Hebrew Name: Rivka
Temple: Temple B’nai Abraham
School: Fairfield University
Favorite Jewish Food: Bagels
Favorite Jewish Person: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Favorite Jewish Holiday: Hanukkah
Favorite Movie: The Greatest Showman
Favorite Song: Rewrite the Stars – Zac Efron, Zendaya
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I grew up with one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, so that already is a little different. I started Hebrew School at Temple B’nai Abraham from kindergarten to seventh grade. I had my bat mitzvah when I was 12. When I went to my classmate’s bar and bat mitzvahs I would dominate everyone in the hula hoop contests. I didn’t invest myself into the Jewish community until I was in high school and went on Y2I. I’m technically a founding member of the North Shore BBYO. I had joined BBYO before I went to Israel but while I was in Israel I recruited a bunch of the friends I met to join, which is how I got the position as vice president of Retention and Education.
How has your Jewish identity shaped you as a person?
My Jewish identity is based on the community rather than the religious aspect. I don’t measure my Jewishness by going to temple or praying. I don’t think going to temple for 18 hours and not understanding anything is going to make me feel more Jewish. The Jewish community gives me something to be a part of that’s bigger than myself which I like. I like seeing the community come together – it’s where I feel closest to Judaism. When I went on Y2I in 2014, which was the year of Operation Protective Edge, I learned just how important it was to have a strong community of like-minded people around me. We were unable to go to the holy sites, but we appreciated being together and connecting as Jewish teens.
What was it like being a Jewish student at a Catholic university?
Being a Jewish student at a Catholic university was a very interesting experience because at my school they didn’t push Catholicism onto me, but a lot of the ways to get involved with the school was through campus ministry and other religious groups. I liked being involved and doing charity events and going on trips, but they encouraged people to pray before activities and advised people to go to Mass. Fairfield is a Jesuit school, so they would tie a lot of the lessons to the Jesuit values. For example, for some of the readings we were assigned, they would ask how it tied to values such as “men and women for others,” which means something about being a good person. You were also required to take religious classes but they didn’t necessarily have to be Catholic.
An online petition called “Investigate Danvers High School,” says there have been “multiple issues and accusations” involving “racism, sexism, homophobia, mental health, and predatory behavior” at the school. Did you experience or know of any anti-Semitism as a student at Danvers High School?
I personally did not feel like I experienced any anti-Semitism as a student at Danvers High School. However, I saw it happen, just not to me. I heard people make jokes about Jewish stereotypes, like picking up pennies and stuff like that. I know they definitely made jokes that aren’t appropriate. At the time, I didn’t notice it as a serious issue, but looking back I see that these instances were part of a larger problem. I think it’s definitely a good thing that Danvers High is under investigation and I’m glad that they’re taking it seriously. I hope good things come from these changes.