Orli West is just going into her second year at Birmingham University where she is studying Education. She is one of the finalists in our search for a new student blogger for the JC:
At 11, a Jewish friend called me a “Jewy Jew” because I didn’t have a Christmas tree, and wouldn’t eat a pork sausage. At 16, I was ridiculed for not going to parties on a Friday night. But when I was 18 and went to university, I was suddenly forced to defend my religion and my country to those who had never encountered a Jew nor spoken to a Zionist.
Admittedly, it was odd trading in my Essex Jewish bubble for a Midlands university where I had countless interactions that began with “oh, I’ve never met a Jew”. Though I grew up being taught that one day I may have the responsibility of shaping someone’s entire view of my religion, I never truly thought I would. But here I was, answering questions that ranged from Shomer Negiah and Brit Milah to settlements and Palestinian human rights.
I then realised that now more than ever, in a time of increasing antisemitism and anti-Zionism, I had to be proud of who I was. So when I refused a place on my university’s exclusive semester exchange programme, I knew this was my moment to advocate. My reason for refusing? I had been placed in a country with shocking levels of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. My tutor’s response? “It’s okay; you might just have to hide your religion and not show your support of Israel”.
I am proud that I continue to stick to my principles, and renouncing Judaism or Israel does not comply with that. We’ve all had a moment where we can choose to stand by our morals or abandon them. And now is our time to stand by what we believe in; to be proud of who we are, even when the rest of the world tells us we should be ashamed.