Maya Star-Lack High School Graduation Speech
Shabbat Shalom. My name is Maya Star-Lack, I’m a graduating senior, and I believe that personal connection should determine the way religion fits into someone’s life, irregardless of theology and degree of devotion.
I had a lovely Jewish education as a Beth Am kid. I started Shabbaton when I was five. It was my first introduction to Judaism, while I also explored my blossoming love for tea and snacks. I remember making the family scrapbook during Mishpacha that we still display and treasure.
At 13, I completed my Bat Mitzvah with my childhood best friend. My torah portion focused on the Israelites enslavement by the Babylonians for their mistakes, and I talked about how sometimes, punishment is necessary. I connected the Israelites’ punishment to when I was 4, and I bit down on my mom’s fingers when she was flossing my teeth, despite her saying, “If you do that one more time, I’m going to put you in your room.” Well, I bit, and I was left in my room for the rest of the night. I never bit her again.
When I started high school, I went with my Confirmation class on our trip to DC to lobby congress. My group choose the topic of global warming, and we encouraged our congressman to promote policy curbing the effects of climate change while also taking preventative measures.
As a young adult, I became able to identify the part of Judaism I value most: the teachings of morality and the community of Beth Am. I’m an agnostic Jew, I’m not as involved at Beth Am as I used to be, and Jewish practice isn’t something I think about often. Therefore, I felt it was important to find a way to align with Judaism in a manner that made sense for me, where I could hold on to my religion and the community of Beth Am without compromising my personal beliefs. I decided to join the Beth Am High Holidays Choir last year as well as the Schul of Rock, and I found my connection to Judaism through music.
Nothing exemplifies my relationship with Judaism like the High Holidays Choir. Up until two years ago, I had always viewed the intensity of the High Holidays as a time to suffer through the stomachaches, hunger, and stress. Stress, not about making amends for my sins but about all the school work I needed to make up from missing classes. Singing in the choir provided a way for me to connect to, maybe not the letter, but the spirit of the High Holidays, fostering my relationship with Judaism. Additionally, I met so many wonderful men and women in the choir and maintained contact with Beth Am members I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to keep in touch with otherwise.
While I’m thankful for all Judaism has taught me about morality, I realized on my Confirmation trip that I believed that if I was to be a good person, I would just be one, and not necessarily because I was Jewish. From there stemmed my psychological split from Jewish activism and as a result, Judaism, which often pushes for social reform through the lens of Judaism. My new-found agnosticism didn’t help in maintaining contact with any theology, either. However, connection to religion is so personal and extremely subjective. It took such a long time - 17 years - for me to figure that out as well as my way to relate to religion. But I found my connection through music, so I ask the question, how do you connect to Judaism?