Are you looking for a life-sized cardboard cutout of Adam Devine?

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Shira Michaeli, JTS/GS, Human Rights and Jewish Ethics, Riverdale (Bronx), NY

Claim to fame: Being an observant/religious Jewish human rights major in *these unprecedented times,* Originating leadership positions at The Philolexian Society & The Varsity Show, getting brain surgery spring break 2022 and then continuing on the semester, and most critically, creating two life-sized cardboard cutouts of Adam Devine. 

Where are you going? The day I graduate JTS, I go straight from my students’ religious school graduation to the airport to spend some time backpacking in Europe! Yay, solo travel! 

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the class of 2028?

  1. Be the person you needed when you were younger. Cook dinner parties for your pals, bring chocolate to class on Valentines day, reach out to that struggling underclassman you met. Operate under the belief that everyone has something to teach you. We are all an amalgamation of our nature, nurture, and our perception of best practices. When you lead with kindness and empathy for others, you build the world up to become a little better. And I genuinely think that’s what makes life worth living.
    1. An addendum here, positions and titles do not a leader make. My rejections in college have granted me the freedom to discover what I am capable of even when I am not given the structure or assets of a title.  It has allowed me to think outside the conventions of what is, and expand to what could be.  
  2. JOIN LOW BARRIER CLUBS THAT ARE HAPPY TO HAVE YOU. In a college like this one, it is so, so good to join spaces that are good for your mental health, you don’t feel a need to stay in because you passed their impossible metrics, and let you feel alive exactly as you are. My drugs of choice are The Philolexian Society and The Zine Club, but to each their own.
  3. Take at least one class that you love even if it’s entirely impractical, one class to prove you can (for me this was 1004 as a senior elective), and always always shop classes. Raise your hand and share your thoughts, especially if no one else is. When you have a compliment for a class aquanitence, tell them: we all need it. Here is your opportunity to really think, to process, to expand your mind. If not now, when?

“Back in my day….”  Students couldn’t get onto campus, we all masked up to keep ourselves safe, and we felt deeply frustrated with administrative priorities. Oh wait….

Favorite Columbia Lore? Oh ummmmmm. There’s so much here. This isn’t quite lore, but there are an exceptional number of strange storage spaces I have had access to while in leadership for old clubs. Like, tell me why I had access to a basement room of Hartley but not Hartley itself? Same goes for the Wallach Sky lounge. I guess this is just me trying to promo the perks of old clubs. Everyone is trying to start new clubs for their resumes, why not bring new life to something old? Second-hand clubs are like thrifting, but at the club fair/WikiCU

What was your favorite class at Columbia?  

  • Religion and Capitalism with Andrew Jungclaus-  I lack words for the gratitude I have for the professor and students in this class for redeeming this semester for me. Read everything from Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism to books about extraterrestrial beliefs and Oprah as American religion. This was what I always dreamed college would be. 
  • US Gay and Lesbian History: This is the platonic ideal of a lecture
  • Post 9/11 Immigration Policy: An amazing deep dive class. Prof Ouyang is the real deal.
  • Intermediate Poetry Workshop: Prof. Emily Luan was genuinely incredible. So cool but also a very genuine person. I’ve never had my poetry read better. 
  • Anything with Shourideh Molavi. I took my senior seminar with her this fall and in a deeply personally painful time in her life, she demonstrated nothing but empathy for her students, even from across the globe.
  • For the JTS people, I pity any of you who never got to experience Barbara Mann and Professor Brafman, those two ate. As Lamentations says, renew our days as of old!

Whom would you like to thank? The Design Center, my friends, my family, and my dog Mah Rabu. U the real MVP.  

In a genuine way, I want to thank the people in my life: friends, peers, professors, who accepted me in my entirety. Who loved me without making reduce myself, who encouraged me to take up space without guilt, and who let me listen and speak vulnerably and authentically. You let me be my best self and give me hope for what comes next. 

One thing to do before graduating: make your own map of NYC full of silly third spaces, weird stores, libraries, bakeries,  and cafes. Go on lots of walks, picnics, and bike rides. Ingest sunlight on Low, go to other cultures’ religious and social events (if that seems like an appropriate choice, you can always ask!), hug your homies one more time. Have wholesome fun! Between the sorrow and anger at the enormity of the work (in classes and the world), remember that joy is not meant to be a crumb. 

Any regrets? Front-loading classes over Zoom “just because I could.” Girl you learn so much more IRL, take your time.

Shira via Shira