Naomi Hoch | Special to JT
On a recent Friday afternoon, I attended a mixer for Jewish graduate students attending the professional schools of the University of Maryland. As we awkwardly mingled, I surveyed the room. A concerning thought crossed my mind: “Where are the rest of us?”
I am one of eight Jewish students out of more than 130 people in my class at dental school. We have, by far, the biggest Jewish representation compared to the other three cohorts.
Although there are many advantages to learning alongside a diverse class, there is also an element of isolation from my peers. We share many traits and values, but we will never be the same.
I feel fortunate to have other Jewish students in my class learning alongside me. Although many of them are much more observant, I know that we will support each other. I have been included in Shabbat dinners and at many events, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
However, as the only Conservative Jew in my class, I am often challenged to make decisions with which my Orthodox classmates do not grapple. Do I go to Shabbat dinner or a party with my friends? Do I miss a lab, or do I attend synagogue for the High Holidays?
As I have now entered post-graduate life, I need to decide what kind of Jew I will be.
The demographics of my class accurately represent what is occurring in the world around us. According to the PEW Research Center, “For every person who has joined Conservative Judaism, nearly three people who were raised in the Conservative movement have left it” (2021). I see this trend all around me: in the empty seats of the synagogue, among my friends and even at the bar holding the mixer for Jewish graduate students. As we enter the new year, I hope that other Conservative Jews will continue to be proud of their heritage and actively participate in Jewish life. Even if we are few in number, we are not alone.
A Baltimore native, Naomi Hoch is an alumna of Krieger Schechter Day School, Pikesville High School, and the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently in her second year of dental school at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.