Aliza Silverman, 22, cannot wait to get back to mothering her students at UMBC Hillel as the engagement associate.
Hailing from New Jersey, where she’s staying now in quarantine with her parents, Silverman hopes to go back to the Moishe House Baltimore, which is her home, her job, and a lifestyle that facilitates programs to build the community. She would like the house to partner with Repair the World within the next month or two for more service learning.
When she’s not working with other youth, Silverman enjoys dance and occasionally is involved with BAYiTT: Beth Am’s Young Adult Initiative for 20s & 30s and B’nai Israel. On more lazy days, she will stay still to watch “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”; “It’s great—super Jewish.”
What is living in the Moishe House like?
Living in Moishe House when I moved to Baltimore was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It helped me meet so many people.
It can be tiring sometimes to go from a Jewish job to my Jewish part-time job and lifestyle, but it’s definitely been good for me to get involved with the community and talk to people while I create programs that I want to see.
I like living in a pluralistic Jewish community. I definitely love having a space where people can be Jewish together. We don’t have to ignore our differences, but can include them.
Inclusion goes beyond inclusion. It’s really about empowering and celebrating differences.
You took some fun classes! Why the Jews?
“Why the Jews” was actually just an intro-level course, they just came up with an exciting title. But yeah, I was a Jewish study major in college. One of my favorite courses was about gender perspective, learning about how different Jewish communities handle divorce. I loved nerding out about it. I’m someone that [believes] you don’t have to do things a certain way to be a feminist.
In undergrad, I took a semester in Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I took one of my all-time favorite classes: Jewish Experiential Education. We came in and had different teachers every week. So someone from PJ Library would come, a tour guide talked about tour education, all these different forms of education. I personally like to teach Israeli folk dance as a form of experiential education.
What do you do at Hillel?
Right now everything has moved online. We’ve done some online programs, but it’s a little harder to get students to come to online programs. For a lot of universities, Hillel is more about just grabbing coffee and being together. But I imagine they don’t want to be on Zoom any more than they are. Plus it’s finals week.
For now, we’re planning for the summer and next year, though we don’t know what will happen.
I definitely miss seeing them in person. I spent a lot of time on campus as the students’ hired Jewish mother. I can’t get them food now, but I still make sure they eat lunch every day with reminders.
What’s something you wish people knew more about Judaism?
Even if people know this, it’s not always embraced: My big thing is there’s no wrong or right way to be Jewish, everyone has their own way. I do think, as someone in a pluralistic community, everyone should be welcome. There’s no denomination that is better than another. There’s no doing it right and doing it wrong. However you do Jewish is valid.
So what’s your way?
My Jewish identity, it isn’t 100% of my identity, but it’s a huge part. It encompasses most of what I do. It influenced my career path and where I’m living now.
For me, Jewish identity means striving to do better, to make this world a better place. It means welcoming everyone. It means, even in spaces that aren’t Hillel, welcoming everyone and celebrating diversity.
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