Building a History

By Shelley Wong-Chassine

My journey to Judaism began with a fateful trip to Israel over two decades ago. Of the many awe-inspiring sites I visited, the Western Wall captivated me the most. It held an allure that left me with a sense of yearning I had yet to comprehend. Over the years, I have returned to Israel to spend time with beloved family and friends and. each time, I have been inexplicably drawn to the Western Wall, seeking to learn a little bit more about its history, to excavate its secrets.

This summer, I returned again to the Wall for the first time as a Jew. The connection was palpably different. I ventured underground through the tunnels beneath the Old City, exploring live excavations deep into the rocks in search of insights into our history and heritage. As I was peering at the layers of remnants and clues hidden underground, a glimmer of understanding of this mysterious connection I felt with the Wall dawned on me. I love the infinite layers of Judaism. I love the endless possibilities of deeper insight, of discovering something I had not seen or comprehended before when reading a passage in the Torah or reciting a prayer. This continuous pathway of learning and discovery fills me with hope and awe for the possibilities of Judaism. And the best part…this is only the beginning of my journey.

Now, in the High Holy Days season, I’m compelled by the ways that Jewish identity – like Jewish tradition itself – is built upon layers. I can imagine that this time of year for many brings back fond memories of childhood and family traditions—some, perhaps, dating back generations. Being a Jew by choice provides me with an incredible opportunity: an open slate to build a foundation upon which I can create my own Jewish identity, experience, and memories, and enabling additional layers of identity to be built for me and my family in the years to come.

About Shelley Wong-Chassine

Shelley Wong-Chassine is a mother, wife, and finance professional in investment management. She has lived in NYC since 1991 and started attending B’nai Jeshurun in the early 2000s with her husband, Eliezer, and their three children, Arin, Kayla, and Ethan.