At UCLA, Jewish Life Is What You Make of It

We certainly have to take steps to defend our identity against the BDS activism that percolates across many college campuses, but rather than hiding behind faces of nonchalance and indifference, our Jewish students work that much harder to connect with resources on campus to change the narrative.

As someone deaf in one ear, I was initially hesitant to explore our campus’ boisterous Hillel, but when I did, I was surprised — and pleased — to find a variety of introspective, spiritual services available to Jews of all creed and political affiliation. It’s these Jewish students who regularly get involved in community outreach events, baking challah for underprivileged Jews through Challah for Hunger, discussing the weekly Torah portion over delicious kosher cuisine through Parsha and Pizza, and spouting ruach through Chillel Coffeehouse. Plus, regular lectures with faculty in UCLA’s Israeli studies program and Holocaust survivors ensure none of our Jewish students forget what they’re here for, and Jewish Learning Fellowships are offered regularly throughout the year which concentrate more on the intellectual aspects of our rich history, artistry, and philosophy.

The influence of UCLA’s richly varied Jewish life truly made itself apparent to me at my sorority. At Theta Pi — UCLA’s chapter of the national Tri Delta (which finds its roots in Christian ideology) — I taught my sisters the story of Chanukah at our annual holiday party and found that all of them were eager to boast Dreidels and gelt in their Santafied selfies.

Even better, I connected with a girl I’d never known particularly well over our shared Judaism. I’d confided in her sheepishly that until I got involved, I’d thought I was the only Jewish girl in our sorority.

“Really?” she’d exclaimed. “Me too!”

And I never would have realized it — or all our campus’ Jewish life has to offer — had I simply accepted the public face of our university: an erroneous, inaccurate one perpetuated by the Algemeiner. To put it simply, any aspect of life is what you make of it, and Judaism is no different.

This story "At UCLA, Jewish Life Is What You Make of It" was written by Alexandra Kukoff.

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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