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By Chloe Rose, Birmingham University
I come from what I have always called a ‘traditional’ Jewish family. I’ve always kept kosher, when I lived at home I went to shul semi-regularly, and, despite driving on Shabbat, I never went out on Friday nights.
I carried most of this over to my life at uni, still keeping kosher, but rarely attending shul.
Despite my lack of shul-going, I was heavily involved in Jewish life, being on the Jsoc committee and still attending FNDs (as we lovingly call them in Birmingham) even when I was no longer serving the food.
I could always be found in Jew-Corner at Vodbull and my course friends call me a BJOC (Big Jew on Campus) because whenever I would walk with them on campus, we’d run into at least five people I knew.
So you can imagine the shock to the system coming from the biggest Jewni in the country to the University of Granada, Southern Spain, about two hours drive from Marbella.
I was now in a Catholic country, where by my count I am the only kosher-keeping Jew on campus.
There are a group of Israelis here but when I went for a pre-Yom Kippur meal with them and they said ‘You don’t keep kosher right?’, I thought it best not to have the chicken and we haven’t hung out much since.
It was definitely a concern for me about how I would live my Jewish life out there, especially since before I left, I was told by a previous Erasmus student that she gave up keeping kosher after 6 months because it was too hard.
So far, I’ve been managing, though I have had to expand my food range more than I would at home.
My mother was extremely pleased when I Whatsapped her to let her know that I now eat eggs.Not having an oven has also proved an interesting experience, striking through any chance of having a frozen pizza.
When it came to my social life, this raised even more questions.
When I hesitantly told my parents I was thinking about going to a party on a Friday night, they said to me ‘do what you have to do’. This is the best thing and best advice they could have given me.
After all, this year is a year abroad from my normal life completely.
I wasn’t able to go to shul for Yom Tov, I haven’t had FNDs and so I’ve had to adapt for this year only. And in order to have a successful social life, that has sometimes meant going out on a Friday night.
I am still so fiercely proud of who I am and where I come from and of my Jewish identity, which I think is the most important part of me.
At the end of the day, does it really matter that much if for one year I party on a Friday night? I still recognise who I am, wearing my Hadaya ring every day and proudly explaining my religion to anyone who asks.
For the first time I’ve had to physically go out and make friends instead of relying on Jsoc to do it for me, which was a big step for someone who relied quite heavily on Jewish geography when I first got to uni. But it wasn’t that bad, and my friends are just the sort of people with whom I would want to be friends.
Plus they love having their token JP when they need someone with whom they can go and have froyo or sushi.
And if this year, I am the only Jew around for people to see, I think having one as proud as me is a pretty good representation for us. But I still really miss my Thursday nights at Vodbull…