The Conspiracy

My Pluralistic Agenda

Over the course of my time at New Voices, I’ve been called a lot of things in comment sections, tweets, and emails from dubious Hotmail accounts. I’ve been called a radical leftist, a right-wing apologist, a snowflake, a “silly little girl who should listen to her mama.” (My mama is a progressive, too – surprise!) I add each label to a growing mental list.

But my favorite comment asked about my editorial “agenda” after New Voices published both pro- and anti-BDS perspectives.

I loved it. “Agenda” sounded so nefarious, like I sit in a giant swivel chair asking, “What do you want to do tonight, New Voices writers?”

“The same thing we do every night, Sara: try to take over the world.”

“What do you want to do tonight, New Voices writers?” | By Yaffa Phillips [CC BY 2.0], via Creative Commons

But jokes and dated cartoon references aside, I want to go ahead and tell you my New Voices agenda: it’s pluralism.

Not so insidious, right? It’s what Jewish community day school mission statements call for – and Jewish summer camp counselors and Hillel rabbis.

And I don’t just mean pluralism in a warm fuzzy, let’s-sing-kumbaya kind of way. I mean we want you to open New Voices and see an article that makes you angry – alongside an article that resonates with you, an article that makes you think, and an article that makes you laugh.

Because I believe in the power of differing ideas in dialogue, especially in our generation.

To get a little personal, I didn’t know it yet, but I got started on this agenda at age five. I was raised in two different homes, one Orthodox and one non-observant. My dad is a Breslover Chasid who began exploring Judaism at the suggestion of an imam he grew close to in India while studying Hinduism for his doctoral thesis. (Yes, that story is as crazy as it sounds.) My mom, meanwhile, has always been one of my favorite delightfully irreverent religious thinkers. The rest of my family ranges from agnostics to frum folk to Satsangis, adherents of an Indian spiritual movement. My dad rocks a streimel on shabbos, my aunt has a funky light-up Christmas tree, and my grandma has eight pictures of the guru in her apartment. (I counted.)

As a kid, I often found myself in the middle – of Orthodoxy and questioning, traditionalist friends and feminism, a conservative suburb and proud pinko roots (meaning, not quite Communist red, but close).

But those tensions are to this day my favorite teacher. Juggling a diverse set of inherited beliefs, especially in college, helped me more clearly define and fight for the ones I held. It made my Jewish life richer.

That’s why I took this job.

Every week at New Voices, I have the privilege and challenge of publishing student-written articles, some of which I inevitably disagree with. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Working with Jewish students constantly renews my belief in the power of dialogue – across religious, political, and cultural divides. We’re a generation fascinated with identity. We’re immersed in how different parts of ourselves intersect and connect. Through concepts like intersectionality, we embrace the idea that individual people can be deeply diverse in and of themselves and we acknowledge the countless ways that diversity impacts our lives. Our generation of Jews has a helluva lot to say, and we know better than anyone that our opinions aren’t always dictated by the same experiences and don’t always come to the same conclusions.

So, in New Voices, you’re going to see Zionist and non-Zionist voices and everything in between. You’re going to read progressive and conservative perspectives, not in spite of but because of our pride in our straight-outta-the-70s leftist history. You’re going to see students of different denominations interpreting their Judaism in different ways. There will be straight-up journalism, dorky Jewish memes, and GIFS. All the GIFS.

My bracha to our student writers: I hope you too will be called many names. Because – even though those names may not always be accurate or congruous or nice – they reflect a certain truth. As young American Jews, each of us is a product of a multiplicity of stories, identities, and labels. And that’s ok. In New Voices, you get to own each and every one of them.

Sara Weissman is the editor of New Voices. Kvetch or kvell to her at editor@newvoices.org. 

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