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 The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Past Legal And Modern Social Apartheid

An opinion piece on past legal Apartheid in South Africa and how it is socially reflected in the United States.

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When stepping inside of a solitary cell at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, I felt a tightness in my chest and wanted to leave that small space immediately; imagining a Black South African who broke the pass laws during Apartheid being in there is beyond disturbing. Due to laws such as the Native (Urban) Areas Act No 21 of 1923, the Bantu/Native Building Workers Act of 1951, and the Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970, Black South Africans during Apartheid were extremely limited in where they could live, detrimentally affecting their economic and employment opportunities. When touring the former Constitutional Hill prison, the guide told us that, when Black South Africans were caught without passes permitting their stay in Joburg for the day and/or night, they spent 5 days in prison, along with murderers and others who committed serious crimes. If caught multiple times breaking these pass laws, they would spend 5 years in this prison. Most of those who violated these pass laws were unemployed or sought better employment in Joburg; this is understandable, as a person has a better chance of having a job by being there physically. When thinking further about the lack of opportunity they suffered from due to the aforementioned laws creating this effect, this legal repercussion becomes further and further disturbing. Additionally, this also directly led to the creation of "White" and "Black" areas, where Whites lived in areas of better opportunity (ex. cities, suburbia), and Blacks were subjected to living in poverty and townships where there was limited economic and employment opportunities.

This lack of opportunity is echoed in the U.S. when looking at socially designated "White" and "Black" areas. Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman essentially because he thought Martin "was not where he belonged", which was in a nice suburban area. As a person of color myself, I have been stared at in museums, followed in stores, and once at 12 years old kicked out of a shop (I did not do anything wrong), because I "stuck out". In this way, society told me (and violently told Martin) that we don't belong in those areas, that we "belong" in ghettos or prison; the racial demographics of populations in U.S. prisons will support me here. Therefore, by society socially designating where people "belong", not only do they bind themselves in their own ignorance, but also prevent people of color from sharing the same access to plentiful life and economic opportunity.

References

Native (Urban) Areas Act No 21 of 1923: Prevented Black South Africans from leaving designated area without a pass. The ruling National Party saw this as keeping Whites "safe" while using Blacks for cheap labor.

Bantu/Native Building Workers Act of 1951: Allowed Black South Africans to enter the building industry as artisans and laborers. Restricted to "Native" areas. Prevented competition between Whites, Coloureds, and Blacks. Could not work outside a designated area unless given special permission.

Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970: All Black South Africans would lose their South African citizenship/nationality over time. Would not be able to work in "South Africa" due to being aliens. Black South Africans would have to work inside their own areas and could only work in urban areas if they had special permission from the Minister.


South African History Online. "Apartheid Legislation 1850s-1970s." South African History Online, South African History Online, 11 Apr. 2016, www.sahistory.org.za/article/apartheid-legislation....

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