How to Be Jewish (and Yourself)

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I got a pretty wild question in my inbox the other day, in regard to a college application:

“‘I am a different person because of my experiences here’ is a frequent refrain of our alumni. Please reflect on how you imagine your life will be different if you choose our dual-degree program for your college experience rather than attending a traditional liberal arts school.”

I thought of you and how you live your life Jewishly from my understanding. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me like you have a great balance of both the secular and Jewish world. Their motto seems to be “getting the best of both worlds” and after reading Yom Kippur a Go-Go and keeping up with your blog, it seems to me you show me that it is possible to also get the best of both worlds.

Is there, like, something profound you can tell me about the experience of being a Hasidic Jew, being a part of the secular world?

Here’s what I think: the Jewish world is obsessed with thinking that Judaism contradicts basically everything else. “How can you be religious and ____?” people always ask — and you can fill in that blank with basically anything. What they’re really asking is how can you be mindful of your Judaism at the same time as you write/rap/get down at a club/hang out with non-Jews. i mean, the actual answer’s simple: because God created the whole world, and it’s all holy, and our lives are all about finding the holiness in everything. but how do you do that? that’s where the real answers (and the explanation, and the beauty) comes from, I think.

How’s that?

Posted on September 16, 2009

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