Coming to campus as an observant Jewish student, I was immediately drawn to Hillel as the center of Jewish life at University of Maryland. I went to Hillel for kosher meals, for services, to meet friends, and to learn Torah. I’m also a lifelong basketball fan (go Sixers!), and was looking for a way to […]
My family is Mizrahi, meaning my Jewish ancestors lived in Western Asia and North Africa. I can trace my roots back to Bukhara, Persia, and Yemen.
By being a part of these communities, I have felt encouraged to embrace myself — no matter what Jewish space I occupy.
I am a bi-racial Jew: My mom is white and Jewish, and my dad is Black and a non-practicing Christian. My parents always told me how special I am to be part of two extraordinary groups of people, but I long believed I could only be one or the other. Over the years I have learned to become more comfortable coexisting in both identities.
For me, Judaism is warmth. It is the warmth of a mazel tov on a happy occasion. It is the warmth of far too much food at every social gathering. It is the warmth of traveling away from home to college and having a constant, reliable base in the campus Hillel. And it is the warmth of hearing “welcome home” the moment you step foot in Israel.
While I may be wearing a surgical mask while interacting with my community, the smile underneath has never faded.
Over past two years, I’ve learned what it feels like to leave your home and everything in it at the spur of the moment, not knowing when you will come back – something my immigrant parents went through in their own childhoods.
I’ve wanted to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ since I was a little kid. My parents were like, ‘You seem to know a lot of these answers, so you should try out. I did well enough on the test to get an audition for the ‘Jeopardy! National College Championship.’ And then from there, it was like a dream coming true.
Family recipes, passed down from generation to generation, bring me closer to my Persian roots.
Growing up, I thought my Jewish and Japanese identities conflicted. When I was in a Jewish setting, there never seemed to be any Japanese people, and when I was in a Japanese setting, there never seemed to be any Jewish people. I felt in-between worlds. Then, I learned about the power of intersectionality.
My mom is Catholic, and my dad is Jewish. They never pushed religion on me. My parents always said, ‘We don’t care what religion you choose to follow, but you have to come to terms with it yourself and make it your own.’ So, I did. I chose Judaism when I was 12 years old, and ever since then, I’ve tried to make it my own.
I came to college not expecting to be that Jewish. But, I realized your identity and your culture will follow you, and in my case, Judaism followed me. And no matter how I practice at any given time, I’m going to be Jewish and involved in Judaism.