“My dad is Jewish, and my mom is Filipino Catholic. Growing up, I felt pressured by my Jewish relatives to only focus on my Judaism and forget about the other parts of my identity. And I didn’t fit in with the Jewish kids in school, who went to temple regularly and spent their summers at Jewish sleepaway camps. I never became involved in Jewish activities because I didn’t think I could. I thought, ‘If my Jewish family members can’t accept my Jewish, Catholic and Filipino identities, how can I expect Jewish strangers to accept me?’
“Becoming active at Hillel for Utah taught me that I could become involved in Jewish life.
“At my first Hillel event, my childhood fears came back to me. What if these students know everything about being Jewish, and I know nothing? My extended Jewish family couldn’t even accept me, so how can a group of people I just met? But everyone made me feel comfortable and welcome, so I kept going back to Hillel. I’ve learned about Torah and Jewish culture. I’ve celebrated my first Shabbat and Purim. I’ve even participated in Good Deeds Day, an international day of volunteering, with my Hillel friends by collecting litter and weeding yards at a no-kill shelter in Utah.
“Nowadays, I accept my identities and express them in an open and proud way. Hillel helped me do that. I’m going into my sophomore year of college, and I have no shame. I’m proud to be Jewish.” — Ella Abramson, University of Utah