I know it’s just a blog post and I can write whatever, but where am I supposed to begin? It’s been an eventful year.
Should I write about how valuable having a Moishe House in Beijing is to young people who have moved across the world to work or study in a city which offers precious few community resources to enrich our time here with thoughtful programs tailored to our goals and needs, or to facilitate connections with people from similar backgrounds facing similar challenges outside of the bar and club context?
About how Beijing is the most self-selecting and transient community that Moishe House serves, attracting smart, ambitious, adventurous young people at exactly the time we build post-college identities and develop a sense of how the world actually works, and how those dynamics inform our approach as residents?
Or about my own journey as somebody with one Jewish parent, who never would have heard about or sought out a Moishe House until my roommate Jon thought I might make a passable resident and encouraged me to engage and explore my roots for the first time at 24, and how I’ve since come into an unorthodox perspective on Jewishness that I am comfortable with and proud of and opens up a new dimension of depth in the way I experience my life?
I could write about the Birthright trip I just got back from a week ago, by far one of the coolest and most personally meaningful things I’ve ever done. I recommend URJ Kesher without reservation, and try to get on a trip that Eitan is leading. Everything about the trip was amazing, the people and the places and the learning and the love – and the hiking and the rafting and the beach and the food – but I will focus on two related observations that struck me in the context of the Moishe House project.
The sense of living history that I found in Israel made it easy to see things in terms of a long tapestry rather than independent actions or accidents. We find ourselves where we are because our predecessors made certain decisions, and at least some of them were here. I don’t take my upbringing, my values or the opportunities I have had in life for granted, and this trip was a great chance to pay homage to the people who made those possible for me and to the forces that shaped their lives and mine.
That leads into our roles in this emergent world-project. It’s our turn now, and we are all carrying on someone’s work, but what we do is new at the same time (Beijing, anyone?) and it’s a process and anything can happen. I felt that Israeli culture keeps these realities close to the surface, including in how dynamic the country is and how its identity is constantly evolving, both internally and as regards relations with the diaspora. I was told that it’s always a pivotal time for the Jewish people, but especially now. So what are we doing to shape our identity – consciously or not?
I wouldn’t have thought to go on Birthright – much less have got as much out of the trip as I did – without this year at Moishe House and I am really glad that I went and return as a resident. I feel very fortunate to have this community to come back to that includes a number of Israelis and other Birthright alumni, and I’ve already learned a lot from just this first week of comparing notes. And of course, what I’ve taken away from my trip to Israel will inform, and, I hope, enrich the next few months of our programming. Hope you can make it out and come see us. We would love to meet you!