I am writing from my favorite country in the world, Israel, and I’m here with the Hadassah Leadership Fellows program. It has been an interesting trip so far, visiting Plashow, Schindler’s Factory and Auschwitz in Poland before flying into a country I love unconditionally but also struggle feeling a part of. It hasn’t been an easy trip; visiting Auschwitz was much more overwhelming than I thought it would be, plus I’ve been sick and pretty much slept away my first full day in Israel. I was drawn to this fellowship out of a shared mission of keeping Zionism strong and being a part of social action that betters our world. I have no regrets joining the program and the women who are on this journey with me. I only wish it was easier to share some of my conflicting emotions about a community I love so much.
After coming here with JDC in March, I have been much more aware of the racial and social inequality in both Israel and in the Jewish community overall. It was somehow easier to speak about these inequalities with the JDC group, but it has not been easy to continue having those conversations back home. I am painfully aware of how my unique Jewish background can not only draw people to me, but also push them away because my Jewish history started much later than most and does not include summer camp, automatic knowledge of all the songs sung during Shabbat, among many other countless experiences. Sometimes I feel like I’m running a marathon, trying to jam in any and all Jewish experience I can find, hoping that one day I will no longer worry about seeming Jewish enough.
I know, I shouldn’t let other people’s ideas of what being Jewish looks like make feel lesser. Being chosen as part of Hadassah’s Leadership Fellows program has encouraged me, given me confidence that I can be a leader in the Jewish community. I suppose those few negative encounters I’ve had have made an impression on me that’s very difficult to forget and pushes me to “prove” my Jewishness.
I just need to make my voice louder. I just want everyone to know that I’m trying and I have been trying so very hard. I won’t give up because this is my community.