Rang in Rosh Hashanah in the city where my parents, grandparents, and my great-grandparents (after the revolution) weren’t free to practice. Where they were persecuted for being Jewish. I walked through the streets of Odessa, where being Jewish was a death sentence during the Nazi/Romanian occupation, with a kippah on my head. I felt the fear of past generations urging me not to call myself out as a Jew. I released the fear more and more with each step and kept the kippah on my head.
The atmosphere in Odessa has changed. I was not the only Jew walking to and from the synagogue wearing their Jewishness publicly by choice. Odessa is once again a place where it is overall safe to be Jewish. This was a city vibrant with Jewish culture over a century ago. There are far fewer Jews living here these days, and many of those here don’t know about their heritage because they weren’t allowed to know it. But there is a Jewish revival happening here now. Especially among young people who are, like me and many others around the world, feeling the call of their ancestors to remember and know their roots. And so in the spirit of Teshuva, we return.