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An Unexpected Blessing

Dec 28, 2016

By: Sydney Silbert, University of Idaho, Hasbara Fellow


After high school, I moved away from my hometown with an abundant and thriving Jewish community to a town that doesn’t even have a Temple. My University has, what one might consider, a non-existent Jewish population. We have no clubs, not even a Hillel. It appears as though Israel is a non-topic on my campus. That is, at least, until I arrived. I am the first Jew that many of my college friends have met. Previously, I didn’t stand out for being Jewish and I had never faced the responsibility of single handedly representing Jewish and/or Israeli people.

I quickly realized that I had walked into the responsibility and great honor of representing Judaism and demonstrating Israel activism on my campus. I am often faced with questions about my religion and about the conflicts in and around Israel. I knew that I was going to need more education on subject matter so that I could properly educate my peers. The Internet wasn’t going to cut it and I knew I needed more first hand experience. I applied for Hasbara Fellowships because I knew it would give me just that; an opportunity to learn, to form opinions and to acquire the skills necessary to share my knowledge.

I like to consider myself an informal educator on my campus. While there isn’t a club for me to lead (yet) or falafel Fridays to cook for, my presence is known to my peers. I answer my peers’ questions, I discuss current events, and I represent my religion. I have never been as confident in my heritage as I am today. Attending a college with a tiny Jewish population hasn’t left me disconnected from my religion as some thought it might. It has done quite the opposite. It has pushed me to seek more understanding and knowledge and has ultimately helped me form great connections on my campus.

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