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"Becoming the Mentor I Needed." -Matt Baram's Hillel Story

My high school lunch table was an unsupervised warzone. I found myself a lone soldier, facing off against the accusations of the fiercest enemy known to man: high school boys. It was the heart of the second intifada, and as a loud and proud Jew, every day I was put on trial as the representative of the entire Jewish people and the State of Israel. After 9 years of Jewish day school, attending Jewish summer camp, and being part of a committed Jewish family, high school was the first time in my life I was usually the most “Jewish” person in the room. I was outnumbered, I was unprepared, and I was embarrassed, because every day I felt like I had let down my entire people.

I didn’t realize it at the time – but what I needed was a mentor. Someone to teach me that tokenizing me as a representative of an entire people was unfair and at times even anti-semitic. Someone to help me find my voice and arm me with facts. Someone to reassure me that I was doing my best and make me feel supported. And someone to remind me that I was still a good Jew. From that day forward, whether I realized it or not, much of my life has been dedicated to being the mentor that I needed for other Jewish students, helping them to be proud of their Judaism even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable.

At Hillel, I’m proud to be surrounded by an incredible staff team who serve as mentors and guides for our students. We have built a Jewish community that ensures that all of our students feel supported, and have the resources to find their voice. But good mentorship and guidance takes time and money. We need your financial support to ensure that we have the best mentors providing the best guidance in the best way so that our students never feel like lone soldiers in the fight for Jewish pride and community.

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