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Jewish American Heritage Month Featuring Alum Deandra Binder

“The core values of Justice and seeking to learn more about justice, and bring kindness and serve to others lead me into the public allies world and in my role there I think I was able to learn more about myself and question a lot about myself, and that kind of brought me into who I am now.”  Deandra Binder 

2020 was a year that for many of us made us reflect on the way we were choosing to live life. For Deandra Binder, two-term Alum of Public Allies Arizona, 2020 at Pima Community College, helped her connect on a deeper level the way she was connecting with Judaism. She is currently a student of Communications and Media Studies at Arizona State University. Currently, she works in a gallery in Tucson where she helps with Social Media, and gallery organization. In her spare time she loves doing Yoga, hiking, hanging out with her dogs, her fiance, school and life. Also, she loves photography, especially film photography, which is her main passion.

Deandra was born and raised in New York, where she learned about Judaism. She was born from a Jewish father and Jewish convert mother, who converted when she married her father.

“In the East Coast it is a lot more apparent (Judaism) I think because there Orthodox Jews, there are conservative Jews. There is a much larger community and so that’s how I came into this world of Judaism and learned about it.”

In 2005, Deandra moved from New York to Tucson, Arizona. “I think my roots are more in the desert. I very much identify with the people here. It’s a different culture.”

While growing up, raised by her grandparents on her dad’s side, she was raised as a reform Jew. “We basically follow jewish traditions and its pretty modernized version. The congregation itself is really progressive, so men and women can sit together, they accept same sex marriage.” In Highschool, Deandra used to attend the BBYO, a Jewish Teen Group whose principals are justice, healing the world, and kindness to others. “I think that definitely had an impact on me growing up and kind of shaped my perspective of the world. Something that stuck with me as I grew up and became more spiritual.” 

Deandra’s Bat Mitzvah party, in the traditional "the horah" dance. Deandra is lifted in a chair as a sign of respect to her.

Even though Deandra leans more into spirituality, she follows some traditions that connect her with her roots. “I meet with a couple friends, and we do shabbat dinners on Friday nights, which has been our individual way to still follow traditions. I still like the idea of celebrating Shabbat with my friends. It is a good way to be together, you know, put the phones away and be around each other, and kind of practice the principles of justice, healing the world, and kindness to others.”

Besides Shabbat dinner with her friends, she likes Rosh Hashanah, the jewish new year which is celebrated in September. “I love the holiday, it is in my favorite transitionary season, and we get to eat apples and honey which symbolizes new year. I kind of like it as a restful day to start over”  

Team Service Project Park Cleanup at Cherry Ave Park

For Deandra, her term with Public Allies and Judaism reflect one another. “The diversity, the kindness and the friendship that comes with the jewish faith and my congregation as well. Where we were all welcome, we all had a safe place where we could go, and I feel like Public Allies mirror that as well.”

One of Deandra’s biggest takeaways with Public Allies and that it reflects a lot with her spiritual journey is that we are all learning and we always are.

“It’s always important to learn as much as you can because that is going to be what you can hold onto and always guide you through making decisions and that was a big takeaway with Public Allies. We are put into a lot of conversations where it feels really intimidating, and kind of scary. You’re kind of afraid to speak up, but as you get to know everyone you kind of get into that my opinion matters and we are all in the same place, and we are all learning as we go.”