Jewish teenagers share their Castro Valley experiences

Days of Diversity always offers a new perspective on different aspects of our culture, and often brings to light new and interesting things we may not have known about before. This year, one of the presentations centered around what it was like to be a Jewish teenager in Castro Valley.

Students Adam Blum, Emma Silver, and Spencer Blum presented an informative powerpoint that covered many aspects of being Jewish. They started with the basics, such as, “What does it mean to be Jewish?” to which the students responded that a person is Jewish if their parents are or if they have converted.

“You can not tell if someone is Jewish by looking at them,” said Silver. Jewish people worship in synagogues or temples, and their leaders are called rabbis. Jewish men and women will often cover their heads as a sign of worship and respect. The Torah is the holy scripture, handwritten on parchment; and some people dedicate their lives to writing it. Jewish children study Hebrew and Jewish history and culture. When they reach the age of 12-13 there is a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah (bar mitzvah is for boys, bat mitzvah for girls), a ritual that says that they are now an adult.

The Jewish culture has many holidays, but the two most important are Rosh Hashanah, the new year; and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In their culture, it is very important to be part of a community and participate in community service.

They then moved on to talk about what it was like being Jewish in Castro Valley. In Castro Valley, the Jewish community is small and many don’t understand what it means to be Jewish, so it is difficult because there is a lack of awareness and recognition. Israel and the US have the most Jewish people, with the United States having a high concentration in New York City. Three percent of California’s population is Jewish but Jews make up less than 2.5 percent of the US population. In the entire world, there are around 13-14 million Jews.