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I first came up with the idea of writing this in Civics class. We were discussing how the people and media around us affect our views of the world. This intrigued me because, of course, this is totally true, and I was interested in these subconscious things that influence our opinions. For instance, I would not be the person I am if I didn’t read a lot of fantasy fiction or if I wasn’t raised in a community that valued education. And of course, my faith impacts who I am. As you can tell from the title, I am Jewish. These things, the things that shape our beliefs in life, I call lenses. Like a lens in a camera, it frames the world in a specific way, and maybe even filters it, so that everyone sees the world in a different way.

My “Jewish lens” is very important to me. Judaism, like all other religions, provides guidelines for how to treat the world and the people in it. These are the morals I have grown up with: at temple and going to religious school and Jewish summer camp. They are things like חסד (chesed: kindness), צדק (tzedek: justice), קהילה (kehillah: community), and עולם תיקו (tikkun olam: repairing the world). Now, you’re thinking, okay, I believe those things too, but I’m not Jewish. How can they be Jewish values? That’s what I wonder, too, sometimes. And if you’re thinking that, you’re right. Most cultures and religions follow these morals and have them in their “lens.” However, the fact that I do them because of my faith, to me, makes them Jewish; I am kind because in the past (and present) people have discriminated against Jews: they blame us, or hate us for being “different.” I value justice because since Jews have been treated unfairly, I believe everyone deserves to be treated fairly. Community is monumental because, in the past, Jewish communities have been forced apart, and so the ability to be together and to be united is very meaningful. Lastly, Jews repair the world because we have been told that we have a job as a people to take ownership for the Earth and protect it. It is these values that create my Jewish lens.

Now you know that my faith impacts my view of the world. But what effect does my Jewish lens actually have on my world views? I believe that all people should have equal treatment and opportunity without discrimination or judgement. Immigrants and refugees are often treated horribly, turned away at borders, and sent back to where they came from, back to the violence and hatred they fled. They deserve better than this. They deserve a safe place to call home. I value having a community, and so it pains me when communities are torn apart due to human violence. Finally, I believe that we need to take care of the Earth. I recycle when I can, and most definitely believe in the power of renewable energy and defeating climate change. Of course, there are many other Jewish values that create my Jewish lens and influence my life, but these are some of the prominent ones.

Now you know about my Jewish lens, what makes it up, and how it impacts my life. We all have lenses with which we view the world. I have many more; the view of a poet, a student, a girl, and a photographer along with others. But my Jewish lens is undoubtedly one of my most important ones; for the most part, it is the birthplace of all my beliefs. I can thank it for making me who I am today, and I know I couldn’t imagine being different.

What things influence how you see the world? Think about it. What are your lenses?

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