“In February, I volunteered at ‘Spread Cream Cheese, Not Hate’, a campus event organized by Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach to raise awareness about antisemitism and other forms of hate. Alongside Hillel students and professionals, I asked members of our community to sign a pledge to combat antisemitism, and in return, gave out fresh bagels and cream cheese.
I am Jewish, queer, and Mexican. So often, trying to hold all three of these identities at once is challenging. But I didn’t have to try when I went on Birthright Israel with Santa Barbara Hillel. I was able to embrace and celebrate every part of myself.
Syracuse Hillel has been part of my family for more than 30 years. When I received my college acceptance letter, I was ready to make them proud.
There’s a running joke in my family: We breed oranges because we bleed orange. The mascot of Syracuse University — where my mom, uncle, and brother all went to college — is an orange named Otto. Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to go to Syracuse University.
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.
When I started college in 2020, social isolation and Zoom calls were the norm. Finding community seemed impossible. Then, I learned about Koach, an egalitarian, Conservative-style minyan and community for students at Columbia/Barnard Hillel.
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.
I was raised by my mom who is a strong Jewish woman, and her influence helped me become who I am today. She is the reason why I’m so connected to my Judaism. She made me feel empowered as a woman and fall even more in love with Judaism.
Even if they didn’t know who I was or even if my English was awful, they were the most welcoming people ever.
I was born in Mexico City into a Jewish family that included my parents and grandparents. For my entire life, I’ve had a Jewish support system in Mexico, not only with my family, but with the Jewish community there.
But the beauty of Hillel is that everyone is welcome, no matter how “Jewish” they feel. Through my experiences, I realized that Judaism was a lot more relatable than what I learned in Hebrew school. In general, I started to feel more proud and more excited to be Jewish.
There are definitely moments within the LGBTQ community where I don’t feel accepted as Jewish, and within the Jewish community where I don’t feel accepted as queer. But what I think is really special about Hillel’s Nice Jewish Queers (NJQ), is that at the same time I’m really able to be accepted as both.