Rachel Balik

Rachel is a freelance writer and arts critic covering books, theater and live concerts. Her writing has appeared on PopMatters, The Brooklyn Rail, and other web sites. She helped to launch the online publisher findingDulcinea, where she worked as a writer, researcher and social media marketer. Prior to that, she dabbled in artistic direction and production on and off Broadway. Rachel holds degrees in English and Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and is a student and teacher of yoga. She brings her many interests together as often as possible on her blog.

Kate was the trouble-maker among us. I was one year younger, and didn’t have any friends at school. At age 9 I was already awkward and insecure, and even though Kate wasn’t particularly nice to me, or anyone, she included me, which seemed at the time tremendously kind.

Her parents and my parents were childhood friends. Our families, and Kate’s aunts and their children, all reunited every year in August on Cape Cod. Days were filled with overly competitive games of paddleball and hours of wave riding on over-priced boogey boards. We were competitive about those, too. There were trips to the local dairy barn for soft serve once if not twice a day. We went square dancing every Wednesday. A big annual adventure was whale watching in Provincetown, after which we’d beeline for Portuguese donuts

All you have to do to get a free trip to Israel from the Birthright organization is be a Jew. The innocent claim of the organization is that all young Jews (18-26) who haven’t seen Israel should see Israel. You don’t have to be religious. You don’t even have to be practicing. They don’t care if you discovered philosophy as a junior in college, and soon after discovered that all the cute boys were atheists and became one yourself. They don’t care if you called your parents up one day to say, “I’m forsaking Judaism.” They just care if one of those parents is Jewish. Or so they say.

Both of my parents are Jewish. They were relatively unimpressed by my rejection of our faith; I remember my junior year when I received a voicemail