Finding my Jewish identity was the biggest discovery of my life.



June 3, 2021

“Until 2019, I had no ties with Hillel or to the Jewish community. But, then through a friend, I got to know what the biggest discovery of my life would be: finding Hillel and my Jewish identity.

“I’ve really connected to Judaism through music. I play the guitar, drums, and trumpet and so music is something I really love. My first time at Hillel, everyone was singing Salaam. I thought it was a very nice song, but I didn’t know how to sing it or play it. Nowadays, I probably know more music and songs than my other Jewish friends.

“Since being introduced to Hillel, I have been to Israel twice. First, with Birthright and then with Onward Israel. During Onward, I did my bar mitzvah at the Kotel. It was my favorite experience during my time in Israel and probably of my life. To prepare, I took classes and practiced, but when it finally happened, it was like a dream come true. All of the Onward participants were there; it was almost 100 people from Brazil and Argentina. To me, this was the last thing that was missing in my Jewish identity — the bar mitzvah. I saw all my Jewish friends who had bar mitzvahs and I knew I needed mine too. It was one of those stories that I’ll talk to my children and grandchildren about. It was a dream for me.

“My favorite thing about being on the Hillel International Student Cabinet was meeting people and seeing that, through all of our differences, we all have similarities. I’ve gotten to meet Jews from places other than Brazil: Americans, Canadians, Ukrainians…Music is a great example of what we have in common. We get to see everything that makes us different and everything that makes us the same. To share those experiences in the Jewish community was the best part for me.” — Flávio Valle, Getulio Vargas Foundation Rio de Janeiro

As told to Brianna Kovit, writer in the Hillel International Writers Program.