Amir Grunhaus (he/him)
Title: Class of 2023
“I grew up in a very small Jewish community in Costa Rica – around 2,500 people – where my Jewish identity was always present. I went to Jewish high school and was always surrounded by Jewish friends, so I didn’t really have to think about my Jewish identity that much. My mom’s Israeli, so I grew up very proud to be Jewish, very proud to be a Zionist – it’s something that’s central to my identity. Coming to Berkeley opened my eyes and made me realize that, growing up, I didn’t really have exposure to other types of Jews or other ways of seeing Judaism. Being here also made me realize that I need to be active with my Jewish identity to keep it alive in some way.
Unfortunately, on this campus, many times we face antisemitism. That has strengthened my Jewish identity and pushed me to fight for Jewish spaces on this campus and for Jewish students to be proud of who they are without worry. And for me, it was really important to get involved in pro Israeli activism. Since I was a little kid, I attended a youth movement and I was very, very proud to be Jewish, very proud to be a Zionist, is something that’s central to my identity. My mom’s Israeli, so I grew up, you know, in my house, there was always a lot of Judaism, Zionism, a lot of Israel. So for me, it was really important to keep doing that here at Berkeley, especially now that I’m not with my family.
I always say that I’m Jewish first, Costa Rican second, because being Jewish intersects with every single aspect of my identity. Since being here, I’ve come to realize how unique Latino Jewish communities, such as my own, are. They have their own traditions and celebrations, and I’ve tried to bring some of those here, to Berkeley, and with some Jewish American friends.
Being at Berkeley, where I can share traditions and advocate for Jewish spaces on campus, so that Jewish students can be proud of who they are without worry, has made me realize how important being Jewish is in my life.