Olivia Yanover (she/they)
Title: Class of 2025
“Growing up, I was aware of my identity as a Jewish person of color, but I didn’t see that aspect of myself represented in the Jewish community around me. It was a sensitive topic for me, and there were times when people expressed surprise that I was Jewish because I didn’t fit the stereotypical image of a Jewish person. It was frustrating to justify my Jewish identity to others, making me feel like I wasn’t Jewish enough.
However, things changed when I went to college. I began to see more people who looked like me and were part of different communities like mine. I discovered groups for queer Jews and Jews of color that I’d never had access to. Being in this environment allowed me to embrace my identities and become part of groups where I could connect with people who had similar experiences.
It was a relief to find people who understood what it was like to be a Jewish person of color and not to feel like I had to explain or justify myself constantly. These communities allowed me to fully embrace different aspects of my identity and feel comfortable. One group that I became involved with was Crafting Consent. Through my involvement with Crafting Consent, I learned from staunch feminists and embraced Judaism while recognizing its faults. Viewing Judaism from this feminist lens and hearing the perspectives of people of color allowed me to understand better and feel fulfilled by Judaism.
Since entering college, my experience has shifted significantly. For the first time in my life, my identities have intersected, allowing me to fully embrace every aspect of who I am. This opportunity has been incredible, and I am unsure if I would have been able to experience it if Judaism was not a part of my life. I have met people who look and act like me, but also those who are different, and I enjoy befriending people who have differing opinions from mine. This is something I did not experience in high school, where people stuck to their groups. Judaism has taught me that having differing viewpoints and identities is acceptable and that it is still possible to have amazing connections with people who are different from me. This has enriched my experience and my life.”