Reconciling Religion: Isabelle Rebecca Katz by Maya Barr
Having disrupted her high school experience by spending her junior year at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, Isabelle is used to an ever-changing social and physical environment in which she finds g-d’s presence a comfort. “I think He just listens,” she explains. “Sometimes when I’m horseback riding and I’m like ‘wow, this is so beautiful!’ I think ‘thank you, g-d.’”
Other times, she explains, she thinks of g-d as someone with manipulative power “like when I have a presentation, I’m like ‘please, g-d, please help me.’ Or when I’m in a lot of pain--which happens pretty often--I’ll be like ‘oh why, g-d?’”
Yet the plea is rhetorical because Isabelle doesn’t believe in divine intervention. “I rely on g-d as support,” she delineates, “but not to fix everything. I think that’s the point of being alive--to try to fix things for yourself. And that’s what free will is.”
Photo: Isabelle looks up from the Torah.
She laughs as she eats a peanut butter ball, which she’s considerately made with sunflower butter instead of peanut butter because of my allergy. Isabelle’s accommodated for me for as long as we’ve been friends--at her bat mitzvah, she ixnayed all candies with nuts because she wanted me to feel included.
Her innate sense of welcoming is one of the reasons she’s drawn to Judaism. A smile comes across her face as she says “everyone wants to be part of a culture and they want to fit in. I mean, that’s the whole point of religion--for people to find somewhere they fit in and to share similar beliefs. I mean, or else people would just build their own little temples.”
Photo: Isabelle rejoices with her peanut butter ball.
Isabelle’s forceful personality rears its head again when we shift to talking about being Jewish in the South. “I don’t think it’s correct of people to go around telling other that their religion is wrong because a lot of people look to it for support and telling them that that’s wrong is just dumb and not appropriate. Mind your own business!”
A believer in individual freedoms, she fingers a piece of her jewfro. “I think Judaism is the best [religion] because I think it allows you to form your own opinions, and it allows you to take what you want out of the religion. "Like,” she explains, “I think of the Torah less as a strict law and more as an outline for morality and how you should behave.”
Photo: Isabelle explains her beliefs