WHY DID YOU PICK YOUR COLLEGE MAJOR? AND WHAT CAN IT TELL YOU ABOUT YOUR JEWISH IDENTITY?

March 20, 2015

       In college, I was a History and Religion double major. If you asked me why all those years ago, I would answer in the following way. "I'm a History major because I really like learning about History and I enjoy the challenge of learning how to think more critically through my study of History.”  Regarding my Religion Studies major, I would answer in this way.  “I’m a religion major because I really like learning about Religion.”

       Pretty straightforward, right!? When we choose our majors or our activities on campus, we choose them because we like them. No apologies necessary! Nevertheless, this is not the case when many college students at UD talk about their Judaism.  When I hear students describe their Jewish identity, or their reasons for being Jewish, I often hear many qualifying statements. What an interesting phenomenon!

       Never, in my four years of college, if asked about my major, would I have answered, “Well I’m a History major, but don’t worry, I’m not, like, THAT Historically oriented.” Yet when I hear students on campus talk about their Judaism, so many say “Well I go to Hillel, but I’m not, like, THAT ‘Jewy’ or THAT religious.”

       What would happen if we, as Jewish people, worked towards finding the positive reasons for our Jewish identities unabashedly? What if we felt equally authentic in our Judaism by reading Amos Oz, or Bialik or Amichai in a coffee shop as we did going to services? Or just as authentically Jewish spending time with our friends and debating the meaning of life over a slice of pizza as we did sitting down at a Passover seder?

       What would your “elevator pitch” about your  Jewish identity look like if you took out all of the qualifying statements? What if you described your Jewish identity in the same way that you described your college major? I, personally, would love to hear that statement, and I have a feeling it would be a statement that would feel good to make!

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