I will explain what this means in this post, but hope to produce many works over my lifetime that will instantiate the thesis. The point of a life thesis is not simply to be right, but also, and more importantly, to be devoted. Before making my argument, however, it is important to know a bit about my story, and why I care about being a bridge in the first place.
I was raised in two worlds and have always lived in two worlds: the world of religion, faith, spirituality, tradition, and the world of secularism, rationality, skepticism, materialism. I grew up attending public schools in Montclair, New Jersey, a progressive-liberal town, but had the privilege of studying Talmud with Orthodox tutors from nearby Passaic, a Jewish community that skews more politically and psychologically “conservative.” At Jewish summer camp, I elected for an extra load of yehadut, Jewish Studies, while my peers—many of whom attended Jewish day school—were off playing frisbee or trading Magic the Gathering cards. When I was a pre-teen, I elected to grow out my side-locks or peyot, Hasidic-style—an act of mimetic desire for the enchanted world I imagined in the cloisters of Old Jerusalem. But I eventually cut them after getting taunted by my more contemporary peers who thought I was a weirdo. As a very young kid, I attended a Conservative synagogue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where there was a Chabad minyan in the basement. My earliest memories of Jewish life are of the Chabad rabbi’s song-filled and cluttered home, filled with children and ruckus.
My dual loyalty or conflicted identity, or insider-outsider position, or whatever you want to call it, animates what I have come to see as an existential calling: to be a bridge or a translator between two worlds, often seen at loggerheads.