By Elizabeth Bendycki
I've never really had to put much effort into meeting other Jewish kids. Whether through school, the B'nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO), Jewish day camp or religious school, I was surrounded by people and activities that reaffirmed my Jewish identity. Being Jewish meant that I fit in, I was comfortable, I was respected, and I was understood.
Even at my high school, which is only 15-20% Jewish, the sensitivity and support accorded my faith are phenomenal. Teachers know when the major Jewish holidays are, and they respect my need for an extra day to complete an assignment due around that holiday. There is always matzah for lunch during Passover, and my classmates enjoy learning about Jewish traditions, so I never feel as if I am forgotten.
I expect this sense of comfort will change next year when I attend the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. There, I won't be able to talk about Yom Kippur and expect everyone to understand what I'm saying. Most likely, nobody will laugh at my Jewish-themed jokes, and when I explain the rules of kashrut, I will be met with blank stares. Although UVA is 10% Jewish (about 1200 Jewish undergraduates and about 700 graduate students populate the campus), it is likely that one of my roommates or classmates will never have met a Jew before.
How will I continue to feel "Jewish” in this unfamiliar world?
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