“I grew up attending a conservative synagogue. After my bar mitzvah, I lost touch with Judaism and shortly after that is when I realized I was queer. I’m bisexual and it took a really long time to come to terms with that. But, coming to college I stepped into both identities at the same time. I got involved with Hillel before school even started and really reconnected with my Jewish identity, where it turned into a really important aspect of my daily life.
“Hillel has really drastically brought me back to Judaism as both a religious and culturally important aspect of my identity. And also at the same time, since it was my first time away from home I really got to step into my bisexuality as well. I think that a college campus is one of the most thriving places for queer life. At moments, there’s definitely some conflict between the two. 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.
“Nice Jewish Queers is a niche group within Hillel that really emphasizes the necessity of both queer and Jewish life on a college campus. We really create a safe space for queer and Jewish students by emphasizing that anything we do is both queer and Jewish normative. I’ve also had the opportunity to bring NJQ into mainstream Hillel life and host a rainbow Shabbat dinner that brought in over 100 people.
“I’ve tried to get involved in other queer life on campus, but it just never felt like it was the place for me. However, being able to step into the Hillel Jewish community and know that it has a place for me as a queer student is the biggest support that anybody could ask for. Knowing that this is my home and that anytime I need something I can fall back on Hillel is really special.
“At a Hillel event, an incoming student pulled me aside and told me that when he sees a bisexual Hillel president, it makes him feel like he can do anything at USC. That was the most heartwarming moment for me because it really made me feel like being openly bisexual is an inspiration in a leadership position. Knowing that I could be here for people going into college and that they could look up to me is absolutely incredible.
“The nature of this work is impactful. No matter what I’m doing, whether it’s planning a program or hanging out in the building with someone who is having a tough day, just being a good human being is the nature of being a leader within Hillel.” — Jacob Miller, University of Southern California
As told to Alexandra Goldberg, writer for the Hillel International Writers Program.