The strangest thing happened to me in college. At first, I rang as far away from Brooklyn as I could. However, two weeks into the semester, Rosh Hashana was in the air. Posters showed up around campus about free rides to a local temple for services. I figured that if they were offering rides, then for sure I would be safe from anyone who would tattle back home. My secret would remain mine. So I signed up and planned to use a fake name.
When the students arrived, there were only six people total from the community. What a pitiful sight. Anyway, given that this was a small college town, they had no budget for a cantor or rabbi for many years. Soon enough, my story came out, and they were blown away. Before I knew it, I found myself on the bima leading the prayers, guitar in hand. I have no words to describe how I felt that first time.
On the way back to campus, the other girls invited me to the Hillel office. When I came, they admitted that none of them could read Hebrew, and they had no transliterated prayer books. “Would you be a dear and make havdalah for us?” I did—I started with my Zeide’s Satmarrer nusach, and the rest is history.
My point is, don’t be afraid to explore new ideas on Judaism. You have no idea how much your background is valued and treasured by the world at large. While I wanted to run as far away from it as possible, it ultimately proved to be my entryway to a brighter future. I was “special” and “cool” without trying.