It was said innocently enough. “Don’t Jew me now!” There was a moment of silence. Everyone looked at me for a response. But I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to stand up for being a Jew, because I just wasn’t sure what it really meant.

I had always been one who liked to have different experiences. I liked emotional connections. So I thought that I would spend my third year in college trying to figure out more about myself, my people and my Judaism.

There was a moment of silence. Everyone looked at me for a response

But even though I was in Israel, I spent one night of Chanukah, which landed on December 24, at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the experience. I spent Passover in Egypt for the experience. I kept having experiences, but still hadn’t been able to find my place. My connection. My soul.

I knew what I wasn’t. I just didn’t know what I was. And then, finally, I chose to stop trying to experience and to sit down and learn. Learning in a way where the learning could be something I felt related to my life, to my questions, to my search.

Fortunately, after finding the right teacher for me, whose teachings resonated on the deepest level, I finally felt that I was connecting. Not only to my Judaism, but to myself.

Finding ourselves, knowing who we are, what we believe, what we stand for, is the key to our success. Now, as we celebrate Chanukah, every night we light another flame and are reminded that the Greeks did not try to kill our bodies, but our souls. They didn’t care that we were Jews and they didn’t care that we studied Torah; they cared when we connected the two. They did everything they could to prevent our ability to live proudly as Jews. To identify ourselves as Jews and find meaning in our Jewishness. That was their problem then. And that must be our solution now.

I knew what I wasn’t. I just didn’t know what I was

The world is watching us. Many are attacking. And we need to know how to respond. Each and every one of us. When our people are put down, when our country is put down, when our Judaism is put down . . . what do we say? How do we react?

There is no one right answer. There are many different approaches. But they all require the same thing. Knowing who we are. And to know who we are, we must learn, we must experience, we must do, and we must connect them all. Our Judaism needs to be alive, relevant and meaningful.

As is often taught, the root of the word Chanukah is related to chinuch, education. We must learn, we must teach, we must educate ourselves and we must educate the rest of the world. But we need to start at home. When we know who we are, we can teach our children who they are. And when as a collective people we are secure in what it means to be a Jew, then we truly are indestructible. And just as our enemies were unable to defeat us in the past, so too they will fail in their present attempts as well. But only when we know who we are.