My commitment to my Jewish identity was always strong, but took shape when I decided to leave my home in Uruguay to attend university in the United States. If I was going to go so far away from home, my mother strongly urged me to pick a school with a big Jewish community that could support and care for me. I chose the University of Miami (UM) for its rich Jewish life and its large, active Hillel.
From the day I walked onto campus, I signed up for every Hillel event and program available. Nourishing my Jewish self and letting it grow into a powerful part of my identity felt even more important as I adjusted to being in a different country and culture. I knew I could always find a place in the Jewish community. This comfort and joy also inspired me to take on leadership positions, both at UM Hillel and with the Hillel International Student Cabinet.
Since October 7th and the start of the Hamas-Israel War, I feel pain and grief daily, both on behalf of our global Jewish community, and more personally, in connection with my cousins and friends who live in Israel and are directly impacted by the war. While the President and administration at UM continue to be actively supportive of Jewish students, I have lost friendships over conversations related to Israel and antisemitism. I have also experienced backlash for my identity and opinions, and have had to hide aspects of my Jewish identity and connection to Israel in order to maintain my own safety.
In response, I speak up louder for my Judaism and my community. When I see pictures and videos on social media of people sharing their Jewish pride and owning their stars, it reminds me that I’m part of a global family that carries rich values and traditions that inspire my life. #OwnYourStar reminds me that I am a Jewish citizen of the world and that I have a responsibility to share my love of Judaism and the Jewish people with everyone I can.
With all of the pain and heartache of the past two months, it is a source of joy to light Hanukkah candles every night with my family and watch the small flames brighten the dark night. Those lights bring me hope that the Jewish people will continue to bring light to the world as we go through this moment of darkness.
#OwnYourStar is a Hillel International call to share visible Jewish pride on social media this Hanukkah. Learn more here!