Growing up as a single child to a Russian Jewish immigrant family, I have always felt the pressure to succeed. In a Russian Jewish home, success is often defined as perfection. Though I don’t know much about life in Russia, I can imagine that people were more invested in becoming “perfect” rather than taking a nurturing step-by-step approach towards growth. It seems that Russian culture is primarily concerned with where you stand on the ladder, rather than how many rungs you have climbed.
I got a taste of the marathon lifestyle, where it is easy to forget what matters most. And while I appreciate the drive instilled by my Russian culture, my Jewish identity has been the line in the sand in my life; it keeps me from being distracted from what matters most.
Soon we are going to be celebrating Passover, our exodus from slavery. Growing up, Passover was always just another meal in my house. We had matzo on the table, probably right next to the bread. And until recently, I never really understood that the holiday offered us a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our families. Given that my grandfather is a Holocaust survivor, and unfortunately was always made to feel inferior because of his religion, my family still feels that we are Jewish at the end of the day and it is imperative for us to mark the holiday.
This year I will be celebrating with Rashel Noginsky, a fellow Blognik Beat contributor and dear friend, at her campus in Cornell and I will be sitting down for my first traditional Seder with a Haggadah. I hear from friend’s experiences that it is an elaborate dinner with many steps. That happens to be true for most of our holidays. They require thoughtful preparation and a series of exquisite customs. Our holidays all seem to remind us to focus on our homes lives, and to make sure we don’t “pass-over” the truly sweet things in life.
Regina Akhenblit, 21, was born in Moldova and immigrated to the United States when she was two months old. She is student president of the Brooklyn College Hillel and has served as president of the college’s Russian Jewish Club.