Mila Yglesias (she/her)
Title: Class of 2026
“Growing up I struggled with identity. My dad is Mexican, and my mom is White and Jewish, so I never really knew how to identify. But now I think holding both of these identities is very special. This mindset shift is in part because of my gap year program in Israel, where I lived on a campus in Jerusalem. There was another group with us, and they were all Spanish-speaking Jews. We’d chat with them all the time – in classes and at the dining hall. We’d hear all their stories and where they’re from, and how they celebrate Judaism. Having the opportunity to meet so many Mexican Jews, and Jews from all over the world, was really cool. Before then, I’d never really encountered a Mexican Jew or met anyone who was Spanish speaking and practiced Judaism, so that was really special. And it was in Israel. So just even more beautiful.
That experience made me more confident to say that I’m a Hispanic or Mexican Jew. Whereas before, being a Hispanic Jew felt like a title, like something that was put on me. I felt interrogated when people would ask me, and then I felt pressured – I was vulnerable to wanting to satisfy their expectations of me. But now, I’m more confident in my identity, because I’ve met people who are also like me – people who are not going to question like, ‘Wait, is a Hispanic Jew even a thing?’
I definitely still get a lot of questions about my appearance and the way I look. Questions like, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ I think that now, I’ve just gotten more confident answering that question. It’s really cool to be able to claim Jewish as a part of my identity and to be proud of it.
It’s even been a teaching outlet for other people – to show them that there’s not one confined look to a Jew nor is there one way to practice Judaism.
Now that I’ve embraced that belief and really run with it, I think that the most special thing about being a Jew is that we’re all different. We’re all unique looking. Whereas, I think a lot of society, especially in the past, has had that stereotypical Jew image in their head. And I think it’s time to start changing that.”