When Jonny asked me to write the inaugural article for this blog idea that he had, I didn’t hesitate. A blog about ideology for Bnei Akiva Bogrim sounded both like a really good idea, and also like an idea that someone should have come up with a long time ago. After all, once you’ve ‘graduated’ from high school Bnei Akiva, it can feel a little bit like being at loose ends. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when I came back from Israel and started university, I realized that I missed that steady hum of ideology that had been present until then. It wasn’t something I had ever put my finger on, and if you had asked me if it existed in high school I would have said that you were crazy, but once it was gone I missed it, kind of like a phantom limb. While we all may have rolled our eyes when we had yet another discussion about Zionism and orthodoxy and the importance of knowing where you stood, it turns out that you don’t really have those discussions once you leave your high school bubble, and it turns out that I wanted to. I figured that it would take me all of twenty minutes to come up with a topic and write it out.
I have been trying to write this article for two and a half months. Knowing me as well as he does, Jonny suggested that I write about feminism, a topic near and dear to my heart. This felt like a no brainer – I can talk about this stuff for days. But when I sat down and put pen to paper (or, more accurately, finger to keyboard), I realized that my feminism, like everyone else’s, is complicated. Once I started trying to write out where I stood, I realized that my position had inherent contradictions. To give you a small, very simplified, taste, I firmly believe that the fact that I have to wear heels at a job interview is a clear and shining example of sexism, a way of making sure that the women in the office literally have to run to keep up with the men: the last time I wore flats I was in camp. And besides, talking about feminism and religion (and for me, the two will always be inextricably intertwined) felt incendiary, and if I was going to burn the place down I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what I was doing when I lit the flame.
From there I moved on to Zionism – nice and broad and straightforward. You know how this ends. It was none of the above. I proudly consider myself to be a Zionist, and I currently have 0 plans to make Aliyah. Now, there are some who feel that there is great importance to being a diaspora Jew, to making sure that other countries know what Jewish looks like, to say nothing of the financial support those diaspora Jews give. But that’s not the camp I find myself in. I may not be on the next plane, but I can definitely see my life unfolding in a way that leads to Aliyah. I believe in being there and I believe in being here, and I have my reasons for both. But I was scared that if I wrote something that tried to explain my position, people would realize just how incredibly confused I was.
Actually, confused feels the wrong word. I feel pretty certain in all of my positions – I just believe that given the right information, they could change tomorrow. Back in high school, I felt very comfortable describing what I believed. It felt almost basic: to be a Jew is to be a Zionist. To be a Zionist is to live in Israel. To be modern orthodox is to blend the very best parts of secular life with the fundamentals of Orthodoxy. To be a woman is to be economically, politically, and socially equal to a man. I still mostly believe these things, but they’re no longer so black and white. They say that you’re supposed to get more close minded when you get older, but my experience has been the opposite. The older I get the more that I question, and the less satisfied I am with my limited understanding of the things I claim to know.
Somewhere along the way, my ideology became something unwieldy, an ever-growing, ever-changing mass that refused to be pinned down and captured and described – it’s much too alive for that.
Let’s take a moment to regroup: I am supposed to be writing about ideology, and I’ve spent the last couple hundred words talking about how I can’t, really, write about ideology. If you’re feeling frustrated, I’m with you. I’m frustrated with me too. But I’m starting to realize that maybe I shouldn’t be, and that if my peers are feeling similar things, then this blog is needed more than ever.
Ideology is complicated, and so is being in your twenties. It’s called a second adolescence for a reason, namely because you’re almost always hungry and everything is changing, yourself included. There needs to be a space where we can talk about these things. To use myself as an example, it’s time that I figured out why I am so comfortable speaking in front of hundreds of people, but demur every time I’m offered to lead a mezumenet. Why I regularly tell people that I can’t see myself living in Israel, but cry every time I get on the plane to go home. Why I feel that it is as important to teach evolution as it is to teach Halacha, but refuse to even entertain creationism.
I contain multitudes. We all do.
And this blog feels like a good place to talk them out. To tease out not only what we believe in but why we do, and to acknowledge that some of our beliefs are based on nothing more and nothing less than pure feeling.
It’s complicated to talk about ideology. It is hard and it is scary to talk about feminism, Zionism, secularism, orthodoxy, intersectionality. I am the last person to tell you that it is easy. But maybe I can be the first person to tell you that we can do it together.
Arielle Wasserman is in Shevet Dvir, is a former Rosh Snif and Rosh Eidah, and is currently a second year law student at Osgoode Hall Law School.