Get to know Amram Altzman, a GS/JTS activist for LGBTQ and LGBTQ-Jewish issues. He discusses Sweetgreen, Butler, and the Morningside Heights bubble below.
Name: Amram Altzman; GS/JTS; Sociology and Jewish history; Brooklyn, NY
Claim to fame: I’m just a run-of-the-mill bougie li’l socialist trying to make my way in this world. I helped start JQ, the LGBTQ-Jewish student group on campus, and the first group specifically for LGBTQ students of faith on campus. I also spent three years as a contributor for New Voices, an online independent magazine by and for Jewish college students. I was that weird New York kid who never got a driver’s license, so I had to use my passport to get into Mel’s on my 21st birthday. I’ve also done car commercials. In Japan.
Where are you going? I’m taking the summer off to learn how to ~adult~ before starting work for an organization called Keshet at the end of August, where I’ll be their Youth Program Associate, working to create spaces for LGBTQ-identified Jewish teens around the country.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2021?
- You can make salads for yourself, but Sweetgreen is always going to be more convenient. That’s just, like, the rules of capitalism.
- Butler smells. It’s not worth it. Go study somewhere else. Literally anywhere else. Morningside Heights, Harlem, and the Upper West Side are filled with coffee shops, libraries, courtyards, bars, sketchy restaurants, parks, roofs, and so many other surfaces where you can sit and study, and there’s no reason to ever enter Butler unless you need to check out a book from there.
- You will contradict yourself. Life is messy, and your opinions, belief systems, family, and friend groups might not always align perfectly with each other, and that’s okay. There are times to be idealistic — and there are times when you need to make tough decisions to protect those ideals — but there will also be times when you make the decision to put your own opinions aside for the people you care about. Learning to navigate life amidst contradictions is one of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn in college, and it’s not something that you can learn in the classroom (although reading about late capitalism did really help).
“Back in my day…” we ~settled~ debates about Israel/Palestine the old-fashioned way: by setting up competing campaigns across College Walk. We didn’t rent out planes or any of that other fancy stuff.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer. My friends all call me Momram because I bribed them for their friendship with cookies. It worked.
What was your favorite class at Columbia? It would be a tie between Professor Elizabeth Bernstein’s Sociology of the Body class, and Professor Tey Meadow’s Queer Practice class. Both of which pushed me way beyond my comfort zone, and both of which are classes and discussions that I still think about constantly.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Whelp, Sweetgreen only currently sells one of those things, and I need to eat during finals somehow…
One thing to do before graduating: Leave Morningside Heights occasionally. It’s surprisingly difficult to do. I know this, because I spent most of my last semester of college never going south of 120th Street and spending time on campus.
Any regrets? Loads. I didn’t push myself as much as I’d wanted to. I never auditioned for Orchesis. I only went to Senior Night once (Oops. I did have a beer on my thesis writing nights though. Maybe bigger oops.). I didn’t spend enough time actually on campus, and I didn’t spend enough time leaving my dorm to explore the parts of the city that I’d never seen before. At the end of the day, though, I’m really sure I’m leaving Columbia with too many complaints; I’ll probably just come crawling back because I can’t ever leave Sweetgreen.
Missing having cats around via Amram Altzman