My Double Major in Communications and Jewish Life
Five years ago – amidst AP classes, piano lessons, soccer games, and responsibilities as my temple’s youth group president – I began the college search process. My “wish list” was simple: big school in a big city with a large Jewish population. I was undecided about my academic desires, but I knew I needed a sizeable Jewish community on campus to feed my passion for Jewish life.
In the fall of 2011, I was a first-year student at a big school in a big city with a large Jewish population. This setting was my playground for academic adventure and professional development, as well as the reason for a whole new wardrobe. This Texas girl was not yet properly outfitted for the impending New England winter. Although the winter was not as harsh as had been anticipated, I was blindsided by my lack of connection to the Jewish community.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the community, and there wasn’t anything wrong with me. Rather, I needed to figure out the answer to this question: “How am I going to be Jewish for the next four years?”
As a Reform Jewish teen who had been involved with my synagogue, Reform Jewish summer camps, and NFTY, the Reform Jewish youth movement, for my entire life, I liked identifying the common threads that link modern Jewish life to our past and vice versa, and I knew how to grapple with Jewish values. Although these values never defined for me how to be Jewish, they did help me to live an intentionally Jewish life.
And there was my answer: I did not want simply to be Jewish on campus; I wanted to live a Jewish life on campus, molding my actions – both inside and outside the classroom – on my belief in the importance of k'hilah (community), nilmad v’na’aseh (choice through knowledge), and tikkun olam (repairing the world).
I have always strived to build an inclusive community in any setting in which I find myself, and I have continued this practice in college. Whether participating in a small discussion section as part of a political science lecture, spending time with my sorority sisters, or leading a campus tour for 20 prospective students (while walking backwards), I believe it is my duty not to repeat behaviors of the past, when we were strangers in the land of Egypt and ostracized by others countless times. Making people feel included is an essential Jewish value, and I try to ensure that I welcome everyone I meet with open arms.
Until college, I had only heard of nilmad v’na’aseh in the Reform Jewish context of creating holy experiences for myself by choosing Jewish practices that are meaningful to me. When I entered the classroom, I realized immediately that this value could be applied to my academic exploration as well. With this realization as a backdrop, I have been able to debate and learn from my professors and peers, melding scholarly readings together with diverse opinions to tease out my own views. The Jewish value of nilmad v’na’aseh has helped me soak up as much knowledge as possible and make the most of my undergraduate career.
Because community service is now commonplace on college campuses across the country, I have been able to continue the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam seamlessly as an undergraduate.
Last August, I served as an upperclassman mentor during the First Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), welcoming the first-years to campus and working with a group that tackled environmental issues in Boston with hands-on social action projects. We explored the Boston Nature Center and Higher Ground Farm, an urban farm on the roof of the Boston Design Center located in the Seaport District. Our small acts to repair the world helped supply food to hundreds of Boston families each season.
My college years have been a time for me to define who I am as a student, a leader, a friend, and a Jew. Even though my time of living a Jewish life on campus will come to an end in May, the lessons I have learned will help me transition into my unknown post-graduate life with a strong sense of stability and self-identity, as well as a whole lot of chutzpah.
Liza Moskowitz, a senior at Boston University, will graduate this spring with a B.S. in Mass Communication. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX, and is a proud alumnae of URJ Greene Family Camp, URJ Kutz Camp, and NFTY, having traveled with NFTY in Israel and served as NFTY-TOR Regional President and NFTY North American Programming Vice President. Liza is the Kutz@50 Event Coordinator, planning the 50th summer celebration that will be held on July 4, 2015.