Like the Maccabees, Vassar’s Jewish Community is Small But Mighty

My life began in the tight embrace of the Jewish Theological Seminary where my dad was undergoing rabbinical ordination and continued in the tighter squeeze of the approximate 100,000 Jews residing in the Greater Baltimore area. My senior year of high school, after attending a Jewish day school for nine years, spending seven summers at a Jewish summer camp, dutifully sitting through shul every Shabbat, keeping kosher and kosher for Passover and a modified version of Shomer Shabbat, I finally felt that my Jewish experiences had thoroughly maxed out. When it came time to compile a list of schools I was interested in applying to, I decided to prioritize every other factor that goes into the college decision making process over Jewish community. I didn’t visit Hillels when I toured campuses; I didn’t take time to meet with Jewish students; I didn’t email the university rabbi.

I chose Vassar because I loved the student body, their strong liberal politics and sense of individuality evident from just one campus visit, and because I loved the campus, its stretches of brick buildings and endlessly blossoming flowers. I didn’t anticipate that the Jewish community there would become the most supportive and important group of people to me on campus. Over the past year, as I watched article after article roll off the press and into the laps of alumni and parents, I was frustrated. Articles that described Vassar’s campus as an anti-Semitic hotbed entirely ignored my converse experience with the vibrancy of our Jewish community. Every week I’d been davening, eating Shabbat dinner, making havdalah, and fully immersing myself in the plethora of ways to live Jewishly at Vassar.

I love Vassar’s Jewish community. We are, much like the Maccabees, small but mighty. If websites like The Algemeiner stopped to talk to the students they were writing about, I think they’d find a very different story from the one they want to tell. My Jewish experience at Vassar has been wonderful; it’s enabled me to be active and thoughtful in my Judaism, to practice it in an extremely close community, and to love it as I never have before.

This story "Like the Maccabees, Vassar’s Jewish Community is Small But Mighty" was written by Josh Schwartz.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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