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Identity

On Feminism’s Place in a Conventional Summer Space

My summer camp has rats in the walls and rotting wooden decks and haunted basements. My summer camp is hot and cold, made up of love and hate and freedom and restriction and myth and reality. My summer camp is more corrupt than the Brazilian government but still comforting enough to call it a religion. My summer camp is where I grew up two weeks at a time. 

Why I Fell in Love with The West Wing

The West Wing is, in my opinion, one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It’s the perfect balance of seriousness and comedy, with enough storylines to keep you interested but not too many to get confused. It’s intellectual, but totally engaging. The characters are witty and lovable. I could go on about my love of The West Wing for hours. And I wouldn’t be done.

Feminism: Lab Science Or Liberation?

For the young woman, a thrift store serves as the proverbial laboratory of feminism. The reactants: bits and pieces of people left behind in coat pockets and skirt pleats (the people, hopefully, being solely metaphorical). The product: a newly formed sense of self, or the ability to form said sense of self. 

The Catwalk Or The Cafeteria?

Imagine it’s the first week of September. In New York City that means two things: school is starting, and midtown Manhattan is filling up with fashionistas and papparazzi; it’s Fashion Week. 

Figuring It Out

So how in the world was the rigid, traditional, millenniums-old practice of Judaism in any way connected to feminism, a movement that aims to restructure societies’ ideals and question tradition? How could I identify as both a believing Jew and as a feminist, not to mention lumping them together into one phrase? The more I repeated them to myself, the more the words ‘Jewish’ and ‘feminist’ sounded incorrect side by side, like “candied broccoli” or “kind bigot.”

Questioning My Identity from the Backseat

Why am I both burdened and liberated by the rich history that precedes me, and how do I identify myself with it accordingly? I remember sitting in a car outside of a Dunkin Donuts when I first pondered this question. Watching the cars drive along the highway, I tried to discern the faces of the drivers—discover their races, religions and genders in order to associate their appearances with stereotypical status and privilege. I wondered about myself—how I could fit in among the mosaic of peoples when my own identity seemed so misshapen.

Covering

I struggle with my Jewishness. I always have. The world is riddled with conflict, much of which is derived from the infuriating, irreconcilable differences in fundamental religious beliefs. I was brought up in a Jewish home and a Jewish community, read Jewish stories, and absorbed Jewish values. I never felt connected to the idea of God, but all that stuff about honoring thy mother and father and being kind to thy neighbor? I was down with that! Still, I reasoned that humanity would be far better off without such divisive religious constructs, and that our religions should be relegated to history books. 

Hello from Thailand!

When I applied to the Peace Corps in the fall of 2011, I thought I knew myself pretty well. In fact, I thought I was the person I was going to be and I just couldn't wait to share that person with the world as an ambassador from our great nation.

As it turns out, I didn't know shit. I'm a 26 year old graduate of Barnard College with a degree in Economics. Sounds okay on paper, no? Well, eighteen months into my Peace Corps service in Thailand, the only thing I know for certain is how little I know. The sheer optimism and raw idealism I arrived with did not get me very far. They did, however, prove to be active catalysts for many experiences I've had, and I feel supremely lucky for the humbling opportunity to rethink everything I thought I knew.

Teaching Truth to Power

At the moment, I am a Jewish educator. It doesn’t necessarily fit in with what I thought my career path would look like, but it’s taken me to some incredible places and connected me with some of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

One of the best parts of working at Prozdor is that my boss almost always says “Yes” when I want to try something new. So when I came to him with the idea to run a Social Justice Leadership Certificate program for Jewish teens, he was into it right away.

Kim Chernin

Through poetry, fiction, and memoir, Kim Chernin powerfully reimagined her personal history and her Jewish identity.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Identity." (Viewed on July 29, 2016) <http://jwa.org/tags/identity>.

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