Lauren's Story

What do I value most? Probably people. I don’t spend time alone – it doesn’t freak me out, but at home, my best friends all lived in the same little circumference where my family live. It meant that I would never have chilled out on my own, but with my friends. This is one thing I found really odd about starting university – you aren’t in sync with everyone else anymore, either at university or at home. How to navigate being completely on your own timetable is a seriously bizarre pattern to adjust to. When at university, it’s particularly odd not having my family round. My mum and dad are basically the same as me, though each in different ways, and my brother and I end up praising each other loads from afar. It’s not challenging, and they still influence me, but I’m used to them seeing every detail of what I do.  


What makes you you?
My relationships with my family have been a huge influence on who I am today. We all live within ten minutes of each other – my close family, my grandparents and my aunt and uncle and two cousins – and we have done for many years. They’ve been close to me all the time, and that’s been such an important thing. They’ve taught me to be driven, and installed some innate sense of motivation in me. My family and I are Reform Jews, and when I was younger, I used to get taken to Sunday school – in Judaism, Cheder - and when I started it was atrocious; nobody knew what was going on, there was loads of shouting.  So, one day, my parents said: “We’ve decided to become the chair-people of Cheder”. Obviously, little Lauren just let it happen, but I started to notice changes: in assemblies, they were coming up and taking over things, and one day a new Rabbi arrived, who completely changed how everything worked. Apparently, my dad was the one who had interviewed him, to bring him in. I thought, “Wow - they do so many things” – I feel like I picked up on that, especially the fact that they were doing things for the community.


For me, one of the core features of Reform Judaism is informed decision making – it takes traditional teachings of Judaism, and asks if they can still stand in the modern world. When I was younger, this was a much more personal thing – ‘from Lauren’s view, I think this is a rational thing to do’. I then got involved with a youth movement when I was in Year 11 – I’m still involved with it now - and that created a whole community around me. Another key part of Reformed Judaism is repairing the world: this is understood in concentric circles, if you like – the idea is called Tikkun Olam. Repairing yourself is at the middle, repairing the world is on the outside, and all the intermediate stages are arranged by size. It’s you, then it’s your family and friends, then your community, then your country, then the world – that’s the vibe. The idea is that you can’t start with repairing the world if you haven’t acknowledged the other factors. Personally, I don’t think you can ever have repaired yourself to the full, or indeed any of those things, and I think it would be difficult to prioritise certain ones. I really like the idea of it, though, which is that you can’t jump to the big picture without understanding the smaller levels.