I don’t see that my Persian identity ever has to stop for my Jewish identity to start.
“Hillel has really made my college experience at UCLA, really special even though we’ve been in quarantine. I’ve gotten really involved in the Hillel clubs like Bruins for Israel, I attend the Hillel events, go to Hillel once a week to get Shabbat dinner. I feel like Hillel has been my only normal part of my UCLA experience during the pandemic. Hillel has provided me with that connection that really grounds me and helps me when the world has so many uncertainties and craziness and hate. I’m so grateful to have Hillel as a part of my college and quarantine experience.
“And getting involved in Hillel International has been a really great way to go beyond my campus Hillel community and be a part of the global Hillel community. As one of the ‘Hillel at Homies,’ I meet with other students to discuss different Hillel at Home events. We put on really cool events with a range of different speakers from TikTok stars to college professors. I’m in charge of programming that promotes Mizrahi and Sephardic representation.
“There is a misconception that all Jews are white and there’s a lot of ashkenormativity within the U.S. Jewish community. And highlighting Mizrahi Heritage Month or having a Norooz (Persian New Year) event brings awareness to the rich culture of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews.
“I don’t see that my Persian identity ever has to stop for my Jewish identity to start. Iranian Jews have been in Iran since 586 BCE, so the Iranian and Iraqi diaspora are the most historic diaspora of the Jews. My family has been in Iran longer than we’ve been in Israel and longer than we’ve been in the U.S.
“I love my rich Persian and Jewish culture. It’s something that I really hope doesn’t just stay in this generation, but is carried on L’dor V’dor — from generation to generation.” — Chloe Levian, University of California, Los Angeles