This blog is a project.
In my about page, I explain a bit about what that project is. It’s something that I’m hoping to develop over time and track through this blog.
I’ve already started so I’m going to catch up on my process through this post and I think that will also provide a bit of a background to what this is about and why I want to do it.
Here’s the short story:
It wasn’t until my gap year in Israel some time ago that I really began to see the importance and beauty within religious Judaism. I grew up Secular Humanist, my shul (Hebrew school) didn’t have a Rabbi, and our bnai mitzvah were a lot different than most. During my gap year, I did a three-week program at a secular Yeshiva in South Tel Aviv and I learned a lot about reading and interpreting religious texts in a secular way.
I had done a lot of critical textual reading before, but not usually with religious texts and I was so struck by how important they are. People read the Torah every year, each week going over a portion that has been read countless times, and continue to find connections and meaning and honestly, it’s so beautiful how much history is embedded in the words and stories.
Earlier this semester two big things happened that helped me formulate a way for me to look more closely at the Jewish texts which I had come to place more value. The first one was that I was introduced to the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast by a friend in one of my Gender and Women’s Studies classes because she overheard me talking about my love for everything Harry Potter, feminist, or Jewish. Listening to that podcast reminded me of my interest in religious studies, Judaism, and queer and/or feminist interpretations of sacred texts. The second was meeting a new friend who told me about her Capstone research project that she has been working on. Her research is about feminism, gender, and Christianity which influenced me to think of projects that I could do with feminism and Judaism. It was with this friend that I began to talk through ideas that I had and what I might be able to accomplish.
Based on those two events, I came up with this idea – to create a project in order to immerse myself in Jewish religious texts, through a lens (queer, feminist, gender) that I am comfortable with and passionate about.
So, where am I right now in my process?
I’m right at the beginning! This project is in its baby stages. I started by talking to a lot of people about various ideas that I had, and eventually, I sat down and brainstormed in my notebook about what this project could be and what my goals in it are. I wrote out the things that I needed to do, people that I needed to talk to, and thoughts and ideas that I had for the overall project. On the right, I included a picture of that brainstorming.
As I talked to people about this idea, something that came up a lot was the fact that Jewish studying happens in chevruta, pairs, where there are two people who team up to read through and try to come up with questions and understandings from a text. The project I was proposing was one that I did alone, which might make it difficult. I came up with a few solutions:
- Find some partners to include in my project (maybe not permanent ones, but ones that come in and out) so that I can engage with what I am reading and learning with others
- Bring this to camp this summer and share it with my campers and fellow madrichimot*, counselors, so we can learn from each other
- Actually try to find a chevruta partner
- Start a blog and try to communicate this to others through social media
So I’ve decided to try all of these. I’m going to try to use this blog as another way for me to journey through this and hopefully I can reach some people who are interested. At camp, I’ll try to run a once a week program about the parashat hashavuah and journal/keep track of it. And, I will keep having conversations with people about it and maybe invite them to do some kind of chevruta or partner reading with me so that I can experience these texts in a more traditional way. For now, this blog feels like a good way to start. On the right is a picture of how I came up with this blog title/name/thing and some of my thoughts before writing this post.
This is something I am so excited to start working on. I just need to wait for all the books/supplies that I ordered to come in so that I can begin. I am going to make a post about all that and how I’m preparing this project and link it here once I’ve posted it.
*As someone who is aware of the gendered nature of Hebrew and is interested in fighting against it, I will be using my Jewish youth movement’s form of gender-neutral Hebrew. So, words referring to people in a gender nonspecified or co-ed group, I will use the ending –imot instead of only –im which implies masculinity or –ot which implies femininity. For words referring to a single person whose gender is unspecified, I will use the ending –ol.