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We need to be proud of who we are

I will continue to stick my principles, on Judaism and Israel, writes Orli West

    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.

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