Hebrew Name: Liad Mordechai ben Nissim
School: University of Massachusetts Amherst, Class of 2022
Major: Economics, Pre-Med
Favorite Jewish Food: Shakshuka
Favorite Non-Familial Jewish Person: Amar’e Stoudemire
Favorite Jewish Holiday: Passover
Favorite Singer: Leon Bridges
Favorite Book: “Profiles in Courage” by JFK
Favorite Movie: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
Favorite Travel Destination: Jerusalem
What was your Jewish background growing up?
Traditional Orthodox, I guess you could say. I went to Hebrew school for a while, but it was nothing super intense. We went to the Chabad in Swampscott. I was involved with the temple as much as a kid could be. We went to most Shabbats, kept Shabbat, kept kosher, went to high holiday services, and went to other random temple events. I volunteered with NSTI, and participated in the Chabad’s youth group, Jew Crew. I only had two other Orthodox friends growing up, and one of them went to Maimonides so I wasn’t able to see them frequently.
After high school, you took a gap year to work and study in Israel. What did that entail?
I worked for a watchdog organization called NGO Monitor, which watched over non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Unicef, Amnesty International. I did media research; I found clips and images that showed what was actually happening at the Gaza border during the March of Return to show that it was not a non-violent protest, but actually a violent protest. My research was put into a report that was sent to a UN commission on the Gaza protest. My second semester, I worked for Magen David Adom (MDA) as an emergency first responder. I was very similar to an EMT but couldn’t do all of the actions that EMTs could do.
How has the BDS events on the UMass campus impacted you? What’s your opinion on them?
I think they suck. I went to the most recent one with Linda Sarsour, Cornel West, and the founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti. He called in via video chat because he isn’t allowed in America. I wore my kippah, and it was the most scared I’ve ever been in my entire life for my safety. I think an actual discussion held by intellectuals about the conflict would be more helpful, as opposed to one side having a panel of speakers just talk about their view of the conflict without any rebuttal. That event was kind of guised as a “free-speech” event. I’m a big fan of free speech, but I fear that free speech is abused. I wouldn’t say it is here, but it’s not being operated to its full efficiency.
How does your identity as a Generation Z differ from generations before?
I think I’m very privileged compared to generations before. A country club in my town didn’t let Jews in until the 70s. My father, growing up Jewish in Morocco, experienced a clear separation between him and the Arab population. I reflect on generations of the Holocaust as well, obviously. I think we’re incredibly lucky, but that doesn’t mean we can sit on our laurels, we need to be very aware and very vigilant with what’s going on in the world involving the Jewish people and involving Israel.
What are your plans for the future?
Ideally become a doctor, an OBGYN maybe. You don’t really know what your specialty or calling is until they get there. I think it’s important to understand certain decisions are made economically, and I think that’s a major portion of understanding how the world works. If you understand how the world works, you’re able to help patients better. I want to be a doctor because I want to help people the best I can. Once I finished working on the ambulance in MDA, I realized I wanted to go into medicine. I’m stuck between becoming an OBGYN or going into pediatrics. I love helping and hanging out with little kids. They’re super fun to be around, I think it’d be an awesome and fulfilling path in life if I’m able to help kids feel better.
Have you been keeping up with President Trump’s opinions regarding Israel? What do you think?
I think he thinks for the most part that Israel is good, which is nice, but I don’t think he understands the impact of his actions. In the short term he’s been having a positive impact on Israel and the Jewish people, but his long-term impact is unclear. We have to see how the US’s relationship with Iran plays out, as well as the US’s relationship with Israel. There has definitely been a rise in anti-Semitism since Trump’s election, which is definitely a correlation but may not necessarily be the cause of it.