Humanism

Beyond Borders: Navigating My Jewish Identity Untethered From Zionism.

Holding humanity in the darkest days.

Mindy Stern
Published in
5 min readNov 17, 2023

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Photo Courtesy Of Rezaphotography

For months now, I’ve been struggling to write, to reclaim my disciplined daily writing practice, my ability to shut out the world for a few hours to say something meaningful or meaningless, just something. I’m used to fallow phases, I don’t worry during those times, they always end with a burst of creative energy.

But this is different. This feels like a square cement block shoved inside my skull, taking up all the soft space, preventing me from moving too far in any direction. But also, I have a lot of exceptionally valid excuses.

My excuses:

  1. My husband has been working from home since February. In May, he was supposed to go on location for 7 months — Morocco and Budapest — I would go with him for most of the time. Thanks to two lengthy strikes and a war, he’s still home, working from our (my) office.
  2. The day after we screenwriters went on strike, the coffee shop I made my new office unexpectedly shut down leaving me unmoored. My productivity depended entirely on that gluten free banana bread and hot almond milk latte.
  3. Oppressive financial stress after my husband’s show was paused.
  4. Oppressive annoyance that my husband is still home, working from our (my) office.
  5. A war and a world that is tearing my heart apart.

I want to tell you about the day I got a little too high, took a walk and imagined all the ways anti-Semitism might impact me. Might the maitre-d at the fancy restaurant greet us at the door and say, “Stern? Jews? No, we don’t serve Jews here.” Or about the young Jewish looking couple I passed who I was sure glanced at me suspiciously, wondering if I too was a Jew. I told myself it was just the weed but then I remembered the six million ghosts in my head.

I want to tell you about the summer of 1984, my first trip to Israel, and Misha, the handsome, muscled, blue eyed Russian emigre — my first true infatuation — and our barefoot walks through the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem and our languid love making on the cold tiled floor of his kibbutz bedroom. I want to tell…

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