Amram Altzman was raised within an Orthodox community in Brooklyn and attended Orthodox day schools throughout elementary and high school. While his Jewish identity has always been a prevalent part of his life, he struggled to find spaces that would allow him to grapple with social justice issues until he found Avodah’s Fellowship.
A member of the 2018-2019 New York City cohort, Amram was drawn to the idea of having a space to take thoughts he was having concerning social issues.
“To have a dedicated space three times a month to process with other people, who not only understood where I was coming from but also pushed me to think even more critically – it deepened my understanding of anti-semitism and racial justice.”
Amram had been working as an intern at Keshet before going full-time with the organization and applying to be an Avodah Justice Fellow. He now serves as the Youth Programs Manager at Keshet, coordinating youth development programs for queer and trans youth up to age 24. He focuses on creating spaces for the youth to experiment with group facilitation and program coordination, empowering them to be leaders within their communities. He also launched a program to encourage conversations surrounding money, power, and class among the youth he works with, as part of his Avodah Justice Fellowship.
Keshet’s programs help Jewish LGBTQ youth build community, learn, grow and celebrate their identities through informal programs and more intensive, educational workshops. Amram pays forward the empowerment he received in high school, as a participant in Keshet’s main program for LGBTQ youth when it first launched.
“My favorite part is working with Jewish queer and trans youth to figure out how to facilitate programs. I get to help them take ideas they have and usher them into reality.”
Keshet is currently working on a High School Senior Leadership Council, for seniors who have been involved with programming for at least a year. The goal is to help high school seniors grow their skills as facilitators. Amram also helped launch a program specifically for queer and trans youth of color over the winter, which is continuing to grow.
It is important to him to do work at the intersection of his queer and Jewish identities, and to help others do the same. “There is still homophobia and transphobia in the Jewish community and there is still anti-semitism in LGBTQ spaces. Judaism is baked very deeply into my experience and how I see the world. I can’t separate out the Jewish part of my life, in the same way I can’t separate the queer part of my life.”
Amram continues to use the critical thinking skills and the relationships he developed as an Avodah Justice Fellow to do social justice work in his community.
“I made friends from across the country that I still keep in touch with. We still have those conversations on racial justice and other issues as they come up. It’s still a part of my life.”