Family & Education

I worry about showing my faith on campus

JCoSS pupil Ella explains her concern about expressing their Jewish identity at university.


Growing up in north London, Judaism has always been key to my life: I attend a Jewish secondary school, have mostly Jewish friends, and take part in synagogue-based activities. As the situation in Israel remains tense, it is natural to question whether my Jewish upbringing will alter my chances in life? It's scary to think the answer may be yes.

I first thought about this after a lesson on CV writing; I was struck by the thought that my future employment prospects could be limited by the fact that all my work experience had occurred at my synagogue. The image of employers seeing this and immediately placing my application in the "no" pile began to plague my mind - although I eventually concluded that, as a proud Jew, I would not want to work for such a prejudiced person anyway.

I discussed this issue with friends from both faith and secular schools.

One friend from JCoSS said: "I know about anti- Zionism, but I haven't experienced it firsthand. As I live in a close-knit community and am surrounded by people holding pro-Israel views, I'm not afraid of the impact of being associated with Israel."

This certainly seems positive; it is vital for teenagers to feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings.

It is vital for teenagers to feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings

However, the same student added: "When surrounded by non-Jews, I've noticed that I don't openly say I'm Jewish and when people ask which part of London I live in, and I answer north, I do get a look. This is unsettling, but not to such a degree that I would change my future choices for it."

Another student offered a contrary opinion. "It would be demeaning and horrific to live on a campus where irrational hatred is expressed during anti-Israel protests," he said. "I would definitely choose a university with a large Jewish community over one without, and I would never consider somewhere where there are anti-Israel protests."

A student from a secular school said: "I don't think Judaism will affect me going to university. People I've met so far have been tolerant of my religion and I hope that at university I'll befriend similar people. If I found some weren't tolerant, I wouldn't associate myself with them."

Another attendee of a secular school told me: "Personally, I don't fear the future, because my school and the people I surround myself with are accepting. However, I can understand that often people are not as lucky as me and so association with Israel might affect future decisions."

Finally, a student at a Jewish school added: "As a Jew but also as a member of wider society, I do not fear for my future. I wouldn't want other people's political views to change my path."

Our future - and how comfortable we each feel in proclaiming our Judaism for all to hear - is a personal issue. How our upbringing will affect us remains to be seen.

The JC Podcast: Antisemitism on campus

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