Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stars of David

This morning I picked up a book I haven't read in a little while, but one that has made a huge impact on my life.

It's called Stars of David, by Abigail Pogrebin and it's a compilation of interviews she did with a group of "prominent Jews" (as is written on the cover). I don't remember exactly what made me actually buy it in the first place, but I very vividly remember seeing it at Chapters and being immediately drawn to it. After seeing it a few times, I picked it up and started reading it on a car trip to Olds to meet my cousins who were vacationing in . I remember opening it and reading the introduction and reading "... I consider myself a journalist, not a sociologist..." and thinking, as the questioning natural science major that I was at the time "I've done it again". Around the same time, I had seen a movie called Mixed Blessings at the Calgary Jewish Film Festival and I was very drawn to the film (it's about interfaith marriages between Jews and non-Jews, something of which I am the product of). I emailed the film maker, Jennifer Kaplan, and asked her what she studied in school, and her answer (which was no surprise to me at this point) was that she had studied sociology.

Anyways, these two pieces really made me think about where my university life was going. I had no interest or passion for the natural sciences and felt just on fire by this book and movie. I had always felt less than whole when I heard people say things like "just do what you're passionate about" or "follow your passion" or whatever, and I was always so disappointed in myself that I didn't feel that way about anything. I guess that's when I discovered what that passion was. I'm still not sure if I could explain it or do justice in mere words what I'd say my passion is. The best I can do is "Sociology" and "Judaism" - two things that I think are increasingly difficult for me to define, even as I feel I learn much more about both every day (which is how it goes, I think).

What's interesting to me now, looking back at that year when I found a book and a movie that would change my life are a few things. One is that I don't really think I realized that sociology and Judaism in Canada were interests of mine that could coexist as easily as I have since realized: that studying sociology could be a way that I learned about who I am as part of a bunch of different communities (Calgarian, Jew, Canadian, woman, feminist, etc). I guess that at that point, I didn't realize that school could be a way to do the things you love, not something that keeps you from those things. I think I also didn't realize the extent to which who I was would change. I think it's why I'm so drawn to writing and to films, because I'm very aware of how much they can change another person you don't know and will never meet. And because I'm so grateful to Abigail Pogrebin and Jennifer Kaplan for putting themselves out there and starting these projects that would change my life in what I perceive as very profound ways.