I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

What I graduated from when my daughter graduated high school

In the olden days religious Jewish girls didn't go to school.

In my mother's generation they went to public school.

I went to a private religious school.

And when my kids came of age, it was a given that so would they.

I cried buckets at my daughter's graduation. It was an overwhelming experience. She was beautiful and so poised. My little baby all grown up. Flooded with memories. All the usual mama stuff.

I cried for the things I believed she surmounted to stand there. I won't presume to speak for her here, what it meant to reach that point. I don't really know and it is really her business.

I can only talk about what it meant in ways that connect with other people's experiences. More broadly.

The class was mixed-gender. I am a feminist. I looked at the girls. Reflected that the right to education empowers them, us, my daughters, me.

They cried openly as they gave their speeches. They said they would miss the school, that it was a place they ran to rather than dreaded.

I was stunned that they spoke out in many languages. That they could be themselves, not falsely assimilated. And that the diversity didn't detract from the school's identity as an American institution, but rather made it stronger.

The audience was silent. There was awe. It was a spiritual experience. The world living as one. This was it.

In their native lands, young women wouldn't go to a school like this.

As a young woman, I couldn't go to a school like this.

My daughter almost didn't, either. Except for one thing.

By the middle of her experience at the religious school, I decided that I had had enough.

The details aren't important. The point is that I broke free.

All my life they told me that religious school was the only option.

But it took her leaving the school for us to really explore our faith.

And that is what I want to share.

You may inherit a belief or tradition and think you have no choice but to follow it.

And you may choose another path only to find yourself questioned at every turn. ("We should go back...")

But if you truly believe what you're doing is right, just keep going.

You may be fortunate, as I was, to glimpse the fruits of your labor.

And to find that what you thought you left behind, is still sitting next to you. Stronger than ever. And more real.

Have a good weekend everyone, and good luck!