Page 1

Avanim The Jewish Literary and Art Magazine of Columbia University

Winter 2011-2012

Editors Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 Editor-in-Chief Emily Lefton Goldstein, BC ‘14 Layout Editor David Friedland, GS/JTS ‘14 Literary Editor Sarah Lipkis, BC ‘13 Art Editor Alana Warhit, CC ‘14 Organizational Editor

Avanim, a project of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, is a literary and art magazine committed to the expression of Jewish experience through the publication of creative writing and art. We encourage you to contact us with feedback at and to visit our website at http://avanim-magazine. Avanim and Columbia/Barnard Hillel acknowledge the generous gift of the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation whose ongoing support has made this publication possible.

Dear Readers, This past fall Avanim  

           history and anticipated its future. We have expanded from our Jewish literary and arts magazine to serve

              Avanim’s mission, we have reestablished our magazine as a soapbox for Jewish writers/artists and Jewish ideas. We want to honor our roots and become a part of something even larger. Our hope is for Avanim to be a center for Jewish ideas that are in a constant dialogue. To expand our accessibility while still maintaining a level of prestige and our caliber of work, I make a call to you, the readers, to respond to these pieces and use these works as prompts to create a discourse and push the boundaries of what is expected. !"    

    #$ " %&      Coded Language, mirrors Avanim’s transformation. Avanim is solely a platform of expression, needing only creativity to sustain it. Thank you, Nick Bruscato Editor-in-Chief GS/JTS ‘14

Table of Contents

3 5 7

Songs For The End Of August by Anne Whitehouse, CU School of the Arts Deathbed by Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 The Other Bay Area by Mike Schwartz, GS/JTS ‘09 Eye Occupation by Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 Monkeyshines by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15 Noemi, Sit by Noemi Schor, BC ‘12 Ghosts of Grand Central by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15


The 8 Curses of Lint by David Friedland, GS/JTS ‘14 Failure to Blend, by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15

11 13 15

Remembering Cora by Anne Whitehouse, CU School of the Arts Photogram Rose by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15 Ladybug by Daniella Kahn, GS/JTS ‘15 Spring in Israel by Arielle Belfer, BC/JTS ‘14 The Small of Her Back by Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 Collectors Room by Guy Ben-Ari, CU School of the Arts Test Tube Baby by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15 Preserves by Anne Whitehouse, CU School of the Arts Garden of Eden by Ayelet Pearl, BC/JTS ‘14

17 25

Veshamartem Mitzvotai by Anonymous Contemplation by Rebecca Battat, BC ‘14 The Library of Babel Tower by Guy Ben-Ari, CU School of the Arts A Fading Flame by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15 The Ghetto by Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14

Gateway to God by Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 Excerpts from the Avanim free-write Cover: A Fading Flame by Ariel Rahimzada, GS/JTS ‘15 For entire piece, see page 21. Cover Design: Emily Lefton Goldstein

SONGS FOR THE END OF AUGUST by Anne Whitehouse I The weather suddenly turns, a new wind blows in, and summer, which had scarcely seemed endurable, becomes its most beguiling, the breeze cool and fresh, as if it were spring again. Dew glistens in the grass,

      Come out in the morning with me, while the morning is still young, let’s walk and run and swim and bike, use all our muscles, and then sit still, taking everything in.

II I’m bleaching my clothes in the sun. The stains of the past year that I could scarcely see in indoor illumination are fading in the strong sunlight,       even I will soak myself a while.

III Taking the long view, I regard the lighthouse across the wide, wide Sound, where sailboats rest at anchor on this sparkling day. A long line of puffed-up clouds promenades regally over the horizon, and the sea ripples over and over itself, whispering, Not yet, not yet.

IV Chased by sparrows,

'    A breeze rustles in the aspen leaves,         From an oak branch hangs a rope swing, its end twisted in a knot, waiting for a rider.

Anne Whitehouse is the author of the novel Fall Love, as well as several poetry collections and numerous short stories, essays, and feature articles. You can read more of her work at


Deathbed by Nick Bruscato 4

The Other Bay Area by Mike Schwartz 5

Eye Occupation by Nick Bruscato The warm water embraces me in a familial comfort that one does not get far from home. It encompasses me in a welcome occupation of commitment that it tries to transpose. The moist molecules linger in my eyes in a familiarity that welcomes woe and wanting. I wipe them away, squint them away but their pressurized presents persist. Clouds forming above my head, I grab them to reciprocate a respiration attempt, As cold droplets choke me.

Monkeyshines by Ariel Rahimzada 6

Noemi, Sit by Noemi Schor To anyone else it must have looked like a boring Saturday afternoon. A college student – granted,  ( &   ' ' '      )   front of three “books�: Mac, note, and library. The trying-too-hard-to-look-rustic wooden panels that constituted the cozy feel of Yuforia belied its true identity: an overpriced frozen yogurt boutique on the lower level of Covent Garden’s posh shopping complex. A boring Saturday afternoon sipping soup in front of my computer in Covent Garden. It was the epitome of the mundane, the average, the humdrum and the la-di-da. And it was the unchartered territory for which I had traveled to London. In my “real life� back on the other side of the pond, Saturday is not a day spent typing away in

  *+ $

      ! #  ( & pray-eat-nap-readtrashymagazines. My childhood, summer camp, and college schedules have all instinctively constructed themselves around my respect for this â&#x20AC;&#x153;palace in time,â&#x20AC;? as Abraham Joshua Heschel refers to Shabbat. Its beauty lies in its inevitability, a stark contrast to our human conviction that we can summon or     8   '  ;!<          =         '    #$

bat has always been this palace, and as my junior semester abroad approached I was the jaded princess wondering what lay beyond. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have any bitterness towards Judaism that needed to manifest itself through violation of one of its staunchest commandments. I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tossing a huge â&#x20AC;&#x153;fuck youâ&#x20AC;? at God to prove I was above the doctrines of the Bible. This wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t about God or the Torah or even London. This was about me, sitting in >        &   Which turned out to be too weak to support my groundbreaking plans for a rebellious Saturday afternoon. But whether or not I could web-surf using the MacBook resting on the â&#x20AC;&#x153;tree stumpâ&#x20AC;? table in front of me was practically irrelevant; it sat there at my disposal. To use it or shut it was my choice entirely â&#x20AC;&#x201C; just as on any weekday, a prospect so liberating in its ordinariness. With my MacBook and notebook rendered moot by Covent Gardenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s testy wireless, I turned to the third book in my pile. Spending the semester away from American culture and American Studies, I had  Q  X%       '   other cannon of classics: Capote, Roth, Franzen. And here next to me: Updike. As rebellions go, sitting in a snug alcove reading Rabbit, Run was much more attuned to English Gloriousness than French Revolution. Well, I had chosen to study in London rather than Paris for a reason. The contained time and space of a semester abroad seemed perfectly designed for a religious   <     

  =       to the initial question: I had to ask myself not if I wanted to observe Shabbat anymore, but if I had ever asked myself whether I wanted to observe Shabbat before. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go abroad because â&#x20AC;&#x153;real lifeâ&#x20AC;? had lost its meaning. Things were comfortable and routine and I could have easily chosen not to give the UCL promotional materials a second glance. I would have enjoyed my junior spring semester at Barnard.


But there was a voice inside me that Rabbit Angstrom lacked; it did not say, “run.” It said, “sit.” Sit in Yuforia. Allow yourself to take the number twenty-four bus from Drummond Street to Cambridge Circus, spend three pounds on a cup of soup and press “power” on your laptop. Resist the complacency now before you’re drowning in a pool of woulda-coulda-shouldas or resenting the basketball coach who made you think you’d be something you never became. Sit and think, so you don’t hit the point where you need to run. He runs. Ah: runs. I sit. Ah: sit.

Ghosts of Grand Central by Ariel Rahimzada 8

The 8 Curses of Lint by David Friedland

1 The pounding of steamy water and fat Removing dirt briskly with a clean scent. [        Except for the lint. 2 There is lint in my belly button. My belly is full. Full of lint, my warm belly button is. 3 Hands tear      All is the gray and the lint is now ordinary and blue. 4 The leaves fall erratically from the tree. The lint sticks to my hands.


5 <     As the crowd erupts with passion and life. They are laughing, but not for words. <     Swarming its face, a river of bitterness Clears the lint from its nose. 6 Boys are ordinary. Pencils are ordinary. Gold is precious. Lint is everywhere. Lint is ordinary. 7 The tempest has ceased. The lint must have stopped. 8 It has rained all day. The lint shadows the essence of moisture The earth is dry, barren with incentive. The soap will not stop The lint is unlimited no more. How ordinary.

Failure to Blend by Ariel Rahimzada 10

Remembering Cora by Anne Whitehouse +     concerned for her daughter, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Well, her mother has cancer,â&#x20AC;? as if it were her failing      The family tragedy, her brotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s malady, was turning her bones to cottage cheese. Her skeleton self-destructed, but her spirit soared far away to the Rockies and the Sierras, to Florence, Paris, and Rome. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Cora was fun, and I was along for the ride,â&#x20AC;? said her husband of the only non-lawyer whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d bested him in argument. She knew how to respond to a challenge, ruthlessly rallying her forces with chemotherapyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s destructive weapons. But God had other plans. And her daughter sat at the shiva with bent head bearing her grief, her long legs twisted around each other, her feet huddled for comfort in fuzzy slippers.


Photogram Rose by Ariel Rahimzada

Ladybug by Daniella Kahn 12

Spring in Israel by Arielle Belfer 13

The Small of Her Back by Nick Bruscato My hairs stand on end to the sharp crisp razor which is the air. Our backs cradled by ivy as tangled as our bodies just were. I shiver, shiver at the brisk moonlight on the grassâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dew and Shiver at the thoughts of ecstasy which now seems archaic. The earth rattles to remove a twig from my side and I breath. The stars uncover the meek mist only to thicken it among the pines. I am starring into history only to avoid the present and then she comes Her weight heavy with an obligation thats more than expected at a glance, That envelopes my current being and begins to devour my past and future. I stop her, putting my hand on the small of her back, A place that projects loudly secrets of body and expression, And the sap soaked spirit of night chokes me and I stop. \  +      Awe bursts from my lips but it is silent while I wallow in it. ]  ' +   One last sigh and I am welcomed by familiar noises of scuttling. I try to return to the small of her back a trip non the less, But it shall hit me another day just as it did tonight.

Collectors Room by Guy Ben-Ari 14

Preserves by Anne Whitehouse Cooking berries with sugar, I stand over a hot stove on a hot day. Steam of summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sweet essence curls up my nostrils. I stir my jam, and in the mindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s inner eye I see a procession of brightly-colored gliders '    climbing the thermals over Brace Field, soaring over Oblong Valley, where the crickets deepen their song as the morning advances,


 are growing dark and ripening. Vines tangle in the wetlands,       and the deer are watchful. High in the Green Mountains, surrounded by forest, open to the sky, underground springs feed the crystal lake. On the surface swims a loon. "  ' gazing at the clouds and sky, cradled by water caressing us like silk. Here, where the forest keeps the secrets of our younger selves.

Test Tube Baby by Ariel Rahimzada 15

Garden of Eden by Ayelet Pearl 16

Veshamartem Mitzvotai by Anonymous I was raised an Orthodox Jew. This means that for me, Friday night is sacred. After sunset on Friday evening, observant Jews donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t cook, clean, use money, turn lights on or off, write, erase, sew, tear, knot, unknot, sow, harvest, thresh, winnow, use electronics, listen to music, carry in the public domain, travel, or separate the good from the bad. Instead, on Friday night, we light Shabbat candles, gather the light towards us with three circling motions of the hands, and say a blessing. We walk to synagogue for the evening prayer, then back for Shabbat dinner. We drink from a communal cup after the blessing over the wine, wash our hands, and rip chunks off a loaf of challah bread. We eat a leisurely meal, already growing cold because it was taken off the heat before sundown. We sing Shabbat songs and, when everyone has eaten and chatted and laughed and argued about the state of things in Israel, say the Grace after Meals. And when the meal is over, if I am at college, I make my excuses and slip away. I have been watching the clock, and this is the hour when I have arranged some alternative amusement for myself. Some weeks Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve promised a friend to meet her at a Friday night party; this which means buying a ticket (using money) and listening to Lady Gaga at high volume for hours on end (music). Other times, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be watching a movie with my roommate (electronics). And, for a while, I would text the girl I was dating at the time (electronics again), sign her into my residence hall (writing), and show her up to my room. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d turn          

 In my memory, these Friday evenings are split evenly in two, in halves as distinct as the pools of light and shadow in a Hopper painting. First, I dress hurriedly for Shabbat as the late-afternoon sun     ;+`' '  

         and scramble through the unmatched shoes at the bottom of my closet for a set of heels. I slow down to put on makeup and brush my hair into smoothness, and by the time I walk out the door with my key around my neck on a lanyard (no carrying on the Sabbath), Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m calm. I love this calmness, this serenity I feel at no other time in the week, and I love being among people who sense it too. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to remember, on Friday evenings at synagogue, that my secular friends feel none of this; intellectually, I know that at this moment theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re out to dinner or working in the library or watching a movie, but that world is misty and distant right now. As the evening limps on, though, I get edgier. I begin to think that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s entirely possible that I had the same dinner conversations last week, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have them again next week, all under the same harsh    [  

        (   things we were brought up with. I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stand all this talk about a God I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe in, this punctilious observance of two-thousand-year-old mitzvot that have lost their meaning to my impatient eyes. So, excusing myself with put-on reluctance, I make my escape. Back in my room, dark because I tell myself I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t turn on lights on the Sabbath, I swap the skirt for tight jeans but keep the heels, for the party Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m heading to. After a short internal struggle I turn my phone back on, absurdly relieved to be back in touch after just a few hours. I wonder how I lasted so long in that mind-numbing place, and soon I forget the calm that drew me there to begin with. *


Contemplation by Rebecca Battat 18

I entered college thinking I was an atheist. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d come a long way since elementary school, when I had believed so fervently in God that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d even prayed during school vacations, without teachers or rabbis looking over my shoulder. In high school, as before, the same simplistic Judaism classes and weekly sermons and moralizing commentaries on the Torah buzzed around my head hypnotically, still with the same messages of charity, and love of Israel, and Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plan for the world. Then they came up against logic, and lost. If weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, why was I bullied in elementary school? The Torah explained everything because God had written it, through Moses; why, then, did he leave out evolution? If my classmates believed in God, as they said they did, why were they suddenly beginning to ignore the laws of modesty which we learned as kids, and folding over the tops of their skirts to make miniskirts and tugging down their shirts to show cleavage? More disturbingly, what drew my eyes so often to those low-cut shirts? I never acted on my new convictions while I was still in high school. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to feel that I was leaving Judaism just because I was too lazy to keep kosher or observe Shabbat and the holidays. And I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t ready to give it all up; they infuriated me and bored me, but the mitzvot structured my every day. Part of me still didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to be a bad Jew. Most importantly, though I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have admitted it at the time, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to hurt my parents, whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d insisted all along that I go to yeshiva so that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d grow up with the Torah knowledge they hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t gained until adulthood. So I kept quiet when I was at home and played hooky during school assemblies and shacharit and mincha, the morning and afternoon prayers, and imagined my freedom once I was gone. But college didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t set me free. It was Emily, a high school friend transplanted to Barnard, who kept   ' }    !    ~#      \            +$  not to disappoint her, I said to myself; but who did I think I was I kidding? I went because Friday night was still sacred, and because Shabbat was a piece of home in an unfamiliar place. It wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Emily who brought tears to my eyes during the blessing over the children, recited at the beginning of services. That was my own treacherous, sentimental brain reminding me that my father had said those same words almost every Friday night since I was a baby, and that he wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say them again until the end of the semester. * Consciously, I never acknowledged to myself these ties I still had to my faith. What I told myself, at the surface level of my mind, was that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d stay religious through college so as to be sure that I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t succumbing to the lure of permissiveness, giving in to the assimilation Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been warned against so often as a child. This year, I decided, I would stay observant, while I read, thought, prayed, and argued every last detail  +          `   +      one way or the other Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d have faultless arguments for my choice. Good intentionsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but somehow I kept putting off the reading and thinking and arguing for just a week or two, then until the end of the semester, and then until the spring. And in the meantime, I had choices to make: do I eat in the dining hall, with my new friends, or wait until the miniscule kosher section opens? Do I miss class for the Jewish New Year, or stay ahead of my schoolwork and go out on the weekends? My intentions didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stand a chance.


So, for a year, I swung back and forth from one world to another, never quite comfortable with the things I did. And I lied. Mostly I lied by omission, never mentioning why I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stay at Hillel past ten on Friday evenings or the fact that I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t on the kosher meal plan. Sometimes I lied outright, when my parents asked me what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been doing over the weekend and whether Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d gone to shul. It was strangely,           


      +%      =

' +

      recourse was to twist the truth? My parents and my friends trusted me, and all the time I was a two-faced liar, a hypocrite.

The Library of Babel Tower by Guy Ben-Ari 20

A Fading Flame by Ariel Rahimzada 21

Only once, in the past year, have I made the choice to tell the truth over an easy lie. My infraction was minor, by external standards: on my nineteenth birthday, a Saturday, I took the subway downtown with     Q$(  + `   +   having a day bracketed off each week in which I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be â&#x20AC;&#x153;normal,â&#x20AC;? by the standards of college life. These are the Torah commandments I broke for the sake of having a crazy-happenings-in-New-York-City story to tell about my nineteenth birthday: 1. < +     Â&#x20AC;Â Â         Broadway. I went into the store with Rebecca and bought it, paying cash, 2. And then carried it with me the rest of the day (carrying in the public domain). 3. With our pillows under our arms, Rebecca and I swiped our metro cards (using money), 4. And took the subway down to Union Square (travel). We swung ourselves over the police         '&        5. After half an hour in the thick of things, with feathers in our hair and our shirts sticking sweatily to our backs, Rebecca and I had had enough and struggled back over the barricade. It being Saturday, the Union Square farmersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; market was in full swing. We were hungry and bought apples and small pies to eat as we walked (money). Rebecca struck up a conversation with a beekeeper at his stall, and I bought a small potted plant. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the big deal?â&#x20AC;? my secular friends could say that night, and did. And part of me thought the same; Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d spent a fun weekend afternoon, nothing more, and there was no earthly reason to feel guilty about it. So I pushed back the nagging feeling that my religion should mean more to me than whether or not I had fun, and let my exuberance of the afternoon bubble up again. That exuberance was my mistake. Because when my parents called to wish me a happy birthday, and asked me how my Shabbos had been and what I had done to celebrate, I lost my caution and told them. That particular day I was happy, and I was feeling honest; I was tired of the easy route, the lies. Everything would be all right, I thought. It was time they knew about my life split in half, any way. So I told      â&#x20AC;&#x153;Where was this event?â&#x20AC;? my father asked. I told him. â&#x20AC;&#x153;How did you get there?â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The subway,â&#x20AC;? I said, trying to pass it off casually. I began talking about the homework I had that week, and how I hoped to come home for Passover. !+%   

  #       + % <     

 '  ' '& knack-throwing, no slamming the front door and stomping off. We arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t entirely a silent family; we talk about our plans and our hopes, and about the trivia of the day, and groan at each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s too-familiar jokes. But, about the big things, what we say is less important than what we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. There is a nucleus of quiet, a no-manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s-land, around the things we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have the words for, like deep emotion and belief. In this moment,                  refusal to talk to me anymore. I have no idea now what my mother said when he did pass the phone to her; his silence plunged me into a ringing, internal quiet of my own, and drowned out the memory. * The week that followed was terrifying. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d call home, and my father would talk about the mechanics of my upkeep at college, the upcoming tuition bills or packages theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d sent me, but nothing


about himself or about life at home. This scared and enraged me, and when he had hung up I would sob angrily into my comforter, â&#x20AC;&#x153;That fucking coward!â&#x20AC;? My mother, when my father wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t on the line, told me how upset he was, and I asked her to help me talk to him. He didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to discuss my trespass until Passover, three weeks away, when I would be coming home, but I felt I was living each day on tenterhooks, and couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wait that long. Finally, by what diplomacy on my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s part I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know, my father and I spoke, and he agreed to come uptown to Columbia one morning so that we could talk in person. We met at the subway and walked to Starbucks, neutral ground. I found us a table beside a  

     '           My father ordered me a black tea, no milk, one sugar, and himself a hot chocolate. I remember the conversation that followed only in fragments. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve pieced these fragments together to some extent, sifting      '     + %      we said, or my answers to his questions, or even how we began to talk. All I can tell is what I think we said, or believe we said, or wish we had said but didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. I know that he told me a bit, though not much, about how he came to Orthodoxy. He was in his thirties and nominally a Conservative Jew when his parents died, and at about that time he started looking for something more. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know for sure, but I believe he started to think about tradition, and about parents and children, and to watch his brother and cousins lose their ties to his grandparentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; religion. He realized that the middle-of-the-road Judaism heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d grown up with would fade away to no observance at all in a few decades, as each generation taught the next less and less about being a Jew. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d seen it happen, he said. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what it was like. Stirring sugar into my tea and watching it dissolve away, I talked about choice. He chose Orthodoxy for himself, and my mother did too. I never got to choose; I was born to it and inculcated in it through my entire childhood. Religion meant authority, meant rabbis and teachers and older children telling me what to do. He objected that the yeshivas heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d sent me to hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t struck him as particularly authoritarian. I responded, not quite to the point, that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d always felt out of place. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been ashamed of my parents, less religious than almost all of my classmatesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; parents, and ashamed that my mother was a          Â&#x192;%

     =  couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what it was like. He asked me, at some point, if I intended to leave Judaism entirely. Shredding my napkin between  +    Â&#x2020;   +     +'  willingly and not grudgingly, I had to leave for a while. I needed the freedom he and my mother had both had, that they hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t given meâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the freedom to choose. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t remember what he said to that; he may have said nothing, in one of those telling silences of his. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell him that I felt like a hypocrite, or how much I had already distanced myself from religion, or about the split down the middle of my head. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell him that I thought he was a coward for waiting a week to agree to talk to me, or that I hated the way he kept my mother as an intermediary between the two of us. I kept lying by omission, during a conversation which should have marked the beginning of honesty between us but which taught me, instead, how little I could tell the truth.


Religion, for my father and me, is a no-manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s-land again. We havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mentioned our conversation at Starbucks since that day, and I havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t told him about my recent Friday night infractions. I havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t told him that, just a few weeks ago, I spent an entirely secular Saturday afternoon and then broke down sobbing in the last waning hour of daylight before the end of Shabbat, my mental defenses eaten away by guilt. Since then, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve wondered what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d say if he brought the subject up again. I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell him that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve come to any conclusion, despite my sudden revulsion of conscience on that Shabbos afternoon, or even that I know what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m looking for in the secular life Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m pursuing. I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be a happier person if I leave Judaism, 

+% +  Â&#x2021;+  


  +  that when Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve made my decision, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll break my silence and tell him what I believe.

The Ghetto by Nick Bruscato 24

Gateway to God by Nick Bruscato 25

The following are excerpts from the Avanim free-write poster that hung in the Columbia/Barnard Hillel over the past semester. Please use these as prompts for your next peice and submit next semester:

“Exile hurts more than I thought it would When it happened in Real Life. But less than it should, Since I never cry on Tisha B’av, and break my fast on beer.”

“Some are wise some are otherwise.”

“When will you learn there isn’t a word for everything?”

“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in fruit salad.”

“Loud noises are fun!”

“In a place where there are no people, transform and become a person.”

“Life’s tough… Get a helmet!”

“Insist on yourself. Never imitate.”

Submit to


Avanim's Winter 2011-2012 Issue!  

Avanim's Winter 2011-2012 Issue! -Columbia University/Barnard College Hillel