Do We Really Need “Nice Jewish Friends?”

I’ve been on about a dozen Jewish BFF dates now. They’ve been fun and interesting filled with the things I love best – good stories told by good people over good food. But there’s only been one person who has asked me a pretty important question: Why Jewish friends?

It was a mid-afternoon date. It was slushy and cold outside, so when we met and hugged on sight, like you do when you feel connected via social media’s reveal of slices of lives, we had layers between us.

Coats and hats and scarves and mittens, yes. But also experience. Some shared – Israel, music, tweens – and some not.

My new friend is fully immersed in the Jewish community. Her work and her home and her calendar were purposefully built to cultivate what I’m merely starting to (more aggressively) look for.

But, nonetheless, her (not unkind) question caught me off guard. Why am I looking for Jewish friends? If my family’s other communities are intact and lovely, why this search? Do I (we) really need Jewish friends?

My answer was unequivocally yes, but trying to express why gave me pause.

It wouldn’t work for our family to solely immerse in a Jewish community with the purpose of only having Jewish friends. We like what we’ve built in our city and school and sports. The kids have nice friends and so do we. The churchgoers and the Ramadan observers and the religion “no thank you” say-ers we cross paths with enrich our lives and make it better.

Balance is something we strive for and, for us, it feels dangerous (I’m not sure if that’s the right word?) to only search out relationships within commonalities.

But it feels equally daunting to not have any relationships within a certain part of your story. I worry that without this connectivity, this part dims.

It’s the community piece that lies in shared experiences that deepens a trait or a part of a person. It’s why some people search out shuls when they have children, summer camps when they have teens, and on-campus Hillels when they have college kids.

Our family’s sense of Judaism is strong, but our lack of community feels like a missing piece of our puzzle.

Throwing a ball on your own can become something else entirely when you play catch with friends or join a team. Morning jogs can become being a part of something when you find a running club or begin to run races. Indulging in the passion of playing an instrument has the potential to become a concert when you play with others. Writing is fulfilling on my own and magical within a community.

I think that Judaism works the exact same way. Ours is lovely on our own; I’m looking to make it shiny within a community.

This month has been shiny. It’s been filled with so much friendship and reciprocity. Another one of my lovely dates (at Sakura in St. Paul. Yum.) asked, Why now? That time I had a good answer right off the bat. Because I was ready to be bold with big actions. And as it turns out, all of those pins we’ve been passing around are spot on. With big actions come great results.