Sam Hipschman, 32
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36 Under 36 2019

Sam Hipschman, 32

Helping — and Learning from — Senior Citizens

Amy Sara Clark writes about politics and education. A Columbia Journalism School graduate, she's worked at CBS News, The Journal News, The Jersey Journal, Mom365, JTA and Prospect Heights Patch. She comes to journalism from academia where she earned a master's degree in European History with a focus on Vichy France.

Sam Hipschman decided to become a social worker while working with students at a small college in Vermont. Part of Hipschman’s  job was doing crisis response — “showing up when people are having some kind of issue in the middle of the night.” The Floral Park, L.I., native, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns they/them, had found their calling.

Now Hipschman works at Project ORE, helping older Jews with hoarding issues. Hoarding often stems from a “combination of creative brilliance and a coping mechanism that has somehow gone awry,” they said. “The people I work with, they can see utility and value in so many objects.”

One woman, an artist, saved an advertisement because of the color of a child’s shirt in the photo.

“She said, ‘If I let go of it, I might not be able to remember how beautiful this particular shade of green is and it’ll be lost forever.’ How can you argue with that?” Hipschman said.

After living for three decades as a female, Hipschman slowly realized that they were “outside of the gender binary.”

“[Being] trans is kind of like a bridge, and some people want to cross the bridge and some people want to stay on the bridge forever. … They want to live in the in-between space, and that’s where I find myself.”

Hipschman came out to friends and family, and then at work.

“This little community is really important to me and I was nervous.” But so many people reached out to show support, “in a way that was so unbelievably moving,” Hipschman said.

“I’m a social worker — I show up to be in service of others, but this whole thing taught me that I am a part of this community in a totally different, much deeper way.”

Hipschman also founded a group for trans and gender non-conforming Jews at Lab/Shul. Most regulars are in their “40s, 50s, and 60s” and “grappling with issues of gender identity, maybe for the first time. It’s become this special little space, this little micro-community.”

Band geek: In high school, Hipschman played the tuba and flute, and then became the marching band’s drum major.

@schipsch

Meet the rest of this year’s 36 Under 36 here.

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