Basers of NY: Ally Pockrass
When I was very young, I would beg my parents to send me to Hebrew to school. I remember having moments of thinking that I wanted to keep kosher or wear long skirts--at least for holidays. Since I was a teenager I've been wanting to go by Hebrew name, Ayelet, but have felt too self-conscious about it. I think I probably saw Fiddler on the Roof too many times. I grew up in central Indiana, where there is a notable number of Reform and secular Jews, but not very many Orthodox Jews. So my whole life I’ve wanted to take my Judaism a step further. I went to JCC camp for many summers and my Grandma is the librarian at our Reform temple in Indianapolis. My dad and I would help her with the book sale every year. I would impatiently wait for the bagel vendor to arrive so I could get a blueberry or salt bagel and throughout the sale I would pick out books that I wanted to buy--mainly Jewish cookbooks. There was always enough Jewish involvement to sustain my interest, but never enough to be satiating.
Finally during my senior year of college in Chicago, I had the opportunity to do more Jewish learning and make Jewish friends. I started observing Shabbat, going to parsha study, and trying to keep kosher. Then, I moved to New York to get my Masters in Art History. I’ve been so inspired to see all the different kinds of Jews and Judaism around the city. Even now I get butterflies when I see a visibly Jewish person on the street or train. The past two years have seen a steady increase in my Jewish observance and involvement. The hardest thing is reminding myself that this is a process. A journey. There really isn’t a tangible end-goal. It's not like if I work hard enough I will wake up tomorrow and be a Hasidic rebbetzin with ten kids. And realistically that isn’t really what I want either. I can’t let myself get caught up in observing some mitzvot and not others--I'm trying everything I can and seeing what sticks. So right now I’m attempting to identify the essence of the various aspects of Judaism that I am interested in. I’m trying to allow myself to take small steps and to make mistakes, because I find that if I am lenient with myself it is easier for me to achieve my goals. If I go to a restaurant and I say to myself, “You can get a bacon cheeseburger if you want to,” I have consistently chosen the vegetarian option. I notice that I feel good when I make those kind of decisions and it propels me to continue. Beyond becoming more plugged-in to Judaism, this process has taught me a lot about myself and in turn, how to interact with others. I'm learning to be more confident and to use my voice, whether that is in singing, leading prayers, or speaking up against injustice both in and out of the community.
Ally Pockrass is a transplant from Base Lincoln Park in Chicago, which she frequented during her senior year of Chicago. Upon moving to New York, she quickly made her home-Base in MNHTN, and frequents BASEd in HRLM (who are her upstairs neighbors), while occasionally wondering to BKLYN. She is currently finishing up her M.A. in Art History at NYU. In addition to being an interdisciplinary artist, Ally also writes articles for heyalma.com, and enjoys cooking, learning, dancing, and figure skating.