The Foundation for
Jewish Campus Life

Humans of Hillel

 

I chose Judaism when I was 12 years old. Ever since then, I’ve tried to make it my own.

Baltimore, Maryland | 2022

As told to Gabriel Lesser, writer for the Hillel International Writers Program.

Zosia Lemaitre“My mom is Catholic, and my dad is Jewish. They never pushed religion on me. My parents always said, ‘We don’t care what religion you choose to follow, but you have to come to terms with it yourself and make it your own.’ So, I did. I chose Judaism when I was 12 years old, and ever since then, I’ve tried to make it my own.

I started by meeting weekly with my local rabbi and participating in my temple’s youth group. Later, I became an assistant teacher at my Hebrew school and visited Auschwitz, which was really impactful because my grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. Soon after, my rabbi suggested that I immerse myself in a mikvah, a Jewish ritual purity bath. This was an ancient custom that would help me become universally recognized as a Jewish person. At this point, I thought to myself, ‘Why? I know that I’m Jewish.’ The deciding factor was realizing that some would question my Jewish identity because my mom isn’t Jewish. So, going to the mikvah was a ceremonial thing — a way to tell the world I’m Jewish. In reality, I already knew who I was. 

Since then, I’ve continued my Jewish journey of growth and self-discovery at Hopkins Hillel. I’ve learned about values, like doing good in the world, being a kind person, and communicating with others. These values drive my decisions — every day. I’ve gone to student coffee chats and Shabbat dinners. I’ve had so many open conversations with other students who are looking to strengthen their Jewish identity. I know that after I leave campus, my Jewish journey won’t stop. I’ll continue making Judaism my own, no matter where I am.” — Zosia Lemaitre, Johns Hopkins University ’25