By Sara Coyle
My name is Sara Coyle and I was born and raised in Cincinnati. I graduated from Miami University in 2013 with a Business Management degree and am now working for a local non-profit organization in Cincinnati.
“My religion is kindness. Compassion and kindness are the heart of Judaism. Judaism is a means to being a blessing to all the families of the earth, once you are able to remove yourself from the constrictive narratives of country, culture, and family.”
These thoughts and beliefs that Rabbi Shapiro shared with us were very eye-opening to me. My religious education took place at Congregation Beth Adam, where I was taught to ask questions and believe that there is no one right way to be Jewish. I treasure the foundation this gave me. However, as a young adult I’ve been unsure about what role Judaism should play in my life, and what it means to me personally to be Jewish.
Some of my Jewish friends who were raised in more traditional families and synagogues have added to my confusion. They tend to judge how Jewish a person is by how closely he or she follows the traditional rules of Judaism, so I understand now that they are viewing Judaism as a means to an end. Even though we share the same religion, I have a hard time relating to their interpretation. To me, it feels like they are using their religion to build walls and put up barriers.
As a young adult, the values of kindness, compassion and helping others have led me to the career path I’ve chosen in the non-profit world and the people whose friendships I treasure most. Rabbi Shapiro taught me that these personal values ARE my religion. I am internalizing and expressing my Judaism by trying in all aspects of my life to be “a blessing to others”. He shared that “the whole point of being a Jew is to be a revolutionary and to use your Judaism as an act of compassion” and that is exactly what I am trying to do and I hope others choose to do the same.
I believe that Rabbi Shapiro’s thoughts and beliefs are valuable to people of all ages and religions. They are especially important for young adults who are beginning to make independent decisions about what they believe and how they want to live their lives. By freeing themselves from their own constrictive narratives, my hope is that more people will be able to look beyond the walls of their religion and become less afraid of new ideas – and use that as a means to “being a blessing to all the families of the earth”.