“I was in high school when I truly learned the importance of upholding Jewish traditions. Yom Kippur was approaching, and in my freshman year, it coincided with the day of my final exam for math class. My plan was to fast at school and take my test. My grandparents picked me up every day from school, and when I got into their car the day before my exam, somehow my grandpa was already onto me. As soon as I sat in the back seat he said, ‘I hope you're not going to school tomorrow.’ I rolled my eyes and told him what I planned to do, hoping he wouldn't lecture me all the way home. Instead, he told me about Sandy Koufax, who refused to play in Game 1 of the World Series in 1965 on Yom Kippur. My grandpa told me, ‘If he could do that, you can miss one test,’ and that was the end of the conversation. I was angry and frustrated with him, but I stayed home. I still remember the impact of that lesson every time I face a difficult choice related to my Judaism. Now that I'm older, I take pride in setting myself apart to practice Judaism. I don't see it as an inconvenience, but as an honor to be a part of a tradition that is thousands of years old. As a college student, I make an effort to seek out other Jewish people with whom to observe the High Holy days. It has really pushed me out of my comfort zone to attend synagogues that I've never been to before, and it reminds me that wherever there is a Jewish community, I have a safe place to be. Yom Kippur has become a very special time for repentance and gratitude for me as I step out of the flow of work and study for a moment of holiness.” — Eva Liebovitz, California Institute of the Arts
Eva Liebovitz is a recipient of the 2020 Hillel International Campus Leadership Award. Learn more about Hillel scholarships for Jewish students by visiting hillel.org/scholarships.