When my ancestors lived in Eastern Europe they faced religious persecution, they left before World War II and the Holocaust started. On my Mom’s and Dad’s sides, my ancestors went to United States of America, they came to this country to have religious freedom as Jews. They were able to get jobs that paid well based on their talents not on their religion. This was because of the first amendment of the Constitution of United States, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” This establishes freedom of religion in the United States.
My definition of freedom is the right to choose my religion and not being forced to practice a religion according to the country I live in. This means I can celebrate the religion of my own choosing. I openly practice as a Jew in America by wearing a kippah and tzitzit, a skull cap and a religious garment. Also, I buy kosher foods in regular grocery stores. I place a Chanukah Menorah, an object used for a religious ceremony, in my window during Chanukah and I put Mezuzahs, a religious amulet, on my doors’ frames. Also, I attend a synagogue in my community.
My right to practice my religion of choice without persecution that is found in the Bill of Rights was strengthened with more legislation. This legislation was Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits the discrimination of students based on religious identity. Also according to the United States Department of Justice individual expression of religion can not be suppressed, and someone cannot be harassed because of one's religion. If a person openly attacks anyone because they are a certain religion, that person can be arrested. The laws of the United States protects people of all religions.
Also, in the United States there are protections to keep me and other Jews safe. I go to a Jewish school, and at my school is a hired deputy to protect me and my school mates. Also, in the Jewish community around my school there are more hired deputies and officers to protect the Jewish community. During our High Holy Days, there is a deputy or officer outside our Synagogue to protect me and my fellow congregants.
In the United States I am protected from antisemitism, but in other countries this is not the same story. In January 2015, Jews were attacked in a French Kosher grocery store. This was not the first incident of antisemitism in France. According to the Washington Post, 1% of France's population is Jewish but over 50% of the reported hate crimes are against Jews. Even in Israel where Jews make up 75% of the population, there have been recently many stabbings of Jews by those who do not like Jews. My great grandparents had to live in ghettos and were in fear of being attacked by the police and military just because of their religion.
Freedom means to me that I can openly practice as a Jew in the country that I live in. In the United States there are freedom of religion rights and protections. While my experience may be different than that of my great grandparents or Jews in other countries, I am still proud to be a Jewish American.