THE BLOG
06/25/2013 07:18 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Leverett House

In a small alley in Cambridge, Massachusetts under the lackluster name Mill Street there is a house. Leverett House is one of Harvard College's largest student houses -- equipped with a dining hall, beautiful wooden common rooms and a surprising number of paintings of dead old House Masters.

The current House Master, lovingly nicknamed "chief," has a long Gandalfesque white beard and takes time to discuss problems in astrophysics with his dog Bandit.

Chief Justice Roberts, I imagine, must have sat some 37 years ago in 1976 as a graduating Leverite Harvard student in the middle of our house's Old Junior Common Room. I wonder if he too had experienced the same fears and trepidations that I felt during graduation.

This is a big week for me; but not because I graduated, left Leverett and entered the real world for the first time.

It is a big week because I am not an American citizen. I was born and raised in Israel; before coming to the US for college, I went through two wars and a long and tiring four-year military service. But more importantly, I discovered early-on that I am undeniably, happily, wholly and (much to my grandmother's dismay) irreversibly gay.

After telling my parents, they showed me an old story about Rabbi Zusya who lived in the 17th century and was a very wise Hassidic Rabbi. The students of Reb Zusya, when they heard that their teacher was about to die, came to pay him one last visit. As they entered the room, they were surprised to see him trembling with fear.

"Why are you afraid of death?" they asked. "In your life, have you not been as righteous as Moses himself?"

Zusya replied: When I stand before the throne of judgment, I will not be asked, "Reb Zusya, why were you not like Moses". I will be asked, "Reb Zusya, in your life why were you not Zusya?"

In the coming days the Supreme Court will decide on the Defense of Marriage Act. Having studied economics, my understanding of legal matters is limited and I won't pretend to fully understand neither the lawsuits nor their implications. I do know, however, that the lack of federal acknowledgement of same-sex couples has made and continues to make my life as a twenty-six year-old foreigner with an American partner painfully and bitterly difficult.

Until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, I will not be able to do any more justice to the question Rabbi Zusya feared of answering. And I am impatient.

On the verge of starting adult life, I am constantly reminded by the world that I need to mature. I was surprised to find that four years in the military and a subsequent four years in college have done little to prepare me for the everyday challenges of joining the workforce, finding an apartment and paying bills by myself. After listening to the endless tidbits of life-advice given in our graduation speeches, maybe one day I too will understand that life is about influencing my community and making a difference, promoting values and helping others, or that life is in fact as my more practical banker friends claim -- about jobs and earning a living; and compromise and patience.

But for now I care about little more than starting a family, being able to spend the last three years of my twenties with the person I love, building a home with him, and beginning to dream of having children -- all without the stifling fear of expired visas or denied applications.

The common wisdom holds that today it is no longer a question of if, but of when. In a broad perspective we are surely witnessing the turn of the tide and whether it happens next week or only in a few more years -- it will bear little difference in the grand scheme of things.

For me, however, it will make all the difference in the world.

Harvard's closet is overflowing with skeletons from its long long past -- minority-limiting quotas, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and homophobia, to name a few. But Harvard is constantly renovating itself, constantly changing -- trying to correct today the wrongs it committed yesterday, and trying to allow for the inevitable injustices we unknowingly commit today to be rectified tomorrow.

The house Justice Roberts had left so many years ago -- and I only a few weeks ago -- is still the same beautiful house, with old wooden floors and spellbinding views of the Charles River. But with time, Leverett House has also become old and decaying, gradually housing more cockroaches and mice than students, suffering from clunky pipeworks and walls that fall apart.

Not more than one day after I graduated, Leverett began undergoing full overarching renovations for the first time since long before the class of 1976 had graduated.

It is time for renovations.

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