Community

As some of my friends are entering a period of change in their lives, many of them are packing up their things and leaving San Francisco. It’s hard for me to see not only people I love move far (ish) away, but that many of them don’t feel the way I do about San Francisco – being that I will stay here forever (if I can).

San Francisco is my home. There is no other city I would rather live in. It makes me happy to feel so strongly about living where I live, but it comes with its challenges.

As I engage further with my community in SF, I become more frustrated with other peoples’ lack of interest in being involved as well. I truly believe that if people invested a little more time and money in this city, everyone, not just the impoverished population, would benefit.

Because SF is such a transient city, and has been for a long time, people see it as a thoroughfare – they’re just passing through as a means to end up somewhere else where they can actually “settle down.” Due to this fact, people don’t want to invest the time and effort to help make the city a better place to live.

For people that only want to be here for 1, 3, or 5 years, they don’t really see the point in making an effort to give back to the community because they don’t see it as “their” community. One problem people always comment about in SF is that it’s very dirty. Most of us see it every day. When you leave your apartment in the morning, just outside your house, there’s probably garbage that someone else left. Traveling down Market Street, you’ll probably see poop – who knows if it’s from a human or animal. In the Marina on Saturday mornings the streets are littered with booze bottles from the night before. No one wants to clean up after other people’s messes.

I truly believe that if people, even those who don’t want to live here FOREVER, were to give back, even a small amount, this city would benefit immensely. I’m a bottom up thinker, which means that I believe the collective small efforts that people take have a larger impact. Not everyone wants to donate their time and get their hands dirty and that’s OK. There are 81237 different organizations and nonprofits in the city and surrounding areas that are doing incredible things. And I don’t want to guilt anyone into doing something they don’t want to do, but I want people to consider that acting small can make a tremendous impact. I think that finding other ways to engage with the community are beneficial – donating to a local clean up nonprofit like Clean City or spending a couple hours planting with Friends of the Urban Forest – we can help beautify this city and hopefully, ultimately, it will encourage others to trash it less.

I think we can all lead by example. Just because you aren’t as attached to San Francisco as I am doesn’t mean you should just be lazy and let others do all the work. And who knows, it may make you feel some type of way. And I really think that this could have a trickle up effect. For each individual that takes action, and makes the city cleaner, for instance, I think that after time, taking an active stance on some of these issues will in effect lead to fewer homeless individuals, fewer bike thefts, and more affordable housing (to name a few). I can’t say it enough, I honestly truly believe it will happen.

I just need help. Will you join me?

The Words I Didn’t Know I Had

I am a Jew. I will always be a Jew. And I am not here to destroy or replace you.

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Image from US News

This is the image haunting me this morning, and suddenly I am filled with crippling fear.

The high school I attended was 30% Jewish. On major Jewish holidays, a vast majority of the class was absent, and everyone would take a look around and note that it was probably due to the Jewish holiday. There, I felt normal. I felt the same. It was safe.

Santa Clara has a 2% Jewish population. It is a Jesuit school, but the small number of Jews in a vastly diverse population in the Valley still astound me:

“Of Silicon Valley’s 1.7 million residents, only 35,000 or so—about 2 percent—identify themselves as Jews, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose. Fifteen percent—about 5,000—are affiliated with a temple or other Jewish organization. By comparison, Jews in San Francisco represent almost 12 percent of the population. San Francisco has 28 congregations within the city limits; the entire South Bay, with more than double the population, has 21.” (SanJose.com)

I was the first Jew many people at Santa Clara had ever met. I noticed the ignorance at first, but didn’t pay much attention to it until I felt different.

When I was a sophomore in college, I went to Israel on a Birthright trip. When I came back to school in the New Year, I was more in touch with Judaism then I ever had been. The camaraderie and pride I felt was something I wanted to share, not hide. But, when my friend from the trip visited me at school for my birthday, she felt something different. She came back to sleep in my bed before I got home and was met with harassment from someone living on my dorm floor. “There’s a little Jew in her bed,” he kept saying over and over. This, coming from the same guy, (his name is Trey) who groped and harassed me in the elevator Freshman year of college. I had to push him to get him off me.

Fraternity “pledging” came around, and I was sitting in the cafeteria one day when I noticed one of the new Sigma Pi freshman pledges came in with a Jewish star on a necklace around his neck. He had to wear this all week. My heart started to hurt.

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This is what I saw. A flashback to a time I did not witness. I wondered if these people (the fraternity “bros”) truly understood what it was they were doing. A silly “joke” turned my world upside down. This can’t be Nazi Germany. I’m safe, at Santa Clara in the Silicon Valley in California. These people didn’t mean harm, did they?

I went to the Dean of students. I told him what I witnessed and how it made me feel. He promised he’d keep me safe. I felt momentarily relieved.

Junior year I went abroad for one third of the school year. When I came back, my eyes felt opened for the first time. My school felt different. It felt smaller, like it wasn’t part of the real world. At the end of my diversity class one day, after a rather vibrant discussion led by my favorite professor, I checked my text messages. My Jewish friend from home, Hannah, sent me a text telling me that kids from USC (her school) who visited a Concentration camp in Germany were imitating getting their heads cut off and taking pictures of it. I remember the crushing feeling that day as I sat and wept in the classroom in front of my professor. I felt so lost. I knew deep down that those kids could have come from any school, especially Santa Clara. I know this because Black and gay students were frequently kicked out of off-campus parties because… well, because. I distanced myself from a lot of this because it caused me too much pain. I’m sad to admit that I should have done more than I did.

This is why, when people ask me if I liked my school, it’s hard for me to answer. In many ways I did love it, but it’s hard to pledge allegiance to a place that brought about pain to so many people.

But the images in the media are chilling me, even as I pull the blankets closer and closer around me in bed. This all became so real for me today, and reminded me of 9 months ago as I lay on the floor in a fetal position watching the polls roll in, crying.

I want to take action and stand up against these hateful people, but I’m terrified. Nazis cannot be reasoned with and they are extremely dangerous people with intent to hurt and kill. And at the end of the day, I’m the enemy to them – a Jew who needs to be gone from this world.

Burning Man

I sat down to start writing about my week at Burning Man and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how to start. It wasn’t until an hour ago when my thoughts finally came to me and I finally understood how this last week impacted me.

I  just finished an interview with Michael Latronica, the man who runs The Center down the street from my house in San Francisco. I was interviewing him to write an article about The Center for Hoodline, a neighborhood-based news site that I am now freelancing for (exciting!). I came to the interview open-minded and ready for a conversation with someone I was genuinely interested to get to know. I wasn’t thinking of it as doing my job, but more about the two of us having a real and honest conversation. I walked into The Center ready for a new experience, whatever it was.

Recently, I have felt closed off to making new connections with people. I go about my day with my head down, probably phone in my hand, just living in my bubble world and hoping that no one talks to me. Burning Man opened me up to the possibility of spontaneity and discomfort, and finding comfort in that newness. I feel more approachable, and willing to approach others with loving kindness and probably a bit too much friendliness than people are normally comfortable with.

Burning Man for me wasn’t about ~~~*eNliGhtEnMenT*~~~~, but about letting go of expectations and being okay with what is happening in the present. This is something I have been practicing in my everyday life with my mindfulness practice, but became a real-life practice for me during the week living in the desert away from distractions and connections to the outside world.

We had an amazing camp, the Post Office, a group of new and long-time “Burners” (a word I am now using thoughtfully, thanks to Kat), that became a wonderful home for me to rest my head at night. I felt supported in the journey of my week and like I truly had a family around me. I acro-ed a lot, meditated, got a massage, had my hair washed (shout out to Shonna), had a photoshoot with a professional photographer, traversed sunrises and sunsets, and gave a lot of great hugs. The details of the week are special to me and those who experienced them with me, and in the hopes that everyone continues to have their own experience at Burning Man, I am happy to share them privately with you if you ask.

After my interview with Michael today, he gave me not one but TWO great hugs and offered me a month of free tea membership at The Center. That to me embodied the magic of Burning Man – unexpected kindness that comes from those that you may least expect.

Acro Yoga

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It turns out not a lot of people knew that for the past two months or so I’ve been practicing Acro Yoga pretty regularly. It started back in January (while maybe slightly drunk) when a new friend showed me the ropes on some poses during a party. While I didn’t think about it legitimately until this summer, I decided to start taking some real classes on a weekly basis.

I bought a membership to an aerial studio in SoMa – they also have classes for silks or rings. Think acrobatics, mostly. The other part of the studio is for acro which is what I have taken to. I am so eager and ready to learn more and coming to class once a week has been amazing but very challenging.

I got Drew more interested in it as well, which means that he can be the base and I can be the flyer and then we can jam together in the park when he “works from home” some days. We’re having a lot of fun practicing together and learning how to communicate about different movements and flows between our bodies. For the most part we’ve been pretty good… but that’s not to say Drew hasn’t dropped me on my head before.

The main reason I’ve loved it so much is because I think it’s amazing to watch and I’m so inspired by people who are really skilled at it. I love watching YouTube and Instagram videos of pairs of people doing insane things on top of each other’s bodies that I never thought possible. But then again I didn’t think my body could do some of the things that it has learned the past 10 weeks.

I am excited to sign up for a 15-hour weekend intensive to fully immerse myself in acro. It’ll be challenging to keep my stamina and core strong for that long, but I will come out of it so much better (I hope!). For those of you who don’t know what acro yoga is, watch this video. Maybe that’ll be me one day!