Identity Crisis: The Liberal Jew
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Politics and Activism

Identity Crisis: The Liberal Jew

Clashing identities can sometimes make you feel like you have to choose one or none.

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Identity Crisis: The Liberal Jew
Shuttershock

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.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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