'This Is My Book'

June 21, 2017

How do you challenge your Jewish identity? What questions do you ask? What challenges do you face? What do you find interesting? Relevant? Are you ready to challenge yourself? Are you ready to step outside your comfort zone? To look at life from a new perspective? Are you prepared to learn and grow like you never have before? 


For Michelle Brint, challenging her Jewish identity started with questions about Israel, the occupation, and how she perceived her own internal debate with what it means to be a modern Jew and Zionist. 


It all begins with a conversation. 


"With my parents it was huge to have hours and hours of conversation with them about what was happening here."


And sometimes, stepping outside of our comfort zone means speaking up and taking control. 


"[The program] pushed me to be assertive with an authority figure I found difficult."

Other times, it means becoming more open and part of a unique community all your own. 


"I feel much more excited about sharing my life. I've never lived with this many people before. It's so nice to come home and have people there who want to know the mundane details. When I came here I was not a person who shared. But now I'm excited to take that quality home with me."


In Orthodoxy, women are separated from men in most areas of academic pursuits, particularly within the context of Yeshivot, higher schools of Jewish learning relegated to the catering of men exclusively. Among other controversial viewpoints of the rabbinate is the matrilineal definition of Judaism, which decidedly excludes Jews of patrilineal descent, or those who are Jewish through their father and not their mother. In many observant circles, individuals who fall into the latter category are not recognized as Jewish. 


Michelle is reclaiming her Judaism, her sacred text, and her status as a legitimate Jew, with gratitude to Tikkun Olam at BINA.


"I came here loving being Jewish and wanting that to take a more concrete form. I'm on a path where I want being Jewish to be part of everything in my life. I think a huge part of my time here was my Beit Midrash classes. I took a class on tanakh twice a week. I remember holding the tanakh in my hands for the first time in my life and saying, 'this is my book.’


It's really special as a woman and as someone who is often told they are not Jewish- my mom is not Jewish- to have access to this text that is so incredibly Jewish. And it can't be taken from me. I can open it, and study it, and learn it and have it on my mind and nobody can tell me that it's not there, and that's really beautiful for me."


Progressive Judaism stresses equality amongst Jews, equity in opportunity, and freedom in Jewish expression. Michelle is the embodiment of these values. 


Interested in expanding your own horizons, reclaiming your Jewish identity and making a real impact in your world? Consider Tikkun Olam through the Daniel Centers and BINA. 

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