Friday, October 07, 2005

Excursions Outside the Bubble: Are They Good for Me?

I take part in an extra curricular activity at school that means I directly interact with non-Jews and non-practicing Jews for prolonged periods of time at random times of late night and early morning at varied levels of sanity and inebriation.

And I love what I do. I love it even when I'm still up at 5 a.m. and even when I've spent the last10 hours worrying about commas and prepositions and nitty-gritty grammar stuff. And though I won't admit it often, I think I love being part of a world that is not my Orthodox bubble.

What do I love about it?

Partially, I just like being outside of the same group of people with the same values and the same discussions and the same experiences and the same clothing. Of course I love Orthodox Judiasm and its practice and I love being part of that straight-brown-haired-Gap-skirt-wearing-short-shtark-girl crowd. (At least I hope I'm part of that crowd.) But there is something I like about being that same short, brown-haired girl in the Gap skirt amongst a somewhat taller, often blonder, and always more diverse crowd.

Maybe it's just that I like to be different. Maybe I like to carry my pride in my religion outside of the confines of that community. Maybe I like to glimpse at what's on the other side every now and then so I return to my community refreshed by the values and beliefs it holds so dear. Because no matter how many long nights I spend with these people and no matter how many of them I call my friends, they will never be my community.

It's a funny place I stand with them; they are my friends, but only to a certain point, we can share nights and laughs and gripes, but not food, we share some political values, but not true beliefs.

And I wonder what this has done for me. I like to know that I can value people for who they are, for their ambition and integrity, if not for their belief systems. I like to spend time with people who are smart and dedicated and motivated, and who motivate me.

But there's this nagging thought of, is this the place where I belong? Even if nobody would ever come in drunk again and if no guy would ever try to high-five me again, is it a place where I grow religiously?

I'd like to say it is, that I come back from these brushes with the "other side" a stronger, more committed Jew. I'd like to say I gain clarity from seeing people who do not have such strong beliefs. I'd lke to say that every now and then (once a week, to be precise) I need a little breather from the sometimes-stifling community of frum Jews.

All I know is that I can say this: while workng on this project, I see people who are heart and soul dedicated and committed to something, who will give up sleep and grades and social life to make this thing happen and happen right. If only I could put that much zeal into my avodat Hashem, I would be a far, far better Jew than I am.

But is that lesson enough to warrant being there? For now, I'd like to say yes, and I'd like to believe that's the truth.


At 10/7/05, 6:55 AM, Blogger Sara said...

That's exactly it! There ARE more of us who want both...I also want to get everything I can, and surround myself with great people like you describe. I love to do new things and be with people who are different than me. It helps me to believe even more in G-d. I should just stop writing now, you said it all. Thanks, you gave me hope that I'm not alone in wanting more.

At 10/7/05, 8:58 AM, Anonymous Essie said...

I think it's definitely making you a better person and a better Jew. You obviously have not grown up in an insular bubble (otherwise, I assume you would not have chosen to attend Columbia). Make the most of your college experience. You will never have these opportunities again.

At 10/8/05, 5:47 PM, Blogger Devorah said...

Said activity is certainly a good experience/resume builder. Not to mention it's been the fodder of my jokes for many many moons. And it may make you a stronger Jew assuming you don’t take up editing a, ahem, *certain* column again (I take that back—you know how much I’d enjoy that ;-) BTW, I think you left a semicolon out of that run-on sentence/6th paragraph ;-)

And yes, I do still check up on you :-P

At 10/9/05, 3:36 PM, Blogger EN said...

Eli7, I can see in your post how you feel great to be religious among the the people at Columbia and the fact that it makes you want to grow spiritually, however, I wonder if the euphoric feeling is merely falsified by the fact that you are not pressured as religiously as you would be among an all-Jewish-religion-striving crowd. Looking around the people you interact with it may be easy to feel religious and holier-than-thou feeling. What if you were among other girls who held the same religious beliefs as yours and they were striving to grow, would you still be as desirious to remain on top? Keep that in mind. Is it worth the trade off to see from the outside-in as apposed to the inside-out?

At 10/11/05, 3:28 PM, Blogger Karl said...

I read this when you posted it but never got a chance to comment.
Don't fool yourself into thinking you are doing it for the right intensions, am above them and wont fall into their habits etc
The frum community IS stifling and we all want to break out AND still be frum, but it doesnt work that way. You have to compromise. You will compromise. I am not saying you should, but that it is inevitble. Understand that and what you are getting yourself into. You can make it into a learning, opportunity but dont make it where you set up camp. Know what it keva and arai and use it to your benefit.
May it give you all the learning opportunites you need to be a better Jew, a better Eli7.
Gmar Chasima Tova.

At 10/16/05, 7:17 PM, Anonymous Tova said...

Hi, I somehow just found your blog...and want to tell you that I didn't go to the "frum" colleges either. I was the only frum person in my classes, and I'm fine and still frum, almost 10 years after graduating.

If you know what's important, you can still be friendly with classmates in school and stay a perfectly frum girl. I did it.

At 10/30/05, 5:02 PM, Blogger defen said...

You can learn something from everyone. But be careful that you don't learn everything from someone.


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