Portrait Identity Project at Berkeley Hillel

About the Portrait Identity Project

Launched in 2021 by Julia Mattis at Tulane Hillel, the Portrait Identity Project is a series of portraits and interviews of young Jewish adults. This project is an ongoing exploration of students and their constantly evolving Jewish identities, tracing the shifts in customs, practices, value systems, and students’ conception of how their Jewish identities change (or not) over time. You can check out Tulane’s virtually gallery here!

Utilizing 35 mm film and digital portraiture photography, and paired with each students’ own unique story, the photo series will serve as a platform to share, discover and document the stories of Jewish young adults ages 18-26. This initiative creates representation that otherwise does not exist and allows students to tap into the powerful and transformational tool of self-reflection. This body of work is ongoing and by no means a complete representation of all people who embrace “Jewish” as a part of their identity.

The Portrait Identity Project is the embodiment of Berkeley Hillel’s commitment to creating a radically inclusive community through innovative approaches. This initiative empowers all audiences to reflect on how their personal experiences have shaped their identity, to reconsider past perceptions, and to broaden the definition of what it looks like to be a young Jewish adult during this time in America. It also helps underrepresented Jews feel seen and accepted, to embrace the fact that identity is multifaceted and intersectional, and to transcend definitions of what a “stereotypical Jew” is, or is not. And, as the audience views the portraits and the accompanying narratives, they will gain the opportunity to reflect on their perceptions of both their own Jewish identities and others’.

The beauty in the design of the Portrait Identity Project is the ability to enhance our programmatic and organizational support for students. The insights and information gained from interviews ensure that our Hillel continues to learn, in a deeply meaningful way, what students are passionate about, what their needs are, and how we might support them; which can then be replicated at other Hillels across the country.

Portrait Project at Berkeley

We are so excited to be bringing the Portrait Project to Berkeley Hillel! Throughout the next few months we will be interviewing students, taking professional photos, and then celebrating everyone’s stories at an opening exhibition. Stay tuned for more information and the gallery date! Please schedule your interviews through Hannah or Emma’s calendly. If you have any questions or would like to be involved, reach out to Hannah at hsnyder@berkeleyhillel.org or Emma at studentboardpres@berkeleyhillel.org.