Growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, my parents always emphasized the importance of Jewish pride. “Jewish” was something that we simply were, and even without a strong religious presence in our household, the identity was a state of being. What with JCC nursery school, followed by years of obligatory Hebrew school and Bat Mitzvah preparation, I was surprised that during a tough year in my mid-teens, the first thing to go was our synagogue membership. I remember feeling extremely confused because this seemed to contradict the values with which I had been raised. My parents had always highlighted the centrality and importance of being part of a community where we were not “other,” and yet, here I was with no real connection to my Jewish community. I was promised I would not miss the synagogue, what with my multitude of Jewish friends, but even they dwindled as time marched on. Throughout high school, I floated further and further from a Jewish understanding, and the moment I arrived at the University of Maryland, I knew I had to find my way back.

The best first step I ever could have hoped to take was joining Kol Sasson, one of UMD’s three Jewish a cappella groups. This threw me, full-force, back into the community I had missed so much. Our group included a wide range of Jewish upbringings and identities, and we came together multiple time a week to sing arrangements in both Hebrew and English. We ate Shabbat meals together, traveled to different Jewish communities, and formed fun and exciting friendships based upon a common love of music and heritage. My time in the group was everything I could have asked for, and in retrospect, set the stage perfectly for my journey with MEOR.

My entrance into the MEOR scene is a story that a large number of students fondly share. Rabbi Koretzky’s enthusiastic encouragement led to my involvement with MEOR Birthright, MEOR Israel, MEOR Vision, the MEOR Maimonides courses, and all types and sources of Jewish learning, insight, and inspiration. This summer, my experience was brought full-circle with the opportunity to staff a MEOR Birthright trip alongside those whom had introduced me to Israel years before.

MEOR has provided me with the ultimate Jewish community. I’ve learned that the role Judaism has played in my past is not the same role it must play in my future, and I am now empowered to create that role. MEOR taught me about my Jewish identity, helped me find my Jewish voice, and set the course for me to live a full and connected Jewish life.

Class of 2014 BA in Theater