” And that was that.
Today, our home is Buddhist in the sense I work on being mindful (especially as a parent of three little ones). I try to live in the here and now, especially through meditation because it definitely helps. I believe in karma, but not in the colloquial sense of your actions being filed away into some cosmic catalog. Karma is about energy and putting the right intention behind those actions, with a focus is on having a pure and honest heart.
One of my favorite Buddhist phrases is “the divine in me seeks the divine in you.” I choose to interpret the “divine” as the special spark also referenced in Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, the spark we’re trying to reconnect to heaven.
My Buddhist spirituality doesn’t clash with raising my kids in a Jewish home—it enhances it. My girls attend Jewish Sunday School and we light Shabbat candles every week. I bake a mean challah and we celebrate Jewish holidays. I talk to my girls about love, kindness, generosity of spirit and holding all life precious.
Unlike before, I will now gently capture a spider or bug in the house and release it outside. My heart smiled when my 4-year-old daughter proudly shared how she stepped around the bugs on the sidewalk (when other kids think squashing them under their feet is a fun game). I’m not spouting Buddhism to my kids; I’m just trying to live a mindful and happy life. Buddhism is not a religion. Buddha is a teacher helping me find inner peace, which leads to enlightenment. It’s like heaven on earth, which sounds pretty nice to me.