Miriam and Beth Goldstein are used to being mistaken for one another. At times, the twins have been able to take advantage of their physical similarity. They talk about a time when they shared the same gym membership during the summer in their home in Israel.
"We were only there during the summer and it was very expensive to just have a membership for three months," Miriam says. "We worked it out so Beth would have the ID in the morning and I would have the ID late at night."
But there were some complications to the ruse. Miriam knows Arabic and would often stop to talk to other Arabic-speaking patrons. Beth does not and would often have to fudge her way through conversations with her sister's acquaintances.
"I learned one phrase in Arabic that I could use: I have no time right now," she says, laughing, "so I could get out of talking to them."
"I had to stop speaking Arabic because it would incriminate Beth," Miriam says.
Switching roles has been a way of life for the Goldstein twins, in more ways than one. At Harvard, Miriam chose Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Beth chose Biochemical Sciences but in high school in Tampa, Fla., Beth says, "People thought Miriam was the science person and I was the humanities person."
They were so sure in high school that Miriam would go into the sciences that Beth tried to convince her to go to MIT instead.
"I'd come to visit Harvard and I loved it, and I didn't want Miriam to be at the same place, but I wanted her to be nearby," Beth recalls. "So I spent a lot of time trying to show MIT in the best light, by taking great pictures of people biking around MIT and of the campus."
Her campaign failed but both Beth and Miriam say they are happy with their decision to attend Harvard together. Similar in academic strength and extracurricular interests, they say their Harvard experience has been one of complementary, rather than competing, roles.
Take their involvement in Hillel for example.
"Since there were two of us, the effect we had [on Hillel] was increased. It was more than just doubled, it was almost exponential," Miriam says.
Beth served on Hillel's steering committee, as well as on other activities committees. Miriam has also been involved with Hillel, was co-chair of Harvard Students for Israel and the founder of the Harvard Israeli Dance Troupe.
And for the past year, they have shared a double room in Adams House, much as they did at home, after living apart for their first three years of college.
They were placed in separate first-year dorms: "[The administration] clearly tried to separate us in Matthews and Hurlbut [Halls]," Beth says.
They joined different blocking groups that went to different Houses: Beth to Adams and Miriam to Currier. But for the last year, they decided to room together once again. It has been an experience that has made them closer than ever, they say.