Being Jewish in College: It’s More Complicated Than They Think

I asked my friends what they feel has been most important to them as Jewish college students. A constant theme in their responses? Pro-Israel clubs, kosher food options, or fraternities and sororities are not what they cite as defining forces in their religious lives.

There is an assumption that the mere presence of Jewish organizations can provide a stable environment for Jewish students, but this fails to recognize the complexity of the community itself. Jewish organizations are already well established in many schools, but they often do not come across as welcoming all Jewish students.

During my time as a bit of a spiritual vagabond, I found solace in interactions with people who were also exploring faith in its various iterations. Conversations about God on dorm room floors at midnight became ephemeral synagogues where I could relate with others about how lost we were. Slowly I found myself more and more drawn to the interior world of the Jewish faith.

Jewish college students, whether Orthodox or questioning the foundations of every religious tenet (or both), have to go about creating themselves, as Jewish women always have, in the rich and liminal space of constant becoming. Like Lilith, many Jewish college students have left the realm of safety and convention for a brave and terrifying new world—but was it ever safe in those places where we could not speak our truths and challenge convention?

EDEN A. GORDON on the Lilith Blog.