NOVEMBER 29, 2018 – NAME: Laura Whitehill
CURRENTLY LIVING IN: Dublin, Ireland
ALMA MATERS: Deerfield Academy ‘12, Georgetown University ‘16, University College Dublin School of Medicine and Medical Science ‘21
JOB: Medical student
FAVORITE FOOD: Kettle cooked potato chips – Cape Cod chips, preferably.
FAVORITE MUSIC: One Direction
FAVORITE BOOKS: Harry Potter
FAVORITE MOVIES: “The Holiday”
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: I’m binging “The Great British Bake-Off” at the moment.
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION: Favorite place I’ve been by far was the Grand Canyon. Next on the list is South America.
FAVORITE JEWISH PERSON NOT IN YOUR FAMILY: First person that comes to mind is Julian Edelman, so go Pats!
BEST HANUKKAH GIFT: I remember as kids we got the eight-disk Harry Potter DVD set, and that was definitely a good Hanukkah.
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I went to Hebrew school at Congregation Shirat Hayam, went to Jewish camp, went to the JCC after school, kind of the whole shebang. We didn’t really go to temple that much, but we celebrated the big holidays with the family, and once we were all bat mitzvahed, kind of stopped going to temple, but still celebrated all the holidays. It definitely played a big part early on, because I went to preschool at the JCC, most of my friends were Jewish growing up, and obviously camp as well. It was a big part socially growing up, and after bat mitzvahs, it became less of a factor, just because I wasn’t going to the JCC anymore, wasn’t going to camp.
You went to boarding school at Deerfield Academy, and then Georgetown University, which is Jesuit. Were you able to keep up your Jewish life there?
There were a decent amount of Jews at Deerfield. I was involved in organizing the Passover Seder I think my junior and senior year, which had a pretty decent turnout. It was definitely the minority, but we still had a good crew. Somewhere at Georgetown, freshman year I went to the Seder they put on, and you just met people through different stuff that were Jewish, so you would go to different events that they were putting on. I feel like Georgetown probably had more stuff going on. Because they’re Jesuit, a lot of religious stuff was prevalent on campus … there was a cross in every classroom … but it included Judaism as well. We had to take religion classes, but I took one of them on Judaism in the modern world. Because it was Jesuit, there was almost more Judaism as well, not just Catholicism.
What role does Judaism play in your life now?
I think about it a lot. I’m not actively part of any temple, and probably don’t celebrate the Jewish holidays really – it’s kind of hard when you’re on your own. But I definitely think about being Jewish a decent amount. It just comes up, especially when I’m missing the holidays from being abroad. I feel like just being in Ireland, where I’m very much the minority Jew, if people are talking about Christmas, then I end up talking about Judaism, educating people. A lot of my friends here wouldn’t really know too many Jews. I feel more connected to it – I almost want to preserve the connection more because I’m isolated, because I missed out on the holidays, it makes me want to participate more in my own way. I definitely do want to keep Judaism in my life – I kind of didn’t realize this till college when I took this class on Judaism in the modern world – how much Judaism at least for me is more cultural, less religious. For me, that’s still really important, just the family and gathering around, and not necessarily going to temple. And being in Dublin where Catholicism comes up a lot, I definitely think I’m more connected to Judaism, because it’s much more cultural for me, and many of my peers here are disconnected with religion completely – they’re not involved because it’s either you go to church or you don’t. So I feel strongly that I want to keep that up.
What brought you to Dublin? Is there any Jewish life there?
There is – there’s a few temples, but I haven’t gone to many things. But I’ve met a few Jews. I came over to do my master’s after graduating college and during the master’s, I was able to get into med school here – their application is on a different timeline, so I was able to apply in the spring, and got in over the summer, and it was kind of an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
How do you like Dublin?
I really like it! Obviously I’m in med school, so I’m not out and about too much, but it’s great. I would recommend a visit for anyone. It feels a lot like Boston when you’re just walking around town. I just think everyone’s really nice – the stereotype is true – everyone is really nice and welcoming, and warm and friendly. You can’t beat it.