When I first discovered that I would be spending my summer working for The Forward, a Jewish publication that I had never heard of, nevermind read, my apprehension nearly outweighed my excitement. Finding out that I would be working in their opinion section certainly didn’t help.
I’d always found opinion writing to be a passionate endeavor, one fueled by my desire to be a leader in the conversation, and not someone lead by it. But in every column I’d ever written, one thing stayed consistent: I deeply cared about the issues I was writing about.
So what would I, an atheist from a decidedly non-Jewish corner of the world, have to offer the opinion section of one of the oldest Jewish publications in the country? How could I lead a conversation that didn’t really include me? How could I be passionate about issues that I had only recently been introduced too?
I’m still trying to find the answers.
But one thing is for certain; the apprehension I once felt was mostly unwarranted. My editors and co-workers have done a wonderful job immersing me in Jewish life. Despite the culture shock, I never once felt like a black sheep. From the moment I walked in the door, I was part of the team.
That’s not to say it’s been an easy journey. I’ve spent hours upon hours researching Jewish writers and thinkers just to begin asking the right questions. In many ways, I still don’t know what I don’t know. But I am learning.
And while I’m not writing groundbreaking, thought-provoking essays on Jewish culture (at least, not yet) I have been able to play a part in the conversation through daily briefs and aggregates. I’ve also been able to share my experience, and my misconceptions, with a new audience. The Forward has also provided me the opportunity to expand my portfolio to include video work and editing.
Aside from my crash course in Jewish culture, I am also experiencing New York for the first time. The constant drone of car horns and the organized insanity of the subway systems is a far cry from the Iowan suburbia I’ve grown so accustomed to. Yet there is something about the city, as its energy is exhausting but awe-inspiring. Its color and diversity is eye-opening. It oftentimes seems endless — there always seems to be one more block to explore.
In short, it has been a summer unlike any other. I’ve been immersed by a foreign culture in a seemingly alien city. It’s the kind of journey that fosters journalistic endeavor and inspires new points of view. It’s the kind of experience that brings new passions, teaches life-long lessons and reinvigorates a love of knowledge.