Letter to My First-Year Self — Sammy Almeida
In a city like New York and at a school like NYU, there are so many things to explore. So many people to meet, communities to join, and experiences to have. With the world miles wide, your first instinct on day one of class will be to check out the Bronfman Center. To see what the heart of Jewish Life on campus looks like. This day will change your life forever.
When you walk through the doors for the first time and see a handful of people just hanging out, chatting and laughing, you won’t know then that this is a common scene here. That the people who call Bronfman home treat it as such. A space consistently full of love and warmth and open arms, always buzzing with people who want to be there because they know they are safe and welcome.
I know things are difficult right now. With the transition of going to college in a new city surrounded by new people and concerns, stress is high. I would love to say that your mental health gets better as you progress through college. In some ways it does, in other ways it doesn’t. Yet no matter what state you are in, the Bronfman Center, and the people who make it come to life, will always be there for you.
You will go through phases where you go to Shabbat every Friday and make it a weekly habit to drink grape juice out of tiny cups. There will also be phases where you don’t step foot in the building for weeks at a time. No matter where you are mentally, no matter how hard you try to isolate yourself, the Bronfman Center will be a beacon of light that draws you in. A constant in a forever changing world, the Bronfman Center will always be there for you. You will learn that the thoughts that try to harm you, that try to put you down, are just thoughts. There are spaces and people that will see you for who you truly are and love you for it. Whether it’s to paint with David, chat with Mel, or just take a break from the library (since you practically live there), Bronfman is a place to escape.
Get ready, because never before have you been surrounded by so many queer Jews. Growing up in a small, rural town, you were faced with the double whammy of being queer and Jewish. I know you feel so alone in your identities, like no one can truly understand you. That you are different, and therefore inherently bad. While you are different (in the best ways possible), you will learn that you are not alone. You will find yourself in spaces where it feels comfortable to explore and discuss your queerness, and how it does and doesn’t relate to your Judaism. You will have numerous conversations in different settings — whether it’s through the JLF Sex Love and Romance course, through Pride Shabbat Tish, or just in casual, open conversation. You will learn more about yourself, queerness and beyond, through the experiences and relationships you make facilitated by the Bronfman Center. You will even be on the board for Keshet, the LGBTQ+ Jewish club on campus. Not only will you better understand your identity, you will learn to love it and not be afraid to proudly show it. You will fully own it, the good and the ugly, and strip back the layers of self doubt you have cocooned yourself in for so long. Will you love yourself every moment of every day? Not even close! But hey, progress is progress.
Keep your head up, kiddo. College might not be the perfect picture you have concocted in your mind, but it will teach you more about yourself and the world around you than you could have ever imagined. You will graduate NYU more Jewish and Queer than ever before.
That’s what I call a major win :)