From Richmond to Morningside
I grew up in a small Jewish community in Richmond, Virginia, where I had to build new spaces for Jewish young people where they did not previously exist. While I loved learning how to cultivate Jewish community, I knew that in college I wanted to be immersed in Judaism, wrapped in it like a tallit. I wanted to learn about the most beautiful and the most challenging parts of being Jewish, and I sought a community of people whom I could learn from and learn with.
List College was the perfect choice for me. List gives me spiritual and educational autonomy; I can read original texts, make my own choices, and define my own Judaism. I appreciate List College because it is a safe space to ask questions, not always have answers, and learn. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and wants to learn from each other and grow together.
My first semester at JTS and Columbia opened my eyes to all the ways I can express and experience my Judaism and create community. Some Shabbats, I went hiking in upstate New York to unwind in beautiful fall foliage or went on long walks through Central Park. Other Shabbats, I walked to Romemu or Hillel and immersed myself in prayer, harmony, and ritual worship. I also led a few havdalah services for the JTS community, bringing my passion for creating sanctuary and spiritually uplifting spaces to the new community I was joining. One of my favorite Jewish experiences was dancing with the Torah around Columbia’s campus with hundreds of students on Simchat Torah. In Richmond, I had experienced painful antisemitism, so it was so powerful to be publicly Jewish in the middle of my campus and have outward pride in my Jewish identity.
I also enjoyed exploring New York City and becoming involved in Columbia’s campus life. I made an effort to leave Morningside Heights at least once a week. I went to the Met, the Cloisters, Broadway shows, Battery Park, ice cream shops in Brooklyn, art exhibits in Chelsea, and jazz concerts. I also joined the Columbia Clefhangers, a co-ed a cappella group, and we had the opportunity to open for the Radio City Rockettes with the group before Thanksgiving. I made New York my classroom, and I learned and saw so much while exploring the city. I am always grateful to be going to college in such a vibrant and engaging city.
I have loved my experience at List College so far. I look forward to studying, exploring, working, hiking, singing, praying, and learning in the many years to come.
Claudia Sachs (JP ’25)