This evening, as I was leaving the building I will be working in for one more day, I ran into Sam, a lovely man whom I don’t see often enough. As we talked, I told him that I’d be leaving the organization, he asked me what I’d be doing next. “I don’t know yet,” I said, “but I’ll be okay.” He looked at me closely for a long moment. “Of course you’ll be okay.”
I’m thinking about that talk with Sam, because he has a remarkable and seemingly unassailable faith in the order of things, but also because of the comfort I was able to take from it. My genetic family has not been a source of support for me, so I’ve found safety and community in other places, odd places.
The process of doing this while working for Hillel has been frustrating, joyful and confusing, a lot like how you might feel about family. We create identity through family-we decide who we are and who we are not, based on the structures and expectations around us. We decide whether or not we want to be part of the family, and what we need to do to make it a place we want to be in.
The point of all this rumination is to say that as long as I’m invested in Jewish communities, they will be the places where I’ll feel the most injured, the most vulnerable, and the most resourceful. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, the boundaries that Jewish communities create define who is allowed in and who is out. It has to, that’s how you create community, not everyone can be a part of it. Ironically, though, while I attack these boundaries as exclusive and damaging, they have grown me, they’ve constructed my spiritual and moral backbone. Feeling injured has galvanized me, but the same isn’t true for everyone. While it’s led me to activism, it pushes others out the door.
My students over the years have been a feisty, creative, cynical, deeply thoughtful bunch of characters. I want them to exist and flourish inside of a community that they build, that welcomes them because of who they are instead of who they are not.