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skylar strudwick star of david headshot?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
skylar strudwick star of david headshot?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp

My Star Of David Necklace Is A Reminder Of My Choice To Be Proudly Jewish

In 2017, my grandmother, Sabra, passed away, leaving behind a trail of belongings from her youth for her relatives to sort through. Four years later, when I was 17, my father brought her diaries to our house and I decided to read about her life; we weren’t particularly close, but I wanted to learn more about her, and about my family. As I read through her diaries, I discovered something totally unexpected: My grandmother was Jewish.

I cannot tell you why I didn’t know this beforehand, but I wish I could; my theory is that she hid her faith to assimilate into a post-WWII culture. What I do know is she wrote in her diary that she is Jewish and our family is Jewish, too; she even began practicing Judaism later in her life by attending temple every couple of months. But my father made little mention of our family’s identity when I was growing up, so my first indication that Judaism was part of my heritage came from reading these diaries. 

After many months of being unsure what to do with this information, I decided I needed to learn more. I’d passed the University of Minnesota Hillel Jewish Center building many times during my freshman year in college, but never found the courage to go inside. In my sophomore year, though, I finally decided to take the leap. I walked in as a sponge, ready to take in anything I could learn about Judaism.

skylar strudwick with her grandmother
Skylar Strudwick

As the weeks went on, a growing sense of pride bubbled through me while I learned more about the customs my ancestors had practiced for centuries and how strong the Jewish community is — and I began to take what I’d been learning about the religion to heart. That year, a friend of mine in the Jewish community gave me a Star of David necklace as a gift for Hanukkah; this moment stands out as one of the first times I felt truly accepted with my new identity. 

Now, as a proud, practicing Jewish American college student, I wear my Star of David necklace at all times. Whenever I look in the mirror, I see who I am, who came before me, and who I strive to be. The Star of David is my reminder that I am a part of the collection of Jews who have made the choice to be loudly, proudly Jewish. 

skylar strudwick at hillel
Skylar Strudwick

To those who subscribe to tired stereotypes, I don’t “look” Jewish. I’m naturally blonde and have blue eyes, traits not usually associated with Jewishness. But in the same way there is no one way to “look” American — it’s more about embodying American ideologies rather than the color of one’s skin or the language they speak — to me, outwardly conveying my Judaism is not about the features I was born with. As my rabbi says, “a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.” I am a Jew because of the values I uphold and the culture I practice in, and I continue to wear the Star of David as a reminder of the choices that I make in my Judaism.

The Star represents my family, my values, and my life

The teachings of our Jewish ancestors tell us to be proudly Jewish, and I do so by making the Star of David my prime fashion accessory with every outfit. When I dress to give a presentation in front of a 300-person lecture hall, the Star of David complements my red lipstick. As I swing my tennis racket across the court, the Star bounces along with my serves. When I’m about to unlock a research lab, the Star’s reflection glitters against the door knob. In every facet of my life, every movement, and every outfit, I am proudly Jewish. The Star represents my family, my values, and my life, so I wear it as though it’s the newest it-bag of the season, every season. 

skylar strudwick
Skylar Strudwick

Wearing the Star of David is, to me, similar to keeping a photo in a locket around my neck, something cherished that is both near my heart and displayed for all the world to see. When I touch my necklace, I am reminded of the centuries of Jews saying the same prayers in Hebrew that I do. Seeing the necklace in photographs recalls images of singing with my community on Shabbat and cheering around the dinner table at Passover. Feeling the weight of my necklace reminds me that I am a part of something larger than myself — and older than myself — and am connected to centuries of people who carried their identity proudly on their chests. 

Choosing to wear the Star of David is also my way of choosing how people might remember me. For example, I know very little about my grandmother, but I know she was Jewish. I know almost nothing about my ancestors, but I am certain they were Jewish. If my children’s children know one thing about me when I’m gone, it will be that I was Jewish, and that fact alone keeps the Star around my neck.

My name is Skylar Strudwick. I'm a junior at the University of Minnesota majoring in psychology and journalism, and a proud Jewish American. I've spent my childhood falling in love with the written word and this love turned into the material pursuits of creative and novel writing. When I'm not writing or studying, I enjoy reading, yoga, running, painting, and coffee dates with my friends.