Opinion: How I built my own tribe for Hanukkah in the Pacific Northwest

Twenty years ago, the author relocated from Los Angeles to San Francisco and then to Bellingham, Washington, a town with a limited Jewish population and only one synagogue. Initially, the move caused the author to regret leaving areas with strong synagogues and significant Jewish communities, feeling as though they were living up to their “genetic destiny” as a wandering Jew. However, after feeling motivated to be surrounded by their tribe, the author found solace and a sense of community among non-official “Members of the Tribe” in the Pacific Northwest.

The author’s experience reflects a growing trend of individuals discovering and connecting with their Jewish heritage, even if they do not fit the traditional mold. As reported instances of antisemitism have increased in the United States, the desire for a sense of belonging and connection to one’s Jewish identity has become more pronounced.

The author describes how they found a community of individuals who, while not officially Jewish, identify with and support the Jewish people. This includes individuals with small percentages of Jewish ancestry who have embraced their connection to Judaism, as well as non-Jewish friends who have offered protection and empathy in the face of antisemitic threats.

Historically, Jewish identity has been defined by traditional religious and cultural practices, but the author’s experience highlights the evolving nature of Jewish identity and the importance of finding a sense of belonging, particularly in times of social and political turmoil.

As Hanukkah approaches, the author plans to celebrate with their “tribe” of friends, reflecting on the sense of community and support they have found in unexpected places. This story emphasizes the importance of connection and acceptance, regardless of traditional definitions of identity.

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