Layla Turgel-Goldberg (she/her)
Title: Class of 2026
“Originally, my view on religion was fairly negative. In large part, this is just because neither of my parents are religious. They’re both atheists. And my mom experienced heavy religious trauma when she was growing up, and that influenced my perception of religion.
But, when I turned 12, and was in middle school, people at my school started having Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and I was curious. I always knew that I had somewhat of a Jewish identity, because I celebrate Hanukkah every year with my great grandma, who lives in Oakland. I was aware of Passover, and other Jewish holidays, but I didn’t really understand what they meant. I just knew they occurred. So, when I noticed people starting to have B’nai Mitzvahs, I remember wondering why this is something I didn’t get to have. Now, when I talk to my parents about it, I understand that part of the reason why was because the idea of a Bat Mitzvah was very extravagant. We couldn’t afford that and I wasn’t really raised Jewish, or anything.
So, I entered college with just that little bit of knowledge about Judaism – nothing extensive – and with the understanding that I needed to explore religion on my own, without any preconceived notions. This mindset has allowed me to grow. Since being here, my thoughts on Judaism have definitely changed. In high school I wasn’t accepted by the small Jewish community, but coming to Hillel has really made the Jewish community seem a lot more welcoming. And, learning and being encouraged to question have been instrumental for how I’ve come to embrace my Jewish culture and identity.
The process of embracing my Jewish identity has, in some ways, contradicted the identity I thought I had made for myself, just because I grew up not believing in any facet of religion. I’ve always been very inquisitive, so, I think on one hand, it’s caused me to be even more inquisitive- I love learning new things and learning the roots of my culture. And, by embracing my Jewish identity in this way, I’ve questioned a lot of things about my life, which on one hand is confusing, especially coming to college. But on the other hand, it’s really refreshing.”