Name: Ashley Sliva
Hebrew name: Ariel Dahlia
Schools: Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, class of 2018; Salem State University, class of 2022
Major: Business Administration, concentration in accounting
Favorite Jewish food: falafel
Favorite non-familial Jewish person: Debbie Coltin (executive director of the Lappin Foundation)
Favorite Jewish holiday: Hanukkah
Favorite movie: “Dumplin”
Favorite place to travel: Israel
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I always identified as Jewish, and I grew up going to Temple Tiferet Shalom [formerly Temple Beth Shalom]. I grew up celebrating all of the Jewish holidays, but I chose not to have a bat mitzvah because I have never felt comfortable with public speaking. I still believe I am a Jewish adult, and I still feel connected to my religion the same as those who did. I was active in BBYO from sophomore to senior year of high school. BBYO gave me a place where I was comfortable being myself, and I’m thankful for all of the friends I made through this organization.
How has Judaism shaped you as a person?
Judaism has shaped my values. I believe it is important to be a good person, and Israel is also very important to me. I’ve been connected to a larger community that shares the same values and traditions, which has made me feel more confident and accepted. Meeting people who have shared the same experiences that I have involving anti-Semitism has helped me gain confidence to stand up against hate towards our community.
How does your Jewish identity differ from older generations?
We’re definitely more open-minded and accepting of everyone’s differences. I feel as though our generation is much more liberal, for example towards things such as same-sex marriage and interfaith marriage. You are able to be a proud Jewish person regardless of how religiously invested you are. I personally place more emphasis on the culture and community, rather than the religious aspect, when I practice my Judaism.
How did Youth to Israel [Y2I] change your perspective on your culture and heritage?
Going to Israel completely changed how important being Jewish was to me. Before going to Israel, I never wanted to partake in events at my temple. I never felt connected to other Jewish people in my grade, but when I went on Y2I and met other Jewish teens, it completely changed my perspective. Judaism became more important to me and I became proud to identify as Jewish. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. After going to Israel, I began to really understand the connection between Judaism and Israel, and felt a spiritual connection to the land.
How do you experience Judaism on your college campus?
Salem State doesn’t have any Jewish organizations, and there aren’t any Jewish events happening on campus. I reached out to the former director of the Hillel and they told me that when the former head of the organization graduated from the university, nobody took it upon themselves to continue to lead it. It is a goal of mine to restart the Hillel on the Salem State campus, but at the same time I don’t know that many Jewish people at my school. I hope to see more Jewish representation and events at my school in the future.