ConnecTech is a year-long fellowship for MIT and Technion Jewish students. The primary focus is on student interaction—creating personal bonds between small core groups of students at each institute and strengthening a sense of Jewish peoplehood. For more information or to read our Fellows’ bios, visit our website.

I have been to Israel twice before and was extremely surprised during ConnecTech to find Hanaton. I did not know that a kibbutz like that could exist in Israel. It was this beautiful place of pluralistic Judaism where all denominations can both blend and exist in their own right in peace and harmony. I did not think that Conservative/Reform Judaism was ever really represented in Israel and definitely not in parallel with an Orthodox community.

At Hanaton, I prayed with both men and women in a modest synagogue with endless little children running around. I learned about the precautions people take in whole kibbutz meals and gatherings to make sure everyone can contribute while keeping it kosher to everyone’s standards. We visited their mikvah and I was impressed that they helped convert kids of gay couples and marked other ceremonious moments of which the rabbenut does not approve. It was a community that achieved a level of acceptance that I could only dream of in Israel.

Being religious but not Orthodox and wanting to move to Israel had never really concerned me. I was moving to Israel, land of the Jews. Why would my Judaism be a problem? At the same time I discovered this oasis of Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox Judaism, it became apparent to me that this was the only place in Israel I had visited in which my Jewish values and traditions were reflected. How would my Jewish identity manifest if I lived in Israel? This kibbutz both gave me hope and concern about where I would want to live, what I would look for in an Israeli society, and what parts of my Jewish identity I am not willing to sacrifice.

I want a place in which I can go to services and not be shoved in a corner. I want a place in which I can have deep and meaningful conversations about Judaism, even if that includes critiquing it. I need a society that has a thriving Jewish identity that does not need to conform to orthodoxy at all times. I have many questions that I still need to answer, but now I have hope that they can be answered.

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