Student spotlight: Angelica

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Angelica is a medical student intercalating in Neuroscience.  

My Jewish heritage spans the diaspora- on my Chilean father's side, our roots extend back to Armenia and Moldova, then to Argentina and subsequently Chile. Meanwhile, my Australian and South African mother's side have origins in Prussia, creating a rich tapestry of family history. I have fond memories of my Dad’s funny Yiddish phrases picked up from his grandparents, and my Mum’s Ashkenazi recipes passed down from hers.   

My parents had a less formal Jewish upbringing, having grown up in cities with small Jewish communities and secular families, but have immersed us in cultural Jewish practices, for which I am very grateful.  In the UK, our family’s Jewish traditions have centred around traditional practices and festivals including lively Friday night dinners and high holy days. Our Friday night dinners are filled with lively discussion, enriched by the crossover of our cultural influences—Jewish, Latin, and Australian. Our family dynamics are warm, passionate, and intense, always with open debate of differing views.  

As a young child, I went to Sunday morning classes at the Synagogue called ‘Cheder’, where I learnt to read Hebrew, made Jewish friends, and learnt more about what it means to be Jewish. Each Jewish festival we participate in is connected to an ancient story about the Jews in the Torah. As a family, every year we have a Seder night during Passover, with our extended family reading the Passover book ‘Haggadah’ aloud altogether, re-enacting the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt using symbolism through foods on the Seder plate. A few weeks ago, we celebrated Chanukah, the festival of light, we reminisce on the destruction of the second temple, and the miracle of the oil in the synagogue’s Ner Tamid (Eternal light) lasting 8 days despite there only being enough oil for one. As a family we light the Menorah candles together each night and enjoy fried foods such as latkes and doughnuts.  

During my university years, I felt a stronger pull toward religious and academic side of Judaism, delving into learning more of the ancient teachings associated with Jewish law. I developed meaningful connections with more religious Jewish friends, engaging in discussions about Jewish values, family practices and women's religious learning. Meeting fellow jews for the first time always gives a sense of nostalgia, feeling an immediate connection with similarly intense, fiery personalities, lively debates, shared experiences, and family values. 

In current turbulent times, I feel my Jewish identity challenged, particularly in a time of conflict and loss of innocent life. The recent events evoke feelings of shock, shame, and guilt, prompting a reaffirmation of Jewish values such as “Pikuach Nefesh” - the preservation of all sacred human life. Balancing respect for others, tolerance, and embracing differences while maintaining our traditions and community is crucial. Amidst the polarized opinions within the global Jewish community, a pressure exists to conform to certain ideologies. I feel it is essential to remember that political stances are not religious commitments. I strive to openly express my Jewish identity whilst empowering other national and religious identities. Maintaining a separation of Jewish people, their rich cultural and religious practices with political values is invaluable both within our community to remain at peace with one another, and globally, to fight antisemitism.  

For me, being Jewish revolves around the strong bonds of family, tradition, and a sense of belonging. The depth of multiple cultural influences within my family brightens our traditional practices, constantly reminding me of the importance of respecting diversity, and embracing uniqueness within the global community.  

 

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