Jamie Rodney is one of the JC's regular student bloggers for 2017-18. He is studying English at St Andrews University.
"Well, the way you have to understand it," my friend said, in his typical, politically incorrect way. "Jamie only moonlights as a Jew."
My response to him was both an obscenity and an instruction, but, given a chance to consider what he'd said, I realised he might have a point. While St Andrews has a sizeable enough Jewish population, a fairly active Jewish society, and even (bizarrely, given it's on the East Coast of Fife rather than the USA), a Jewish fraternity, I have a grand total of one Jewish friend at university, and our relationship isn't exactly based around saying brachas together.
If asked to explain this, I think I could manage it glibly enough (I'm too antisocial to join a Jewish society, and the fact I don't like drinking or splashing cash rules out any frat, Jewish or otherwise.) But this article isn't an attempt to self-justify. Instead, I'm trying to explore my experiences as a (proudly) Jewish student, for whom Judaism has become an increasingly less important part of University life.
First of all, there's the guilt (see, told you I was Jewish.) I come from the reform shul, and I'm about as secular as they come, so I don't exactly get visions of fire and brimstone every time I forget to keep the shabbos, but there's always that constant, nagging doubt at the back of my mind about straying away from the righteous path.
And alongside fearing the judgement of G-d, there's also rather less abstract concerns, like the shoe-shuffling awkwardness when my parents ask how often I go to JSoc events, and the rather more intense feelings of discomfort when I think about what other family members might think of me. My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. To say the fact that I've not been able to maintain in the face of university pressure what they kept alive in the face of the greatest evil in history is a source of shame is a huge understatement.
But there's more to it than that. In the absence of religious outlets for my Judaism, I rely on virtual, political ones. At any given time, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are likely to be full of posts about Israel, and Zionism, and how Jews are portrayed in UK political discourse. I sometimes forget the precise words of the prayer for eating bread, but I can explain with laser-like precision the difference between Trotskyist and Stalinist antisemitism. I'm not sure what any of that says about me, but there it is.
I'm sure those two things are related. I'm reasonably sure that my eagerness to defend a community I feel increasingly disconnected from stems partly from guilt at that disconnect. Maybe if I had more Jewish friends, I'd feel less of a need to broadcast my religious identity over social media.
I wish I could give you a better answer to this. But it seems like I only moonlight as an insightful writer.