Today’s participant blog post comes from Molly Cram, a participant of the Yahel Social Change Program. This group is living, learning and volunteering in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon LeZion for 9 months this year.
This past week, myself and two other Yahel participants attended the MASA Leadership Summit. We spent the week exploring questions of Jewish identity, current issues in the Jewish community, and the relationship with Israel.
Rabbi Scott told a story about an important Jewish scholar walking down the street in New York City near Columbia University. A street preacher approached him and asked, “Brother, are you saved?” The Jewish scholar answered, “That’s not my question.”
Gidi Grinstein spoke on the question of Jewish adaptability and one main point he raised was: What is Judaism to you?
Grinstein saw four main answers:
- Religion: Judaism as a religion
- Peoplehood: Judaism is the Jewish people
- Israel: Judaism as defined by the relationship to Israel
- Tikkun Olam: Judaism as universal values relating to social justice and responsibility
What is Judaism to you? That depends on what your question is. For some, the question is about a relationship with G-d, for others how to repair the world. What is your question? What moves you?
My question through most of university was: How can I be Jewish if others in the community do not accept me as Jewish? As my mother was raised Catholic, I’m not viewed by many in the Jewish community as Jewish. Though I’ve always strongly identified, I realized in university, the community has to accept you in return in order for you to be in a community. For many years, my question put me in the Peoplehood category.
Then, in my final year of university, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on Jewish American identity and the connection with Israel. I shifted from viewing Judaism through a Peoplehood lens to an Israel one. I am continuing to explore that question while in Israel with the Yahel Social Change Program.
Rabbi Scott proposed that once you know what your question is, you can find those that share it, and that will be your community. In the Yahel community, it is certainly the case that we share the same questions: questions of Jewish identity, questions of positively impacting the community in Ramat Eliyahu , questions of how to be a supportive member of the group.
What is your question? What drives you? Figuring out your question can be difficult, but, once you figure it out, answering it is far from easy.