The Elephant in the Room Contest Asks About Anxiety

By | Nov 26, 2012

Moment‘s 2012 Elephant in the Room Contest–which asks participants to tell us how anxiety has affected them, their family or the Jewish people in general–is underway. Here are a few excerpts from the entries we’ve received so far. (And submit your own entry here by December 7.)

Mitch Greenman writes about the religious and cultural bases of Jewish anxiety: “Anxiety is the child of hubris. But it is also the mother of science. We have chosen to come to G-d through understanding rather than blind acceptance. We interact with the universe through our minds. Sages have suggested that our intransigence is a gift that angels envy. We all must eventually come to the true place; there is nowhere else to go, but anxiety and discomfort are the incontrovertible outcome of our choice of reason as our way of worshiping. We are called ‘Israel’ because we contend with G-d.”

Shira Sebban takes a more personal approach. “I’ve been agonizing over whether or not to enter that essay contest. Do I really want to dredge up my old battles with anxiety? Now that I’ve finally conquered my demons once and for all, why revisit them? Don’t I run the risk of a relapse? Who would be interested anyway in the seven-year-old lying on her stomach on the floor in a useless attempt to control the unexplained pains wracking her body? Or the pre-teen, who shuddered to learn that her little sister had been assigned to Mrs Cohen’s fourth grade class and so was likely to be kept in after school for the rest of the year. Confronted with the daily challenge of making a mad dash for the bus together or risk being left stranded miles from home, she religiously asked her poor younger sibling the same question every night: ‘Will you be late for the bus tomorrow?'”

And Arnold Samlan writes about the historical reasons for anxiety in the Jewish community. “The tendency towards anxiety in my family, and in the Jewish community as a whole, stems from our history. My ancestors spent centuries in Ukraine dodging Cossacks, then Bolsheviks. Anxiety became adaptive. Jews didn’t outrun their adversaries; they had other tools to survive. The “radar” that allows us Members of the Tribe to find one another at a party enables us to pick up emerging danger. What’s paranoid today was a survival mechanism in 19th century Ukraine. That same anxiety helped my wife’s German Jewish family to leave the country while they still could.”

What do you think? Join the conversation by entering our Elephant in the Room Contest through December 7 ( Three winners will each receive an iPad, and will see their essays published in Moment. This year’s contest is a partnership between Moment and the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety.


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