Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Sept. 30, 2011 at 4:30 a.m.

Last Wednesday began High Holy Days in the Jewish Faith. High Holidays - or the 10-day period of repentance and reflection before Yom Kippur - starts each year with the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah.

I attended last Wednesday's sunset Rosh Hashanah service at Temple B'nai Israel in Victoria to observe the The Ten Days of Repentance commence.

It wasn't the first Jewish service I've attended although many years have passed since I last entered a temple.

You see, I'm somewhat of an honorary Jew (and I use that term lovingly), so observing Jewish holidays is nothing new for me - even though I'm a practicing Christian.

When I say I'm an honorary Jew, I mean that I was secondarily raised by a Jewish family.

From the time I was in second grade until graduating high school, I spent most of my after-school and weekend days with my Jewish best friend Leah and her family. Leah and I spent so much time together that eventually our sisters and mothers also established lasting friendships. To say our families were close, would be a gross understatement. When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents bought a house four homes down from Leah.

After moving in the neighborhood, there weren't too many days we didn't hang out. If I wasn't at her house, she was at mine.

All the years I spent with "growing up Jewish" acquainted me with Jewish fare, Hebrew prayers and songs, Yiddish slang, discussions of the Holocaust, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, temple services, and of course, holidays. Thus, my honorary Jew-ness.

Whenever I'd say, or do something distinctively Jewish, Leah or one of her family members would always tease me, "Are you sure you're not Jewish?"

Even though it's a relatively insignificant Jewish holiday, Hanukah was always my favorite. Every year, no matter what, Leah's mom and dad presented me with a small Hanukah present so I wouldn't be left out of the celebrations.

Opening my gift on Hanukah every year, always made me feel like part of the family.

Sitting in temple last week, I thought about Leah and her family, and affectionately remembered the years we grew up together.

I also thought about how lucky I was that my parents were open-minded enough to realize religious sameness wasn't a friendship prerequisite.

In my lifetime, I've met people who are afraid of exposing themselves and their children to other religions because they think somehow, they'll be converted (either into or out of a religion).

But growing up an honorary Jew actually expanded my view and understanding of God and made me appreciate how he's celebrated and worshiped in other faiths. And when I decided to follow Christ later in life, I realized my knowledge of Judaism allowed me to appreciate and understand Jesus and the family he grew up in.

For this, and many other reasons, I'll always cling tightly to my Jewish roots, dating all the way back to my original Jewish father.



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