by Shua Klein
I am learning many new things at Tivnu. I am learning a lot about wealth and poverty in the U.S. through all of our educational sessions. For example, I got to tour Dignity Village, a community for people experiencing homeless. The village is run by a council of residents, and they decide all of the rules. I also get to do hands on social justice work at my internships at Habitat for Humanity and Sisters of the Road, a nonprofit cafe in downtown Portland for people experiencing homelessness.
The things I’m learning aren’t just limited to my internships or at the educational programs. I get to live in a house with other amazing people. Communal living is helping me learn how to live day to day life with other people, how to take care of myself (including learning how to cook), all in an accepting Jewish atmosphere. It’s not always easy living with very different people. As we go along the year we’ve learned what some of our unique values are and how to adjust ourselves for the community. Sometimes, it’s the small things that take the most compromise. For example, my roommate and I made a compromise than we can listen to music and videos out loud during the day, but wear headphones at night. This sounds small, but it shows the different ways that people need to relax- either with videos and music, or some quiet space. Because of open communication and mutual respect, my roommate and I were able to make a compromise.
Coming from a completely Orthodox background, it was hard for me at first to live with people from different Jewish backgrounds who didn’t always understand the strict rules I live by. As time went on, I started opening myself up more and more to the other ways of approaching Judaism, which got me thinking a lot more about my own Jewish identity and practices. For example, I go to a conservative synagogue almost every week. Although we all have different practices, I have respect for all of my housemates Jewish practices, and I know that they have respect for mine.
Living away from home and my parents for the first time, I am able to reflect on my life and take a step back. I’ve learned a lot about self-discipline. This is the first time in my life I don’t have my parents or a teacher watching over me. Even though I receive support and direction from the Tivnu staff, I know that if I don’t do something myself,it won’t get done.
Even though I didn’t think I would feel very passionate about construction, I really enjoy going to the Habitat for Humanity work site. Working with my hands is really a breeze after 12 years of sitting in a classroom every day! Knowing that I’m really helping people in need of a sustainable healthy living environment is a big motivator to work hard, and feel good about the work that I’m doing.
As we end the first half of the year, I look forward to seeing my family, but I know that I’ll be excited to come back (and meet our new participant!) and see what else I learn about myself and the world around me for the rest of the year.