Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Jewish Enough"

I learned a lot at the WHO conference. Most of all, I learned that this is a much better place for me than grad school ever was. I have a lot to say, and not enough time to say it right now, but I do want to make one quick note:

At one point, when everyone had gathered in the conference room for one of the sessions, the session leader asked us to raise our hands if we had ever felt "not Jewish enough."

Every single person raised their hand. These are Jewish professionals. Judaism is deeply important to each of these people, or they wouldn't be working at Hillels throughout the western region. Where does this insecurity come from? Is it guilt?

Is it because Hillel means working in and advocating a pluralistic Jewish environment? This means we are exposed to Jews who practice in a variety of ways - from secular/cultural Jews to Conservadox Jews to Jews who only recently learned they were Jewish at all. We are always "less Jewish" or "more Jewish" than someone else.

I actually hate using that kind of terminology because I do believe in pluralism. I consider myself religious, even though I'm a Reform Jew who gave up on kashrut after seven months during my one foray into some kind of Conservative Jewish practice.

I like that there is space for this kind of pluralism. It is very challenging to create a space where college students from a variety of backgrounds can have meaningful Jewish experiences. It means that some students will never be satisfied because we privilege pluralism over tradition, some students will never feel "Jewish enough," and even the staff may find themselves wondering if they are "Jewish enough" for their roles as Jewish professionals.

I'm grateful for these challenges. I'm even grateful for the insecurities. It means we're constantly asking questions, and that's a good thing.

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