I was raised in Fair Lawn, New Jersey with the knowledge that I was Jewish, but with a limited understanding of what that meant and its consequences. My father, a history buff, would often speak about World War II, but even then, he did not mention the impact being Jewish in the Soviet Union had on our family. I never received any formal Jewish education and my experience with attending shul was limited to supporting my friends at their bar mitzvah ceremonies.

When I arrived at Brandeis University I was curious about the Jewish community and wanted to explore it, but I never quite felt Jewish enough to belong in the spaces of formally educated Jewish students. It wasn’t until I left the United States to study abroad that I began to view my life through a Jewish lens.

For my junior year of university, I spent twelve months studying in Italy, Russia, and the Netherlands. During that extended period of time, I began to feel isolated, separated from other Jewish people, and realized how important my Jewish identity really was to me. When I returned to Brandeis for my senior year I made it my goal to find out how I could further explore this aspect of my life.

MEOR Maimonides was the first program I joined upon my return to campus. The course encouraged us to engage in conversations, tell stories, and generate thoughtful discussions. When I realized that the values and lessons being taught in the classes were already in line with the beliefs I inherited from my family or inherently held from my own life experiences, I felt empowered and began forming a connection with Judaism.

During my last semester, I participated in MEOR’s women’s programming to continue my individual learning while cultivating relationships with like-minded women and building a supportive community for myself.

After graduation I went on MEOR Israel, which was a holistic opportunity to gain exposure to formal Jewish learning while simultaneously connecting to Israel physically, spiritually, historically, culturally, and emotionally. This was an incredible experience that could only be followed by more time in Israel. I extended my stay and spent the summer in Israel discovering what the country means to me as an individual and a Jew, as well as my responsibilities to the country and to myself.

I will be returning to Brandeis in the fall of 2016 to pursue my master’s degree in Comparative Humanities.

Class of 2016 BA in Global Studies