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Stories of Faith, Part 2
Alegria Barclay, director of social justice & equity

We are entering the time of year when multiple faiths celebrate and contemplate a range of holidays and holy days. In honor of the many people within our Nueva community who practice a faith, we invited upper school students and faculty to share their stories of faith as a way to elevate and recognize the many identities and beliefs that shape who we are. Participants were asked to respond to one of the three following prompts:

  • How does your faith shape who you are?
  • What does your faith provide you with?
  • What do you want people to better understand about your faith? 

We know there are many more stories within our community and we invite you to share you story through this form.

Gabriel B. '25

My Jewish faith provides me with a strong connection to family and heritage, another wonderful community, moral values, and a deeper understanding of historical events.

Judaism has been present throughout my family’s history wherever my relatives have lived. Being Jewish is an anchor to the past and to my heritage that connects me with my identity and family in the present. The same goes for being at a synagogue because realizing that you’ve gathered with a group of people following a thousands year old tradition is truly special. 

My Jewish community also adds another group of people that I can relate to, and that I know cares about me. Jewish community combined with ritual makes for memorable celebrations and gatherings where people come together, such as a bar or bat mitzvah or a Jewish holiday like Pesach (Passover).

Realizing where Jewish history fits into the larger, dominant narrative of history is fascinating, and to me is one of the more important parts of being a Jew. I feel that I can see through history with a unique lens because of my connection and knowledge about Jewish history. For example, from being a student at a Jewish day school, I see behind the dominant narrative of the World Wars and conflict of the 20th century, while others have that knowledge obscured by the passing of time and by broad and general narratives. Having a deeper perspective as a Jew heightens my interest in history and also opens me up to recognizing that others have unique perspectives on history because of their own identities. Most importantly, studying Jewish history ties back to family. I can understand the Jewish context and world context of my family history, which makes sure that people’s stories are not forgotten, which is truly important to me. 

Lastly, Jewish texts share a wealth of positive moral values, such as kavod (respect), kehillah (community), and the obligation to perform tzedakah (charity). Also, Jewish commentaries—like the Mishnah and Talmud—are based on discussion and debate between scholars. This tradition of respecting interpretation and others ideas is one I value greatly in all situations, and is also why there are many different ways of observing Judaism.

Michaela Danek, upper school chemistry teacher

I was brought up Christian, and it was something that I just accepted without question for most of my young life. When I got to my teenage years, I started to question some of the rules and expectations that came along with the religious experience. In my early 20s, I decided to let go of my faith entirely because it felt too conservative and exclusionary to many groups of people I loved and cared for. I didn’t see myself or my identity in the Christian faith communities I was part of at the time. 

I spent about eight years without any spiritual grounding, which I found to be very disorienting; I felt I had lost direction in my life. I knew I wanted to find a faith community but I didn’t know where to look. In 2018, Alegria organized a school event around faith and the keynote speaker was Dr. Amos Brown from the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. I was struck by how Dr. Brown’s work in the church was so deeply interwoven with his work around social justice efforts. I was also compelled by his call to find a faith community. It took some weeks before I decided to attend a service at Third Baptist. While I was one of very few white people in the pulpits, I was immediately welcomed by members of the congregation. I joined their church and was an active member of the congregation for a number of years. I’ve stopped attending as regularly as I did before because I live in the South Bay and the commute is difficult, but I am incredibly grateful to Alegria for helping to make this connection for me. I feel blessed to have been welcomed into and part of the Third Baptist Church. 

I have returned to my Christian faith and it has grounded my life again. I think it’s important to note, however, that I am still critical of the ways religious institutions can alienate and exclude groups. I see a distinction between being a person of faith and human-constructed institutions. Too often, churches and religious institutions are plagued with the same "-isms" that we see in other groups. While I recognize no church will be perfect, I am still looking for an inclusive church community that’s a little closer to home, and where I can put down some deep roots. 

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