The New Bridge Builders: Meet This Year’s 36 Under 36


We are living in a polarized — no, tribal — time. Our politics are hopelessly divided. The culture wars rage. On issues of national importance, everyone retreats to his or her own corner and adopts the stance and language of that tribe alone, preachers preaching only to the converted.

If there is a way out of this tribalism, it may lie with the millennial and Gen-Z generations; working at intersections may come more naturally to them than previous generations, or perhaps conditions have forced the skill upon them. Take the new batch of young changemakers in this, the 11th installment of our 36 Under 36 special section. Sophie Ellman-Golan’s work brings her to the intersection of the Jewish community and liberal activist spaces, where anti-Semitism can flare. In a changing Harlem, Meg Sullivan is working across lines of faith and ethnicity to build a multicultural community. Tyler Gregory brings together the pro-Israel and LGBTQ communities.

Sensing that something had changed in the country after the 2016 election, 18-year-old Isaac Hart set to work establishing Iftar/Shabbat dinners in his New Jersey community, where Muslims and Jews could break bread,  “to reach out and heal the tears,” as he put it. Adina Lichtman plies the intersection of lucky and unlucky, bringing together elite college students and young Jewish professionals with homeless people for dinners to reduce the stigma around homelessness. And for NYU student leader Adela Cojab, the intersection is a crash-filled one as she presses Israel’s case on a campus where Zionism is under siege, sometimes by her Jewish friends.

Elsewhere in the pages that follow, you’ll meet Bukharian and Russian Jews fighting to hold onto their heritage, a teen Instagram chef, a graphic novelist and do-gooders of all stripes — all of them striking a blow against selfishness and for a vision of the commonweal.   

It’s ironic that as Paul Simon, the great baby boomer-generation singer-songwriter, winds up a 50-year career with a final tour, generations that may not know his music are living out the message of his signature song: They are laying themselves down, girded by their Jewish values, like bridges over troubled water.

Meet the 36ers here, and ‘like’, tweet and share away.

Section curated by Hannah Dreyfus.

Introduction written by Robert Goldblum.

Edited by Robert Goldblum, Amy Sara Clark, Steve Lipman, Miriam Groner.

Profiles written by Steve Lipman, Hannah Dreyfus, Shira Hanau, Tova Ross, Amy Sara Clark, Miriam Groner, Lily Weinberg, Orli Santo and Jonathan Mark.