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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Please, If You're Somehow Still Using The 'R Word'— Leave That Habit In 2018

Come on guys, its 2018. Google a new word.

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Maybe it was because I witnessed two boys get in trouble in elementary school for using this word as an insult.

Maybe it's because I fell in love with a thing called Camp Able. Maybe it's because one of my best friends is a special ed major. Or maybe it's because I try to be a decent human being. I do not use the R word.

Until this past semester, I hadn't really heard anyone use it often despite one encounter in 6th grade. Most of my best friends I have met while serving at places like Camp Able or Camp Bratton Green where summers are dedicated to people with diverse-abilities. I think having been surrounded with like-minded people for so long made me forget that some people still use it as an expression.

Let me tell you, it's annoying.

The word itself has been brushed off even in a "scientific" sense. It means to be slowed down, but it has stretched far beyond that meaning and has turned into an insult.

It's an insult of comparison.

Like any word, the power behind it is given by the user and most times, the user uses it to demean another person. It's like when you hear someone say "that's gay."

Like, what? Why is that term being used in a derogatory sense?

Why is someone's sexuality an insult? Hearing someone use the R-word physically makes me cringe and tense up. It makes me wonder what truly goes on in someone's mind. People will argue back that it's "just a word" and to "chill out," but if it was just a word, why not use something else?

There is a whole world full of vocabulary waiting to be used and you're using something that offends a whole community. Just because you don't care, it does not mean it shouldn't matter. Just use a different word and avoid hurting a person's feeling, it really is just that simple.

There is not a good enough reason to use it.

I volunteer at two summer camps: Camp Bratton Green and Camp Able. If you know me, I talk nonstop about the two. More realistically, if you know me, it's probably because I met you through one of the two. Even before I was introduced to the love at Camp Able, I still knew that this was a word not to use and it never crossed my mind to think of it.

The history behind the R-word goes back to describe people with disabilities but because of the quick slang pick up it was sort of demoted from the psychology world. Comparing someone or something that is negative to a word that you could easily avoid speaks volumes about who you are as a person.

The word is a word, but it is subjective in its meaning and in its background.

Just stop using it.

A List of Objective Words/Phrases to Use:

Fool/Foolish

Blockhead

Nincompoop

Silly

Ludicrous

Dim-witted

Trivial

Naive

"A few beads short on the rosary"

"On crack or something"

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Emotional Confusion

A child who cuts, and a mothers plea.

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It's hard balancing life as a single mother, a student, and a freelancer, but it becomes harder when life hits you times three. While dealing with my own personal health issues, I also have a daughter who self harms. She is 12, to me still a baby, yet she is in a pain that I cannot take away from her. A pain that I cannot heal. A pain that even she doesn't quite understand.

I walk on eggshells. I try to be firm and still the parent I have always been to her, but the truth is I am worried. What if something I say triggers her to want to take a blade and cut her arms. I don't want to coddle her, because I know the world doesn't care as much as I do, but I also want to wrap her up in a blanket of comfort and hold her to my chest as if she was an infant. I want to protect her from the world, from herself and from eyes of those who do not understand.

And all the while, I don't understand.

I understand depression, anxiety, and even times not wanting to live, but cutting to release frustration I don't get. If only she can see the girl I see. Talented, beautiful, smart, funny and a joy to be around. Instead, all she sees are the words that jealous classmates and mean bullies put in her head. She believes that she is not worth wonderful things, or love, when she is the embodiment of love.

Everything I do is for her and her sisters, but I feel as if maybe I am not doing enough. When I'm next to her, talking to her, she's happy. There are nights she asks me to come to sleep with her. Where all I do is sit in her bed, writing or reading and watching her be at peace. Then the nights when I can't because my illness has me immobilized, she cuts.

Therapy is not working.

At times I fear it's making it worse. School and social activities only bring stress and mumbled words when she returns. She's so soft-spoken, I fear she's getting run over, she's so forgiving even when those have bullied her, she is the girl I wish I was at her age. But she doesn't see it.

How can I help her? How can I as her mother make her feel that she is safe with her self? Staying up and watching her is not always an option. So I'm patient, I'm strong for her, and I am still her mother. I want her to enter the world strong and able to handle whatever comes her way.

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