Revealing Our True Identities
A Conversation with Adrienne Gold Davis
In the story of Purim, our heroine is Esther, a Jewish woman who is advised to hide her identity as the new queen of Persia — until she finds herself in the position of saving the Jewish people. The Hebrew root of her name is “hester,” which means “hidden,” foreshadowing the deeper mission of Esther’s new role. Also hidden from the story of Purim is G-d’s name.
“While G-d’s presence is everywhere, sometimes we cannot see it or feel it in the moment,” explains JWRP Trip Leader Adrienne Gold Davis. “Sometimes the truth is hidden under the costume of day-to-day life.”
In our conversation, Adrienne shares reasons for shedding the masks we wear in our everyday lives, as well as how we can encourage our children to own their identities.
What can Esther teach us about when to hide or reveal our Jewish identity?
When it came time for her to have her “Esther moment” — to step up and harness her courage on behalf of her people, Esther “unmasked” herself as a Jew! Our Jewish identities may be our greatest gifts. When our people are collectively threatened, it is time to stand proud and to represent our identity, rather than cower and hide.
Today, many of our college students can relate to this feeling. Thankfully, there are many advocacy groups on campuses around the world, which aim to fight the rising threat of anti-Semitism that our people are facing once again.
When might we wear masks in our everyday lives?
Professor Brene Brown calls it “hustling for worthiness” when we use our external accomplishments as “calling cards” instead of revealing our true selves with all of our gloriously perfect imperfections. She says that showing our true selves to the world entails the “courage of vulnerability.” If we decide to be whomever the crowd needs us to be, then we’ll need an endless supply of masks in our lifetime.
On the other hand, if we feel enraged, we may choose to wear a calm and collected mask. That is one emotion that is not worth revealing to the world — even in half measures!
When might we try to shed our masks?
When we understand that G-d does not create junk, that we are each created in G-d’s image, and that we are worthy, holy manifestations of G-dliness! When we remember that even our vulnerabilities and mistakes are part of our process and our mission in life, we may feel less ashamed of who we are and embrace who we are always becoming.
What would it mean to own our identities?
It would mean a world of individuals whose commitment to truth and honesty gives others permission to do the same. It would mean our true identities could emerge from the shadows, and that the beauty of the human journey could be celebrated.
How can we encourage our children to own their individual identities?
By not shaming them. By setting clear, moral guidelines and proper boundaries, while also recognizing that they have their own journeys. Our children will undoubtedly fail and fall repeatedly, but we will celebrate with them when they rise. As Jewish wisdom teaches, according to the effort is the reward.