My name is Madeline and I'm a junior at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study pursuing Visual and Material Cultural Studies. I’m interested in ethical fashion production and design in the global market and using visual imagery as a medium to promote cultural understanding. My campus Hillel, the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, has encouraged me to find greater meaning in my religion, my relationships, and my academics.
In February, NYU’s Jewish theater troupe sent around an intriguing call for artists to share their experiences of faith. Here’s mine.
Faith explains the unexplainable.
acts as an escape from answers to questions
that are unattainable
Faith makes me keep going
When I realize I’m just one life in it all
that doesn’t make me small
with my community I stand tall
I described my religion one day to a proud Atheist friend
He said, “I’d grown up catholic, following the rules so strictly”
But as a means for what end?
The idea of God he could no longer comprehend
I really couldn’t prove to him that a God existed.
But I believe in holding on to something that’s consistent.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I get confused
there are too many paths to choose.
At least one path was suggested for me
I’d grown up Jewish
Which for me meant Hebrew school once a week and a
big party when I turned 13
He asked me the same question. Where did all that faith get me?
I told him why I loved my religious community-
He replied, “I know this sounds silly but your religion
doesn’t sound like what I would call a religion”
Religion doesn’t have to be as binding as we sometimes grow up to think
I knew what he’d been through.
Felt it senior year of high school
I stopped believing in my Jewish faith. I thought
what’s the point of learning an old language and traditions? I didn’t relate.
It certainly didn’t get me anywhere when my high school graduating class was mostly Christian
And I spent weekends home alone while they spent them together at Church.
Of course I exaggerate,
but its moments like these that cause us to hate.
So where did I find faith?
Not in Hebrew classes or the overflow section on shul for holidays,
but in the intimate Shabbat dinners I found right here on this campus.
Because no longer did I linger on the outside.
No longer did I have
To choose between being Jewish or having friends
I’m not saying I don’t get along with people of other faiths.
I’m not saying you can’t change the path that’s chosen for you.
We have different beliefs, but underneath it the goal’s the same.
It’s really just feeling alone that causes us to hate.
Let’s stop pointing out the differences and love everyone the same.
I found faith when I lived with someone different than me.
We shared jokes and peanut butter cup filled brownies.
We argued about a messy room and lamps being on too late.
Not over her headscarf and the different food we ate.
Because even in our differences, we could still relate.
I found faith in a community of familiar faces
That welcomed me home after a semester away.
Seeing their emails that reminded me “hey we’ll be here when you’re back.” We’ll wait.
I found faith when I stood up to my parents about their broken relationship. Faith in the ability for a family to be honest about years of ignoring suffering that had grown into hate. Faith that things could change and our future could be better because we’re in it together.
Sometimes I confuse religion with faith.
My faith is in community. My faith is in people. Religion teaches that good people will rise up against hate.
Call it religion. Call it faith. In my community, I find hope and strength.