“Not every Jewish Blue Jay chirps prayers in Hebrew, wears a tallis on their feathers or cooks matzah ball soup on the daily. Judaism shapes people’s identities in a variety of ways.”
So writes Rudy Malcom, an engagement intern with Johns Hopkins University Hillel, in the first edition of “Hineni,” a Jewish literature and arts magazine by Jewish students. The first edition, published on Dec. 3, features work by 14 writers and four visual artists. (The Blue Jay is JHU’s mascot.)
Malcom, 19, who serves as the publication’s editor, came up with the idea for the magazine last spring when he applied for his internship with Hopkins Hillel. Malcom, a sophomore, double majors in psychology and writing seminars, a creative writing major that is unique to the university.
“Ihave learned that Jewish and Jew-ish identities and experiences are diverse and it can be difficult to fully articulate Jewish identities and experiences in a single conversation,” he said. “I thought that an identity magazine would encourage fellow students to take the time to reflect more deeply on their experiences, values and beliefs through writing.”
Jenna Movsowitz, 20, is a junior at Hopkins also majoring in writing seminars.
“I study both fiction and poetry, but have a particular love for poetry,” she said. Naturally, her piece in the first edition of “Hineni,” is a poem called “A Chronological Account of the Collective Jewish-American Soul.”
“Although the poem emphasizes a feeling of being ‘other,’ I hope it doesn’t weigh on the absence of connectedness with non-Jewish peers,” she said. “Instead, I hope it acts as a piece to unify readers who have shared experiences.”
Not all of “Hineni’s” prose and poetry contributors are studying writing or literature. Danae Baxter, 18, is a first-year double major in cognitive science and psychology.
Writing, she said, has always been an interest, and in addition to her involvement with Hillel, Baxter writes for “Perspective,” a publication by the Johns Hopkins University Black Student Union. In her essay “The Pleasant Kind of Culture Shock,” she candidly explores her Jewish identity and talks about how being a student at Hopkins has helped her come to embrace her culture and faith on her own terms.
“Prior to Hopkins, I never knew how to respond to the question ‘What is your culture?’ And I still don’t know entirely. What I do know, however, is that I am ready to explore what being Jewish means for me, and I am aware that spirituality is fluid and subjective,” she writes. “The complexity of my identity — my being ‘Jew-ish,’ my biracial background and my beautifully blended family — is a blessing that I will continue to wear proudly.”
In its first edition, the contributors to “Hineni” are mostly students affiliated with Hillel. Malcom used word of mouth and social media posts to solicit submissions, and hopes that in future issues — the publication will be released each semester — Jewish students not involved with Hillel will contribute.
“Judaism is a land of nuance, inconsistency and idiosyncrasy,” he said. “I think that the magazine should accentuate unity in community amid diversity of expression.”