Posted on February 6, 2020 by Aviva Melissa Frank
The Many Faces of Me: Exploring Identity in a Post Modern World. Students from around the globe gathered at Pardes in January this year to ask big questions about identity, and to see what Jewish texts and stories from our tradition have to offer on this topic. Here is a reflection offered by Pardes student Aviva Melissa Frank after the week’s intensive study.
Certain thematic catch phrases can seem trite after years of over use: Jewish Journey, Doing Jewish, etc. Yet Pardes brings a fresh face and perspective to the concept of Jewish Identity and more specifically, identities. The media bombards us daily with images, concepts and beliefs on how we should identify- each reaching out and grabbing our attention and demanding we follow it and ‘worship’ it. It can be overwhelming; too many products, companies and beliefs vying for our attention, time, energy and money.
In recent months, the concept of minimalism has taken hold- to simplify. Our possessions seem to control us versus us controlling them. The media and other people’s ideas of us, seem to control us versus us guiding our own lives. This shedding of what we do not need, literally and metaphorically, and getting to our inner layers, is what I believe this past week at Pardes provided. The Winter Intensive asked us, the attendees, to look at what we have, that which what we do not need, that which we have we accumulated in thoughts, ideas and socialization that do not serve us; things we have become attached to or overly identify with, and seeking to find increased harmony and integrity between our inner and outer worlds, our inner and outer identities.
At the same time, through the prayer, classes, art, discussions and an open mic night, we had the chance to interact, meet, play, laugh, volunteer and dance with many identities we may have never seen before- the stacking of beliefs and backgrounds of ourselves and our fellow Winter Intensive attendees.
I am sure for many of us, our eyes have been opened. As the week comes to a close, whether we identify in our Judaism as a religion, people-hood, ethnicity or nationality, it does not matter; if we see ourselves separately as a JewBu, Liberal, Millennial, Jewish-American or American-Jew, it does not matter, for as the Shema says: God is One; we are One.
We as One thrive Jewishly.