Sophomore and student board Religious Chair Emily Goldstein is featured in the latest Fall 2015 edition of the Hillel College Guide Magazine. Emily wrote an article for the magazine about her life as a Hispanic Jew and developing her identity. It can be found on page 15 of the online or offline versions of the magazine as well as below…
I was born Jewish, raised Jewish, went to a Jewish summer camp and had a bat mitzvah. Then,
like other young Jewish people you may know, I sort of fell of the Jewish Geography map — but
not for the reasons you might suspect.
Jewish youth groups weren’t my scene, and most of my friends were people who did not identify
with the Jewish faith or culture. In high school, I actually felt more in tune with my Hispanic
side than my Jewish one. I was Jew-ish, but I never felt particularly in tune with my Judaism.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am Hispanic. I probably don’t look like what you were picturing.
You’re not the only one to be surprised. I fielded a lot of questions growing up, questions like:
“You mean, you’re half Jewish?” Nope, full Jewish, I told them. Both sides. “So you’re
Sephardic, then?” Again, nope. Full Ashkenazi.
People didn’t know where to place me, and neither did I. I’m a double minority: a hispana
among Jews, a judía to the Hispanic/Latino population. For a long time, I honestly felt like an
outsider among both groups. So I decided — wrongly — that these parts of me had to be kept
separate, shielding part of my identity when coming into contact with either Hispanics or Jewish
I became a chameleon. I was never ashamed of who I was. But it was just easier to assume one
identity or the other. I felt like I was hiding from the world, hiding from myself. I wasn’t
embracing every part of myself. I was only showing one side of myself, for fear of making other
people uncomfortable. And the result was so unsatisfying! Imagine if only half of an orchestra
played a symphony while the other half of the musicians sat silently on stage. As a listener, you
might still enjoy the experience, to an extent, but you’d be missing so much music. Your
experience would feel incomplete at best.
That incomplete feeling, of stifling my own sound, didn’t suddenly disappear when I went to
college. But in my freshman year, I threw myself headfirst into Jewish life, even serving on the
Student Board at Hillel. Slowly but surely, I felt more Jewish, and learned more about my
Hispanic side as well. The more I learned, the more comfortable I felt with myself — my whole
self. I started engaging people, and the more people I talked to, the more confident I became.
I had finally embraced my identity. I’m still a double minority, but I don’t feel the need to hide
one side of myself. I am all of me, from my Argentine accent in Spanish to my curly hair. In this
globalized society, I came to realize, there are fewer people who identify as “just Jewish.” People
fall into multiple categories. I’m not alone. I know this because I continue to meet people like me
or who feel as I once did.
Finding your identity is hard. Accepting it can be even harder. But I’ve learned that you don’t
need to hide parts of yourself to reassure other people. Many people will actually be interested
and excited to find out how multifaceted you are. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who
matter don’t mind.