Serving as Emory University’s student body president, Max Zoberman has some lofty goals for the new school year.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Zoberman is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and the middle of three children.
His father was raised in the Orthodox community and took his children to Chabad for a time but eventually settled into the Conservative community.
“We were Conservative for a long time,” Zoberman said. “At some point we made the transition to Reform, not necessarily for ideological reasons, but for logistical reasons.”
He added: “Some of my earliest memories with my dad were conversations, specifically about kashrut: what it was, why it wasn’t arbitrary. For a 10-year-old, those rules can feel incredibly arbitrary. That was the core of my relationship with Judaism for a long time.”
With parents who are lawyers and an older brother in law school, Zoberman has known for a long while that he was headed toward a legal career. He applied to schools with strong political science programs and chose Emory because of the atmosphere he observed while touring the school.
“There was something really special about the campus community,” Zoberman said. “When I looked around, everywhere people were studying. They were working, but they didn’t seem miserable. It was clear they all enjoyed it.”
Zoberman credits his start in student government to a former president of the student body, John Darby, who served in 2014-15. Before Darby, the student government was not a reliable advocate for the students, Zoberman said, and had damaged the trust between the students and the administration.
Darby redefined the role of the student government, and Zoberman has worked to continue that effort. He started in the legislature and worked his way up to committee chair and vice president before being elected president in the spring.
His platform promoted four major changes: ensuring diversity in the student body, recalculating the way money is divided among student organizations, improving campus safety, and evaluating how mental health issues are treated on campus.
Like many campuses last school year, social justice was a major theme for Emory. “It opened up a lot of wounds,” Zoberman said, “but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you break a bone, it heals stronger.
“There were students who called out the administration, staff and fellow students on what they saw as a new form of racism. I think the point was well taken, and there’s a lot of work being done to start healing and reversing the damage of that trend.”
With his term underway, Zoberman has begun implementing some changes. For example, a cabinet-level position, vice president for diversity and equity, was created, and the student government is examining the recalculation of funding for student organizations for the first time in years.