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Oct 30 2017
by Rachel Malaga

5 Ways to Maintain Jewish Identity in College

By Rachel Malaga - Oct 30 2017
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Judaism has been a huge part of my life since I was young. It became even more important to me during high school due to my involvement in teen programs and traveling to Israel. I grew up in an area where being Jewish was not something that was hard. There were plenty of local synagogues, and I never had school on a Jewish holiday. These experiences made Jewish life something I needed in a college. Choosing a college meant looking at all aspects of the school, including Jewish life. My primary concern with my current school before I committed was the lack of Jewish life. Here are five ways I have still been able to find ways to express my Judaism despite the small Jewish community.

1. Join My Hillel


Before I committed to my college, I had a 30-minute phone call with the leader of Hillel on-campus, a Jewish group found at most universities. She assured me that there would be plenty of Jewish opportunities on campus. I felt much more comfortable with my decision when I found this out.

2. Meet Other Jews on Campus


It was also exciting to me to know that four other people in my program were Jewish and wanted to maintain their Jewish identity in college. Together we went to the first Hillel event, only to be disappointed in the fact that there were fewer than 30 people from 3 different campuses present. With this in mind, I have begun to discover new ways to maintain my Jewish identity at a college with very few Jewish students.

3. Utilize Social Media


Before I even got to campus, I was in touch with other Jewish students at my school, giving me a sense of community before I even arrived. These people have become close friends, and are a great resource for me when trying to find local services to attend. Having friends who are just as committed to their Judaism helped me do the same.

4. Find Local Synagogues and Jewish Community Centers


I also found it helpful to contact local Jewish organizations regarding local synagogues that I could attend. A synagogue near my campus offers free high-holiday services to students. Having this resource made me feel much more at ease that I would still be able to practice my Judaism away from home. Some of these organizations send out newsletters, which allows me to find other Jewish events to attend.

5. Wear Your Judaism Proudly


Finally, I decided to represent my Judaism through jewelry and decorations. I have a hamsa and a poster of Jerusalem hanging in my dorm room. I often wear a Star of David necklace, and I am very vocal about my love of my religion. My friends often poke fun at me whenever I mention my Judaism, but I appreciate that they notice how important it is to me.

Oddly, being away from a large Jewish community has made me feel more connected to my Judaism. I have to work to maintain my Jewish identity, but I realized that Jews are everywhere and it is always possible to find as little or as much Judaism as you want.

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay

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Rachel Malaga - University of Utah

Rachel is a Musical Theatre major at the University of Utah. She loves cats, knitting, and naps, and is often told she has the soul of an old woman. She hopes to one day live with many cats in New York City! Instagram: @rachelmalaga

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