My experiences were the tip of the iceberg; I had just as much learning to do as everyone else.
“As a high school freshman, I stepped into leadership for the first time through BBYO. My passion for grassroots organizing and teen initiative inspired me to run for BBYO’s International Board, and I started in February 2020 as the international treasurer. With this position, I was given the platform to take action on causes I’m passionate about. In early June, I began leading BBYO’s racial justice education efforts. Against a national and increasingly global backdrop of discussions about racial understanding, it felt like people were finally starting to value the importance of sensitivity and inclusion. Being a Jew of Color, this work felt deeply personal.
“Growing up, the fact that I was both Asian and Jewish did not resonate with those around me: On my first day of middle school, my math teacher marked me absent because ‘my name didn’t match my face.’ When I told my gym teacher I would be absent from school for the Jewish high holidays, he chuckled and said, ‘I guess you can never tell these days.’ People tried to connect visual pictures with existing known paradigms, which resulted in misunderstandings and misconceptions of how I identified.
“It wasn’t until joining BBYO in 8th grade that I was able to find a community that both acknowledged and celebrated me. Here I could define my complex identity, not through my appearance, but through my actions. Through my leadership, I was able to convince peers and alumni that systemic racism isn’t a political issue, but a human rights issue. I’m proud to have created a comfortable and productive learning space for young adults and have learned so much myself about making tangible steps towards a more inclusive community. Most importantly, this opportunity helped me realize that my experiences were the tip of the iceberg; I had just as much learning to do as everyone else.” — Emma Rosman, Virginia Tech ‘25
Emma Rosman is a 2021 recipient of the Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship from Hillel International. Learn more about Hillel scholarships for Jewish students.