Until Donald Trump’s election one year ago, less than eight students at Yeshiva University would attend the events organized by the school’s Democrats club. Little did they know that just a couple of months after November 8, the club would grow significantly, reaching its peak of 50 active members this year.
Matthew Haller, 20, and Rachel Shulman, 19, became co-presidents of the Dems club in September. They are both juniors, but don’t attend classes together. At Y.U., the historic academic institution that mainly caters to modern orthodox communities in the United States, men study uptown, on the Washington Heights campus, while the women study in Midtown Manhattan, at the Stern College for Women. In a university whose student body is mostly conservative, the two students are hoping to reach as many peers as possible and make their voices heard.
Shulman, a junior majoring in political science, is from Passaic, New Jersey. Last year she began working closely with Haller and the former presidents. Shulman describes politics as her “life’s work, not just a hobby,” and hopes to attend law school and run for office one day.
During our several meetings in Washington Heights, Manhattan, Haller told me that, while growing up, he was rarely exposed to liberal views. “Every adult I knew when I was growing up was conservative,” he said. He was raised in a modern orthodox Jewish community in Woodmere, Long Island. “There was no reason for me not to identify myself as anything other than what everyone was.” But as he got older, he realized that his beliefs and values went against the surrounding flow—including his parents’ political views.