Imagine that every Friday at sundown, you had to turn off all of the technology that surrounds you. This means no cellphone, no laptop, no television, or lights on in your room. Only an hour after the sun set on the following Saturday would you be allowed to resume using the things that make your everyday life convenient. How would you get in contact with your friends to hangout? Or catch up on your favorite show after a long week? This would be a nightmare for many in this day and age when media and technology dominate our lives. However, this is the life that our fellow colonial, Gidon Feen lives.
Gidon observes Shabbat, which means, “rest”, or “cessation” in Hebrew. As part of Shabbat, he doesn’t allow himself to use any technology at all. None whatsoever. This ancient Holiday dates back to Biblical times, and celebrates the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days. Due to the difficulty of maintaining Shabbat in this day and age of rapid fire communication and instant updates, the number of Orthodox Jews has been decreasing worldwide. Of the 3% of people who identify as American Jews, only 10% identify themselves as Orthodox Jews. Gidon is part of the 10% who still partake in this ageless practice.
However, his story becomes more interesting. Not only is Gidon part of the dying population of Orthodox Jews all over the world, but he also is gay. Needless to say, he leads what can only be described as an interesting life in the least. As he maintains the ancient practices of his faith, he is deeply immersed in timeless traditions. However, he also attends school in the political center of the world. These two things combined create a magnificent juxtaposition. Every day of his life, he balances these two extremes; relentless modernity, as well as obstinate heritage.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gidon, in order to talk to him more about the life he leads, as well as the lessons and challenges that come with it.
“I find it somewhat grounding”, Gidon explained, when asked how he balanced being a Modern Orthodox Jew in today’s day and age. “Especially in more recent times and instances of terrorism, but even in small life struggles such as when my grandfather died several years ago… There’s always the faith to go back to.”
In addition to keeping Kosher and observing Shabbat, Gidon prays once a day. All these things combined offer much space in his day for meditation and reflection; powerful tools in these turbulent times.
Gidon described his every day challenges, explaining, “Going out to eat with friends can sometimes be tricky. Laws of Kosher govern everything that I’m allowed to eat, and in DC, there is actually only one kosher restaurant.” Furthermore, due to the laws of Shabbat, Gidon is not allowed to work during the weekend, which makes any homework and employment between sundown on Friday and Saturday strictly prohibited. However, Gidon’s optimism remained undying.
“I love it. It’s a great way to reconnect with my religion.”
For all of Gidon’s educational life, he attended an all boys’ Jewish boarding school. His hometown was particularly conservative, so he actually did not hear the word “gay” until 7th grade. However, he knew how he had felt his whole life, and began to accept himself and tell close family and friends around the 11th grade. “Whenever I came out my friends, all of them accepted it extremely well. My getting through high school is directly attributed to their support.”
Today, Gidon shines as a beacon of hope to those in the LGBTQ community. Not only has he been extremely active on the Hillary Clinton campaign, but he interned in the White House the summer after his Freshman year, focusing on reaching out to the LGBTQ people in the Jewish community.
Furthermore, his story has allowed him to speak all over the US, for audiences including but not limited to colleges, jewish organizations, and high schools. Gidon is a great example of dedication to not only his faith, but also to the many communities he is a part of. Raise high, Gidon!