By Kirstyn Flood
For the Mitzpeh
Josh Ashkenazy encourages others to “wake up early, jump out of bed like a lion and start the day.” This idea has enabled the Long Island native to live every day anew, accept challenges and embrace all possibilities.
Although undecided about his major, Ashkenazy’s love for knowing what people think and ways he can help them sparked his interest in criminology, business marketing or psychology. “It’s up in the air,” the freshman Terp said.
This university represented a world of possibilities for Ashkenazy, with an open campus and a friendly community. “It’s also a very spirited campus,” he said. “It’s definitely cool to be a part of something bigger than yourself—like the Big Ten.”
Ashkenazy, a self-proclaimed “jack-of-all-trades,” has never limited himself to only one hobby or interest. While he is an established hockey, tennis and ultimate Frisbee player, he also enjoys writing, photography and singing.
“I love all kinds of music, to be honest, but my favorite would have to be pop—Imagine Dragons and OneRepublic, my two favorite bands. I like singing traditional pop or traditional rock,” said Ashkenazy, who joined the Jewish a cappella group Kol Sasson.
Ashkenazy goes to Maryland Hillel for meals and prayer services three times per day. He said meeting people was overwhelming—especially during the first week on campus—but he soon found his niche, he said.
“I knew some of them from before, and I got to know a lot more,” he said, referring to those who attended prayer services at the first Shabbat of the semester. “I have my friends, and I’m very happy about that.”
Jacob Gurstein, a freshman biology major, met Ashkenazy at Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem.
“He’s great to hang out with,” Gurstein said. “He’s really friendly, really outgoing and very inclusive.”
Aside from Judaic studies and an appreciation for Jerusalem’s Old City, the gap year that Ashkenazy spent in Yeshiva taught him to “look at the world in a certain lens,” he said. “To always think the best of people and to really make the best of your situation to put you in a better mood, in a way.”
Ashkenazy said Yeshiva gave him valuable time to think, mature and become independent, all of which have helped him transition to college. “I feel like I could take on a lot more and not be overwhelmed—do more things independently,” he said.
The yearlong trip to Israel helped Ashkenazy ease into college and made it possible for him to help others who may suffer from homesickness. “You can count on him,” said Rachel Spronz, a freshman in letters and sciences. “He’s really welcoming and warm.”
Ashkenazy’s goal for the year is simple: to form closer bonds, to have awesome experiences and to expand his horizons. He may even add to his list of extracurricular activities by trying out baking or dance, activities he considers “more jack-of-trades stuff.”
Through his faith, Ashkenazy has gained a new view of the world. “I believe that everything happens for a reason and that because that’s so, you can look at things in a positive light,” he said.