My name is Diana Nguyen, and I am a Jew

I’m not a Sara, or a Rachel, or an Esther. I never went to sleep away camp, or Hebrew Day school. I never participated in any Kadima events or had a Bat Mitzvah celebration. And yet today, I am a proud young woman, a shining example of what a strong young Jewess needs to be. I keep kosher, I go to shul regularly, I keep Shabbat, and I’ve committed to living a life full of learning and chesed. My Jewishness has become my entire identity, and I have Hillel to thank for all of it.

I came to Hillel as a friendly outsider, hoping to grab some free nosh and make friends. I was welcomed into the house by the friendly staff and the lively students. I dragged my best friend to the first Shabbat dinner and together we learned the blessings over the candles, the Kiddush wine, the challah, and the niggunim and made our journey to becoming more observant Jews and political activists. Over time Hillel became the center of my spirituality as I learned more about Judaism and about morality. It became the center of my political activism as I got more and more involved in Israel advocacy. It became the place where I exercised my full potential; not only was I a student but I also became a teacher.

I’m an officer of our student Israel advocacy group on campus, an officer of the Jewish Student Union, and a Koret Intern. Today, I’m proud to say that I have become a respected go-to person when the students have a question about Torah or about Kashrut or Shabbat observance. Hillel has become my doorway into the Jewish world. It has given me the tools that have made it possible for me to be a student leader and activist. I was able to make a niche for myself in the Jewish community through Hillel and have become a valuable, contributing member to our local population. It has been my pleasure to welcome the myriad of new students in to Shabbat dinners and watch them grow closer to their own Judaism.

I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Hillel family and to be a part of the Jewish people. But conversion is certainly not the end; I have taken on the Hillel mission as my own. We exist to strengthen the Judaism in our students so that it will become the inspiration for their identities and their drive.

The Federation supports Hillel’s mission to meet the needs of students. The Hillels on university campuses are a training ground for future leaders and play a critical role in providing a Jewish context and perspective for Jewish and non-Jewish students alike.

Categories: Volunteering


April 07, 2009


The Federation