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Youngest US State Legislator Explores Jewish Roots in Israel

Arutz Sheva meets Kesha Ram, the youngest woman currently serving as a state legislator in the U.S., as she visits Israel.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 1/3/2012, 8:45 AM

Kesha Ram in Israel
Kesha Ram in Israel
Uri Yehezkel

Kesha Ram, who at the age of 25 is the youngest woman currently serving as a state legislator in the United States, was born to a Jewish mother and Hindu father.

Ram, who applied to the Taglit-Birthright free Israel trip, said in her application, “In Jewish culture, my understanding is that if your mother is Jewish, you are considered Jewish. In Hindu culture, if your father is Hindu, you are considered Hindu. I have lived in both worlds and have gone to synagogue and temple; I have been to India three times, but I have never been to the sacred places of my Jewish ancestors. I would like to better understand Israel and my heritage for both my personal and professional knowledge.”

Ram was elected Vermont State Representative in November 2008 and was sworn in on January 7, 2009. She has served for the past two years as the clerk of the General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committees and also serves on the Joint Legislative Technology Committee.

Arutz Sheva met Ram during her visit to Israel as part of Taglit.

“My mother raised me with a lot of Jewish values, but there’s nothing like coming to the Holy Land and experiencing it myself,” Ram said. “As an elected official it’s really wonderful to open my mind to what’s going on here, the political spectrum, how people live and interact. But as a young Jewish woman, this is my first opportunity to open my heart and my eyes to what’s going on here and what I can learn about who I am.”

She said she was particularly impressed by her visit to the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, one of the four holy cities of Israel along with Hevron, Tiberias and Jerusalem, and which was the center of Kabbalah study.

“I don’t think there’s anything like that kind of experience,” she said. “To be somewhere that has so much history, meet people who are studying the Kabbalah deeply, seeing how connected it is to other cultures but also how deeply rooted it is in Jewish heritage.”

Ram said that growing up she experienced both Judaism and Hinduism, adding, “Our parents both gave us an understanding of being kind and respectful to other people, to nature, really experiencing deeply what it means to give back, be charitable.”

She compared her coming to Israel to explore her Judaism with those young Israelis who, after their service in the IDF, go on a trip to India. Those young Israelis are often told by the gurus in India that they are in the wrong place and that in order to understand themselves better they should be at home, in Israel, exploring their own Judaism.

“I was talking to an artist in Tzfat and he was saying that a lot of Jews go to India and the gurus there bring them back to Israel by saying, 'You should really learn how deep your culture goes and then experience other cultures from there,'" she said. “That's a key message for me: to go deeply into Judaism, so that I can appreciate it more and understand its connection to the rest of the world.”