My Mixed Life: Becky Tahel Bordo, Conscious Content Creator and Filmmaker
My Mixed Life is an interview series where we showcase interesting humans and their mixed lives.
Talking Louis: Who are you?
Becky Tahel Bordo: A mix of so many things; I'm Russian on my Dad's side, Moroccan on my Mom's, born in Israel, raised in Philly, and currently living in Los Angeles! I am a "conscious content creator" - a term I've used to explain the many aspects of creation that I consult around, assist others in doing, and partake in myself.
I'm a creative writer (be it copy, ghostwriting books, or penning screenplays & TV pilots). I'm a producer (essentially being the nuts and bolts, the glue, to physical production -- taking ideas and manifesting them into aesthetically pleasing visual content for the web, TV, and film).
I'm a creative advocate (where I speak & teach & consult around the benchmarks of ethically sourced content, and often speak about the creative process to all ages around the world). I'm busy, that's who I am.
TL: What does your mixed experience look like?
BTB: As a chetzi-chetzi (that's Hebrew for "half-half"), I've always been equally comfortable and uncomfortable in all social circles. I get down with the pickled herring around my Russian family, I eat the spicy with my Moroccan side, and as an immigrant to the US at just 7 years old, I've had quite the journey finding my sense of Americanness.
In fourth grade, I asked my mother to go by "Becky" instead of my birth name "Tahel" (which means to bring Light, but in English sounds an awful lot like you're saying a bad word). My Jewish culture and religion was also super counter-cultural in the States, I had weird food, different rituals, and my parents had hard-to-understand accents that made my mixed life complex. I tried to fit in everywhere, and only later in life came to find out where I really fit, and made a bunch of content around it.
Whether you're "mixed" in the obvious ways, we're all mixed in some ways. America and the entire world is a big mix of cultures and ancestral lines, and I'm now far more intrigued by and way less embarrassed of my mixed background and my identity struggles.
TL: You are the writer, director, and producer of a documentary called American Birthright, which explores intermarriage and coming to terms with your younger sister's recent interfaith marriage. How did you feel at first about your sister’s interfaith marriage? How do you feel now?
BTB: Marrying outside the Jewish faith is forbidden. And to be honest, it wasn't something I had ever seen growing up. No one in my family had intermarried, and so my sister's dating and then marrying her Christian fiance was an initial shock -- as is anything so different.
In addition to being different than the familial norm, it was also a lot to reconcile as a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. It can often seem a little prejudice to say "we should only marry each other, no outsiders!" But when put back into the context of our people's history, it makes sense. Jews have been persecuted and marginalized since, well, forever. We are a tiny percentage of the entire world population, roughly 14 million of us total.
So with all these factors combined, I can understand the issue with marrying outside the faith -- it brings our survival into question. That said, I also didn't write my sister off, nor close myself off to conversation. I believe that whenever something bothers me, it's a sign to turn inward. I sat with myself, asked myself a bunch of questions, and then had a really open loving conversation with my sister. I didn't want to bottle things up, and I shared all of my thoughts & worries with her.
Soonafter, we both realized how much bigger this conversation was, far bigger than just the two of us. How many others are going through this struggle? Not just Jews, but people of all backgrounds, cultures, and religions? And so American Birthright filming began.
Now, five years later, I have different feelings, deeper feelings, and more developed feelings. I have a context for what initially brought me pain and sorrow, and that sorrow isn't gone. There is certainly a lot that I still don't agree with my sister about, and the win is that I am vocal about them. Her and I have a wonderful relationship, and while it's not easy, I think true love is holding that sort of space in the midst of differences.
"Whether you're "mixed" in the obvious ways, we're all mixed in some ways."
TL: In the documentary you also explore your own Jewish Israeli/American identity. How has this film and exploration helped you better understand yourself? Did you have any breakthroughs on this journey?
BTB: I had so many breakthroughs, which came shortly after various existential crises. Digging deep into the self, and digging up large philosophical queries isn't easy. A lot of my religious and spiritual exploration brought up stuff that I didn't really want to look at -- mostly because it meant I would likely have to grow, evolve, and step up.
With wisdom and knowledge comes responsibility (or so they say), and the more truth I found out, the bigger my decisions became. I had some hard hitting questions about God, prayer, gender roles, dress/modesty, and the central text of Judaism -- the Torah. I studied with Rabbis and in a women's seminary for 4 months, I stayed with different families each Sabbath & asked all my questions. I saw how all types of Jews lived, and thought about my own future.
I actually took time out of my busy LA life to re-evaluate my values, priorities, and Jewishness, because the ultimate breakthrough I had (which you see early in the film) is that this whole journey was never about my sister. It was always about me. Everything we experience is multi-dimensional, life is dynamic — my sister's decision to marry out, and my feelings around it, were interwoven and also wholly separate.
My sister's decision sparked a deeper question within myself that I needed to explore once and for all, and yes my findings absolutely changed my life. I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone on this documentary journey. I hope that you are able to see the film and find some inspiration for yourself, that's the ultimate goal.
TL: What would you say to those who are going through their own journey of identity exploration while balancing loyalty to family and culture?
BTB: The balancing act of loyalty to self alongside loyalty to family and culture is a worthwhile juggle. It's not cut and dry, but neither is any good movie or book. First and foremost, don't give up or beat yourself up when things get tough, confusing, and dark. Light is concealed, and only revealed when a person goes looking. So congratulations on taking the journey & pushing to balance!
Secondly, you don't have to be like your family or culture to be part of both! It's all about unity, not uniformity. We're not all meant to be the same, and in Judaism there's a beautiful way to look at it: we're each a letter in the Torah. We are each a letter that constitutes the totality of our tradition, so your job is to find your letter.
Don't give up, have fun, and find people who are patient and loving and equally truthful with you. A good teacher isn't one that ignores the tough questions, and you should never feel ashamed or be made to feel silly or rebellious for having all the questions. That's what I really appreciate about my journey and my tradition: asking questions is central to the process.
So ask bold and big questions, fight for truth, and find the people who really hold the space for all of you despite your differences. Oh, and you're beautiful and worthwhile in your uniqueness! Don't ever forget that!
TL: You note that before you started this documentary, you were simultaneously confused about the truths around intermarriage. During filming, traveling, and talking to a variety of people, what did you learn about intermarriage that you didn’t know before?
Ooooh yes, there is such a dynamic and layered conversation around interfaith marriage out there. I read books, I spoke to intermarried couples and experts, I sat down with sociologists and religious experts, I met with clergy from various religions, and of course I interviewed Rabbis and thought leaders from all denominations of Judaism.
What I learned (that initially weighed heavy) is just how many ways one can be a Jew! We're not all the same. That was equally troubling because it meant that the highway to my way wasn't going to be so clear. In that mess was the magic of learning a little of everything, while simultaneously listening to my own inner compass. Sometimes I'd learn something new and think "hmm, that's interesting, but that's not me."
The more I practiced listening closely and impartially, and then running the information through my own discernment, I got better and better at determining whether something or someone resonated. (Bonus points came when something felt “not me” but I uncovered that it was actually resistance to growth, and later realized it was so me, but I was scared).
So this stuff is layered, and best navigated with great teachers and mentors. There's no harm in not resonating with an aspect of your culture/religion, I don't get along with everyone in my family and that's OK. That doesn't mean I don't have love and respect, it might mean that I don't seek them out for advice nor spend a lot of time with them, and that's OK!
At the end of the day, I found that at the heart of the interfaith conversation was a lot of love and also a lot of fear, and both were integral to my journey. The question I would ask anyone out there struggling with interfaith (from within a relationship or from the outside looking in) is to check where are you coming from? And how can you have a more loving conversation around your fears? While I may not choose to intermarry myself, that doesn't mean I don't have love for my fellow man — love enough to engage in conversation & find a place of mutual respect and understanding. That's key, for all "sides."
"Ask bold and big questions, fight for truth, and find the people who really hold the space for all of you despite your differences."
TL: What have been the biggest surprises making this film?
BTB: How long it would actually take to make this thing! PHEW! What a journey, from filming to experiencing a major twist that took filming an additional year longer, to editing (and editing some more). We are only just now at the tail end of the editing, gearing up to get the film out to the world, and I never thought I had this level of commitment and energy. It's like being pregnant for 5 years, I'm ready to give birth!
TL: How have making this documentary and learning about intermarriage and your identity trickled into your post-documentary life? In what ways does your life feel different, if at all?
BTB: I have become hugely involved in the identity conversation in the Jewish world, and in the content creation world. I spent much of this past year touring Israel and the United States speaking to groups & even at the Israeli President’s residence on behalf of the film and content creation. I also spent much of the rest of the year creating content for global influencers, all of whom share mindful and wellness-centric wisdom with the masses.
My own journey deeply colored my ability to co-create with these epic influencers, helping them harness their story and shape in a way that was truly accessible & moving. I also found my soulmate and got married, which I don't believe would have happened in the same way had I not gone on my documentary journey.
Post documentary life often comments on my documentary life, as I recall and reference moments of my journey that really shaped me, helping me stand on solid ground to make the bold choices and decisions of today!
TL: You are a “conscious content creator.” What does this mean and how can others create content that is meaningful and impactful?
I can start off by sharing what a conscious content creator is not — and that's a person or brand creating stuff for the sake of views & to serve the ego alone. We're in a world of endless clicks, likes, and scroll-through content that doesn't double click deeper into the depths of life.
As a conscious creator, my passions revolve around making media that really matters, that is shareable because it moves the heart and soul, provoking deeper thought & reflection & elevating the lives of the viewers in even a small way. It’s about checking myself as the creative, and making sure I pick projects I deeply care about & can pour myself into.
I am currently developing a benchmark for ethically sourced content, so that creators and consumers alike can assess whether what they're consuming or creating is actually conscious and ethical. Why does this matter? What if I told you that what you watch directly affects who you are & your wellbeing? You are what you eat, but in the content-sorta way. What you consume through your eyes affects your mind, heart, and soul...I think it's extremely important to be mindful of what we're putting in front of your eyes.
TL: Because we’re a small press, we have to ask: What’s the one book you always recommend to people?
BTB: Oooof, just one? I'm a huge fan of books, I could get lost in a sea of (fiction & non fiction) books, so this is TOUGH. But since we've been on this conscious content bender, and because my Mom sent me off to LA with this book 12 years ago, I’d have to say A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I love a good paradigm shift. If you want more, don't hesitate to connect on social @beckytbordo.
Thanks, Becky, for sharing your mixed experience with us!
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