Community is always there for me

Prielle Betito

Arriving in Australia from Israel as a five-year old with no English skills, it’s not surprising Prielle Betito felt a little lost. As a Sephardi at her predominantly Ashkenazi Orthodox school, she didn’t quite fit in. As a young teenager, she felt herself caught between two cultures – too Israeli to be Australian and too Australian to be Israeli. And then, community found her.

When Prielle’s parents emigrated from Israel, their dream was to become as embedded as possible in Australian culture. For a young girl in a brand new country this was not such a simple matter. It was only after moving to a public school with enough diversity to not feel out of place that Prielle started to make friends.

Nevertheless, as she recalls, Prielle always gravitated to the Jewish kids. “Then, in Year 7 at Rose Bay Secondary School, BJE (NSW Board of Jewish Education) found me.”

“With the promise of challah every Friday and regular trips to connect with other students at Max Brenner, there was a space for me to feel Jewish, talk about my Judaism and celebrate my love of challah!” says Prielle.

Through BJE, she participated in a Year 10 Israel program and was given the opportunity to rediscover her homeland. “Visiting family, you don’t really get to see Israel,” she said. “On my program, with my peers, I saw it in a whole new light.”

BJE continued to create opportunities. When the Israeli soldier and prisoner, Gilad Shalit, visited Sydney in 2013, Prielle represented the community as a keynote speaker at an event held in his honour. BJE also ensured she was able to study Hebrew for her HSC even though it wasn’t offered by her school.

“I hope my children go through a similar journey so that I can breathe easy knowing they’ll have an incredibly rich Jewish identity.”

After school, AUJS stepped into her life and Prielle spent six months on their Aviv gap year program. “It was the best time of my life,” she said. “It cemented my love not only for Israel but for our Sydney Jewish community.” Inspired to make a contribution, Prielle became more active in AUJS, becoming President of AUJS UNSW. She joined a small group on their Young Leadership Program to Israel, the United Kingdom and United States where they met with politicians, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and The Schusterman Foundation.

The program was politically challenging, designed to equip the young leaders with skills to address issues when challenged on campus.

While completing her university studies, Prielle also graduated from the Jeremy Spinak Leadership Program through the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. “Throughout my entire life here in Sydney – on my Jewish journey – I didn’t know how and why all these good things were available to me,” said Prielle. “And then I applied for a job at JCA, joining the team as marketing coordinator, and everything made sense. I realised that in the background, JCA was my teacher, my friend, my travel agent, my mentor – my sense of belonging through so many stages of my life.”

Prielle admits to being “absolutely passionate and a bit crazy” about the Jewish community. “I have so much confidence in our future,” she said. “I know that our communal organisations are focused on building up and engaging young people like me,” she added. Her view is that, “As a community, we have to take note of how young people are practising their Judaism, what they’re doing with their lives and acknowledge how they’d like to engage in the future.”

Having previously felt estranged, Prielle is infectiously optimistic about the future of the Jewish community.

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You can read more about Prielle’s story – and others – in your JCA 2020 Source Magazine here: https://bit.ly/mysource20