I’m thrilled to join Eli and the A Lot Like You [ALLY] Project. This film and project cover a huge breadth of subject matter familiar to me, having participated in anti-racism and social work, and studying International Development; race, social empowerment, cultural relativism, women’s rights, and more. The heart of it to me, however, is wrapped up in the question of home. Language doesn’t make it easy for us to claim an identity or to say precisely where we are from. Most of the time, we must fumble through labels and superficial introductions in order to define ourselves and in the process, lose some of the meaning of what’s actually behind what we’re called. To me, ALLY really highlighted that beautiful struggle we all face encountering ourselves: where we come from and where we want to go.
Whether it is a character trait embedded in my DNA or a function of my environment, I have always enjoyed seeing the other side of the story. A relentless devil’s advocate and true Gemini, It has always been easy for me to see or illuminate another’s perspective. I have spent less time, however, on fleshing out my own. Eli and her movie highlighted what I already knew; this task is more daunting than it seems.
It is interesting being from a place where I watch many people arrive and leave. I grew up less than one block from Eli, rooted in the Jewish community of Seattle, where my great-grandmother was born. I’m grateful for these roots and the comforts they provide, and at the same time, found my own city unfamiliar when I returned last year after years living away. I’ve grown comfortable sitting on the periphery of certain communities and challenging my own conceptions of what things are and seem to be. My parents come from two very different Jewish traditions, Sephardic and Ashkenazik. Learning to walk in both religious and secular circles, I learned quickly what ‘the other perspective’ looked and sounded like. I attended private Jewish day schools, public high school in the suburbs, and played on the Rainier Valley Little League. I went to university in French-speaking Canada, and spent a semester living in East Jerusalem studying at Hebrew University. This past year, I participated in a learning community through Solid Ground that explored issues of race and class in poverty in America. In each of these places and spaces, I had some experience of sitting on the edge, an observer, of participating and not quite belonging. It urged me to ask some more questions about my own story.
A sense of true belonging, like in Eli’s story, didn’t come for me in one particular place, but by a series of experiences defining my values and my goals. I decided on committing myself to social justice work, exploring my Jewish tradition in a way that felt meaningful to me, and surrounding myself with music as much as I could. These are things, I decided, I could rely on to be carried with me everywhere.
In the world we live in today, it’s not only fascinating to explore the concept of home but crucial. We have to take the time to define that for ourselves, since we don’t live in a place where we stay put for our entire lives, with the same people around us. Today, home is a little bit like a craft, always evolving and never quite ending. It takes energy to understand. Eli and her movie reminded me to give myself permission to ask the questions, and do the research to define it: the home you take with you everywhere. I know it will serve me well.