“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.
“My family observes all the major Jewish holidays. I can still see my relatives crowding in my grandma’s kitchen to enjoy Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover. I can even smell her matzo ball soup simmering in her large red pot. Judaism is an aspect of my life that often brings my family together, but it has not always been easy.
“Being the only Black Jew in the room has often made me feel isolated, not represented, and it has made me question my place in the Jewish community. In first grade, I started attending Hebrew school; in seventh grade, I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah; and in high school, I began working with Jewish organizations.
“It was only then, when I started getting involved with those groups, that I have found more Jews who look like me. When I came across a fellowship for Jews of Color, I finally found a community where I could talk about shared experiences. I continued to find more young Jews of Color through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where I worked with other Reform Jews to get people registered to vote in the 2020 election, and through the Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM), where I serve on the Executive Board as the Director of Equity and Inclusion.
“Within these organizations, I have found a diverse group of Jews whom I can learn from and an amazing community of people who are motivated and passionate about the work they do. And by being a part of these communities, I have felt encouraged to embrace myself — no matter what Jewish space I occupy. After all these years, I feel so lucky now to say I am proud to be Jewish.” – Elijah Harris, Brown University ‘26
Elijah Harris is a 2022 recipient of the Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship from Hillel International. Learn more about Hillel scholarships for Jewish students and apply now.