Noah Libson has just started his first year at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is reading English Literature. He is one of the finalists in our search for a new student blogger for the JC:
Some people would call my adolescence sheltered but I prefer to think of it as ‘special.’ By this, I am talking about the fact that I’m 19 years old, about to start university and have no non-Jewish friends to speak of. To many, this may sound weird and possibly a teeny bit racist, even though it is completely accidental (and also possibly the fault of my parents?).
I have always been outgoing and sociable, but seven years at a Jewish school and 10 years involvement with a Jewish youth movement mean that my social circles have been limited to those of the faith. My decision to take a gap year after I finished school may have been an opportunity to explore the wider world outside my corner of north London, but instead I decided to take a job working for my father (the stereotype makes me cringe as well) and spend five months in Israel with my youth movement.
However, all good things must come to an end, and the bubble is about to burst - I have just begun my degree at Goldsmiths. So small is the Jewish population at Goldsmiths that the incoming President of the Jsoc asked me to come onto the committee before I had even started, to ensure that we had the minimum three committee members required by the university for a society to exist.
I must confess to being nervous about this imminent change. Not only am I apprehensive about writing my first essay - the inevitable downside of having been out of formal education for a year - but Goldsmiths has a reputation, not unlike other London universities, for a very left wing student body that is, by and large, against Israel.
Issues of antisemitism have cropped up and I worry that, especially initially, a huge part of my student experience will comprise of defending my decision to take a gap year in Israel, attempting to explain misunderstandings and stereotypes about Jews and feeling very alone whilst doing so.
Nevertheless, despite these concerns, I do believe that breaking away from my comfort zone will be incredibly formative. In addition to uncomfortable encounters, I’m confident that I will meet people who won’t probe me with any uncomfortable questions and will just be interested to learn about Jews and Judaism in the same way as I am keen to learn about other cultures. My visions about inviting friends who have never met Jews before to a full family Friday night dinner are just too good to never happen.
I am a fish leaving his pond to go completely out of water. But I am really excited and hopeful that I will find a whole new positive environment as a student that I will enjoy and learn from, knowing that I have the security of the pond to slip back into every now and then.