Identity Crisis: The Liberal Jew

Identity Crisis: The Liberal Jew

Clashing identities can sometimes make you feel like you have to choose one or none.
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People can be recognized by the labels they identify with. I am a man. I am white. I am straight. I am Jewish. I'm a first-generation American. I am liberal. I'm a sports fanatic. These are just a handful of identities that I hold dear to me. Some of them I was born with; others I adopted other the course of 19 years of living. Some of the identities I apply to myself may change over time. Yet in this moment, you can take those identities and use them as a snapshot of who I am right now.

However, sometimes identities can conflict with each other. Groups that you at once identified with can suddenly become problematic to the consistency of your image. For me, being a liberal and a Jew has at times been problematic - the main focal point being the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Liberalism is a very broad term, so for the sake of narrowing this article down from a books-length, I'm focusing on the treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Now while I'm not here to say whose in the right or wrong, nor am I trying to solve the Middle East's centuries-old problems in one article, I am here to present a personal dilemma that I and a lot of other liberal Jews face. I have at times had personal troubles supporting Israel and have been called out for not being a 'real Jew.' I have family in Israel and care for them deeply, but my liberal ideals don't always align with the country's policies. At times I feel my culture and my political views are at odds with one another, fighting for primacy. It is something that has torn me away from other Jews who view other Jews like me in a lower light. At once I want to feel at home in my Jewish community, but also wanting to remain steadfast in what I stand for and believe in.

These conflicting emotions have led me to feel like I have to unabashedly choose one side or the other. Am I less of a Jew for not being 100 percent behind Israel? And am I less of a liberal for sympathizing with Israel at all? And how should I rank the importance of my identities? Should anybody rank feel the need to rank them? Or should every identity be equal in importance? And does me wanting to be on equal footing make me any less of a liberal or a Jew? Is it possible at all to be a liberal Jew that supports the state of Israel?

Again, the Israel-Palenstine conflict is so gray and muddled, and the politics behind it are vastly deeper than this article. I can already envision the Facebook messages I'll be receiving from my family in Israel and other Jews who don't share my view. To them, this article is not an indictment of Israel nor is it a slight on anybody involved; it is more of an investigation of the problem with having clashing identities.

Now I may have posited more questions than I have articulated answers to them, but this is exactly the problem. The Jewish seed had been planted in me thousands of years before I was born, while I can only say I have identified as a liberal recently. I could have chosen other identities that supposedly clash, but I chose these two because they have been the most prevalent. With a growing sentiment of disdain for Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the liberal group, there seems to be no space for the liberal Jew. Conversely, to some Jews, anybody that isn't totally on board isn't on board at all. This has left me in an uncomfortable space where both Jewish and Liberal groups on campus are spaces I want to avoid.

I want people to feel welcomed by groups they identify with, even if they come at odds sometimes. Personal identities are wonderful and can be empowering to people like me who feel the need to belong in these groups. When it feels like neither group wants to take you in though, one can feel despondent and lost, forced to chose one or have none. You shouldn't have to make that choice--but it is a choice that is constantly meddled over in your head.

Cover Image Credit: Shuttershock

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To That One Friend Who Deserves The World

Since I can't give you the world, I hope giving you this article is enough.
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My wonderful friend,

You deserve love.

You deserve to marry your best friend.

You deserve appreciation.

You deserve that no matter who comes in and out of your life, every selfless thing you do for someone is acknowledged.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

You deserve kindness.

You deserve to have the nicest people in the world surround you all of the time.

You deserve support.

You deserve to have someone there for you at the beginning of every good day and at the end of every bad one, to have someone who wants to fix all of your problems.

You deserve hope.

You deserve to always be optimistic.

You deserve laughter.

You deserve to never stop smiling and actually mean it every time you do.

You deserve forgiveness.

You deserve to be able to be given second chances because without a doubt you are worth it.

You deserve friendship.

You deserve to have a friend who can be just as good of a friend as you are.

You deserve honesty.

You deserve to always be told the truth.

You deserve motivation.

You deserve to never want to give up and always push yourself.

You deserve success.

You deserve to have everything you have worked so hard for.

You deserve faith.

You deserve to always know it will get better.

You deserve loyalty.

You deserve to have that one person who will never leave and always be there for you.

You deserve happiness.

You deserve to be genuinely content with your life.

You deserve the world.

If I could give it to you, I would.

Yes, life gets tough sometimes. The unthinkable happens and your world feels like it is crashing down but you can get past all of this.

Thank you for being so selfless. It amazes me how you do it sometimes, but thank you for always making everyone your main priority when they need you.

I know I may not say it enough, but truly thank you for all you do for me. I don’t always know how to show how much someone means to me, especially when it is someone as great as you because I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but thank you.

I love you.

Cover Image Credit: Liz Spence

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I Won't Forgive The Anti-Semitic Students Of Spain Park, Not Yet

Maybe it isn't time for an apology.

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I am Jewish. It is something I have never been afraid of and something I value as much in life as I do with my family and friends. Throughout my life, though I have witnessed hate of the Jewish people and jokes made about Jewish people.

In high school, I had to listen to jokes about Jews and the gas chambers and was asked because I was Jewish if I could do someone else's math homework.

To say I had to deal with anti-Semitism in the South does not come close to describing what I had to go through. As time went by the jokes stopped and I thought I would not have to deal with instances of prejudice or bigotry but I was wrong. Growing up as one of the only Jewish people in my friend group and in high school it made me consider myself strong and ready for college but in my freshman year I had to go through other jokes about my religion and even in sophomore year had to witness someone I thought was my friend make a joke about my religion because "he thought it was funny."

I let the instances of anti-Semitism serve as times when I could prove people wrong I learned to forgive and forget.

But I had to witness other acts of hate towards Judaism while in college. From swastikas on a fraternity house, a synagogue shooting, the BDS movement and more hate speech, the hate towards Jews have seemed to grow and I do not understand why. I get hurt each time I hear of an instance but it has not allowed me to view my Judaism any differently. However, there was an occurrence that has affected me in a different way.

It happened in my home state and it has not sat well with me.

On Monday a video surfaced of multiple high school students making anti-Semitic and anti-Black comments. The video featured a guy turning around the camera multiple times to show he was laughing and thought it was funny while others made comments about concentration camps, what would happen if Jews ruled the world and asking what the world would be like without the Holocaust. The students were from Spain Park in Birmingham and have gathered quite a reputation online.

To say I am filled with anger, disappointment, and embarrassment is an understatement.

This is my home state and these students are not only disrespecting the Jewish and Black people in the state of Alabama but throughout the US and possibly even in the world. I am hurt by this instance but I am not ready to forgive these students just yet.

After the video was leaked online some of the students sent messages to the person who uploaded the video apologizing. That I took as a mature gesture until I read the apology from the girl in the video. The apology asked if the user could remove the video because it would ruin her life and reputation. It was later found out that the female student is the daughter of the manager of the Toyota dealership in Hoover after the manager posted an apology.

Any remorse I had going for these students was now gone.

They were not sorry. They were sorry that they got caught and were facing consequences. They gave the apology that your parents made you say when you did not want to apologize. They did not care about who they had harmed or what they had said, they cared because they had to face consequences and they know that this mistake would follow them for the rest of their life.

I'm at a loss for words.

I don't know how to feel. I know someone will tell me I am overreacting but how am I supposed to approach this? What they said was wrong and there is no proper way to express frustration for it. I know people get offended by certain things but some things are not meant to be a joke. So I hope what you said was worth it and was fun to say because it will follow you for the rest of your life. Some lessons are best-learned overtime and it looks like you will have a chance to reflect on these events.

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