As a small child, I had a vague notion that there was much more to Judaism than just celebrating Passover and Chanukah. I loved being Jewish, but I had no real concept of what that meant.

When I turned 8, I was taken to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to hear my dad sing in the choir. I only stayed to hear the beautiful singing and then raced outside to play with my friends. I had no connection to the meaning of these holidays. At 12, I joined the junior choir and became the assistant director. This was the highlight of my Jewish identity. I even sang on an album with our cantor. For my bat mitzvah, I had a beautiful reception at a fancy hall. At 14, I joined the synagogue youth group, and one of my favorite activities was singing and dancing at the Israel Day parade.

As the community I lived in started to expand and many observant Jews moved in, I noticed they had different customs and practices. I would see them walking to shul even on days that were not Shabbat. On one holiday, they even built a hut and ate there. Some of my classmates missed a lot of days from school because of “their” Jewish celebrations. There were times I envied their deep connection to religion. Somehow, seeing them having such faith and trust in G‑d touched me.

But life took over, and my interest in knowing more about Judaism fell to the wayside. I got busy with furthering my education and having as much fun as I could.

At 19, I decided to volunteer on a kibbutz for a year.

It was a fascinating experience. I picked oranges in the orchard, surrounded by beautiful blue skies and a bright Mediterranean sun. It stirred my soul in a way that I had never experienced before. There was something about this land and its people that touched me.

Oddly enough, even though I was loving my year on the kibbutz, in the smallest recesses of my mind, something was still puzzling me. Even though I was in a Jewish country, I was still removed from my essence. I asked one of my Israeli friends about what they do on the holidays.

Esther,” I asked, “What do you do on Passover? Is there a communal seder in the dining room?”

“No. If someone wants to follow any Jewish rituals, they do it in their private home. We don’t celebrate much here. We just get a day off to relax.”

Esther changed the topic. She seemed to have no interest in discussing anything more about religion. I found this a trend with many of my Israeli friends. They were proud, strong Jews without any connection to the spiritual side of Judaism.

As the year progressed and the cycle of seasons passed, I grew further from my roots. There was no Passover Seder for me that year, but I barely felt it. I was drifting into a totally secular life.

After the year was over, I returned to the United States and busied myself with finishing my business degree and trying to find my way to success. I stopped attending synagogue and found myself entrenched in a world devoid of faith.

I still had my Jewish pride, but it was superficial. Before I knew it, I was floundering, trying to fill an ever-growing void. Even though I had rejected my limited Jewish connections, buried inside was a growing need to find meaning in my life.

This feeling continued through the next five years. Even with my active social life and job, I was not happy. I had my own apartment, a nice car and lacked nothing. As I mulled over my discontent, I tried to figure out when it had started. Slowly, it dawned on me that much of my unhappiness began when I stopped participating in anything connected to Judaism. I had thrown it all to the wayside without a second thought. Maybe that was a mistake.

I was unsure what to do next, but I knew down the street from me was a place that helped Jews find their roots. I had passed by it many times and never thought to go in.

“Maybe I should stop in and see if they have anything that might interest me. I have nothing to lose. If I don’t like it there, I just won’t go back,” I thought to myself.

After more deliberation, I decided that the next evening after work I would drop in just to see what they did there. Little did I know it was the night of Purim and I would walk in to a skit being put on by the rabbis. As I hesitatingly opened the door, I was greeted by a smiling clown: “Come in and have a seat. The show is about to begin.”

Not knowing what else to do, I quickly took a seat and waited to see what would happen next. I glanced around the room and saw others in costume. I was totally confused, but before I could even process this, the parody began. It was mesmerizing. The story featured with a young man who was lost in a maze. As he tried to make his way out, different events of his life jumped out at him. His journey was portrayed with humor and sensitivity.

I was intrigued, and after it was over one of the rabbis walked over and introduced himself. He had noticed that I was new there and wanted to welcome me.

This was my beginning. Something inside me had opened. Slowly, I began to attend classes and learn about what being Jewish really meant. As my journey progressed, I took on more mitzvot and became more fulfilled.

On that fateful night of Purim, a Jewish man dressed as a clown introduced me to what I felt was missing from my life. And today, I no longer am searching for the missing piece.