not gone yet... ;]  

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To make up for my silence these past couple of months, I'm linking to some of the things I've written for the YU Beacon recently.

There's one about an exhibit of Janet Shafner's artwork in the Hebrew Union College Museum, titled "Dark Prophecies." Her paintings are visually striking and thought-provoking, usually depicting Jewish themes and stories from the Torah in new ways. This exhibit is open until March 30, 2012 and I highly recommend going to see it.

Then there is the article about the Medieval Festival that occurred in Ft. Tryon Park on October 2nd.

And finally, there is an article about my love for the Stern College Dramatic Society (SCDS) and all the wonderful things that SCDS brings to Stern.

Aside from my own writing, there are a lot of other interesting articles in the YUBeacon, covering a range of topics from shomer negiah in the 21st century to the challenges of getting enough sleep in dormitories. Check out the YUBeacon's website for more!

Shana tova, dear readers!  

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I've been listening to this on repeat, getting myself into the feeling of Rosh Hashana. The Maccabeats did a wonderful job with this song -- it's beautiful, uplifting, and hopeful, which is what I need right now. It has been one long adventure of a year. There are some things that have happened that I had trouble coming to terms with, but looking at the future I am confident and feel at peace and ready to move on. Above all, I feel fortunate and grateful for all the people in my life and I wish for them all (and for you, my readers) to have a meaningful Rosh Hashana and a good year that includes clarity and understanding and peace and love.

A Ripple  

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We pass by thousands of people each day -- strangers who will never be anything to us, and strangers to whom we will never be anything. Those faces pass before our eyes and fade into oblivion -- and with them, thousands of opportunities to connect with other human beings, to have even a tiny little bit of impact on their lives.

I was sitting on the A train on Sunday, going back home at night from Washington Heights after a lovely day spent with my friends in the city and in the Heights, and I randomly remembered something that had happened last year.

I had been sitting on the train then too, almost like every evening, traveling home from Stern. I like to look at the people around me, to observe the multitude of individuals united here for the moment. There was a couple sitting across from me, a man and a woman dressed in cheerful brights colors and a rather unusual style. I couldn't help looking at them -- the way they were dressed looked so interesting. At the same time, I was attempting to get some homework done.

The couple stood up a few stops before mine, and as they were getting off the train, the woman handed me a folded up ticket stub, saying, "This is for you." Surprised, I simply said, "Oh, thanks." They quickly got off the train and the doors closed behind them before I could properly look at what she had handed me. I unfolded the ticket stub, and saw her elegant handwriting on the back. "You are very pretty :)" it said. I smiled.

I pass by thousands of strangers each day without remembering any of their faces. But one of those strangers had made a difference in my day. It's so amazing what one person can do with just a single small action. Each one of us can make such a difference in someone's day.... Let's take those opportunities when we see them, and create them when we don't see them.

Make the world a pleasanter place one action at a time.

One Year Later  

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On Monday, I sat behind a table with a poster bearing the title "Creative Writing & Poetry Club" and a sign up sheet right next to it. It was the annual Stern College Club Fair, and I was there as the president of the Creative Writing & Poetry Club. My mind flashed back to last September, a year ago, when I was a freshman and had stayed late in Stern after classes to wander through the Club Fair. I had signed up then for a number of things -- so many clubs and organizations caught my attention. I also clearly remember the Creative Writing & Poetry Club's table and talking to the president about the club. And this year, there I was. President.

My first year in Stern was one of the most amazing times of my life -- being a part of so many things, becoming part of the Stern community, and getting to know such awesome people. And now I'm starting my second year here and I am very much looking forward to what it has in store for me.

The amount of things I am involved with on campus (in addition to all my classes and my participation in the Honors Program) unfortunately does not allow me to dedicate much time to blogging. I have been writing a lot though in other places. I am an Arts & Culture editor for the YU Beacon now, YU's new coed online newspaper. Some of the articles I've recently written for the Beacon include a review of the Discovery Center's Pompeii exhibit and fascinating Harry Potter exhibit (which I absolutely loved and hope all Harry Potter fans got to see), as well as a short article about my beloved Renaissance Faire (which I went to on Labor Day with my friends).

The Beacon has a lot of interesting articles and a new issue is released every other week, so I encourage everyone to check it out (especially since at this rate I think my writing will appear there more often than it does on my blog). I will still be blogging though, when time permits it.
Hope everyone's been doing well!

Social Responsibility  

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With the release of the eighth and final Harry Potter movie this July (Deathly Hallows II), it seemed as if an era had come to a close. My friends and I had grown up with Harry Potter, and I remember eagerly awaiting the release of the last few books and devouring them as soon as they came out. It seemed appropriate to mark the occasion of the last movie's release by going to a midnight showing with a group of friends and dressing up like the nerd that I am. (Nowthat was a fun night.)

I also decided to read the seventh Harry Potter book again, realizing that I missed experiencing the magical feeling of the series. Also, as with any book, there are certain things that become more meaningful or clear when re-reading. This often happens as a result of one's own life experiences, which expand with every day and allow us to see things under a new light.

My favorite character in the series is Severus Snape, so when I see his name, I automatically pay more attention. This time, I zeroed in on the scene in the book where Harry Potter is looking into the Pensieve at Snape's memories towards the end of the book, after Snape has been killed.

Throughout his memories, there seems to be a common theme: Snape as the outsider. From the beginning, when he meets Lily and Petunia, he is shown as a friendless outsider, someone people either just don't want to associate with or actively persecute (such as James Potter and his friends).

There is one memory of Snape's in which he is in Hogwarts, talking to Lily Evans, and she is criticizing him for his choice of friends, whom she describes as "evil." Considering he didn't have any friends before except for Lily, it is interesting to observe that as soon as there is mention of him having friends they are "creepy" and "evil" and wannabe Death Eaters who want to join Voldemort. It's pretty obvious that joining Voldemort would be the first time people like Snape would have a place where they could belong and no longer feel inferior, a tempting opportunity for someone who has always been rejected and made to feel worthless. It's no surprise then when Snape joins the Death Eaters. It is, however, sad that he had to resort to that in order to feel a sense of belonging.

Now, Snape made his own life choices, and I am not denying his culpability. But I am wondering, how differently could things have turned out had his adolescence been a happier one?

And... what are the consequences when we as a society or as a community or simply as a group of friends decide that we have the right to reject someone for whatever reason, to make them feel unwelcome? Why do we fail to realize the effect that that can have on a person, either directly or indirectly in combination with other factors? People are affected by those around them and by what happens to them. Sometimes it takes a while to build up, but even the smallest things can become a part of us. We must be careful with our words and actions, because no matter how unimportant they may seem to us, they may mean a whole lot more to another person.

Hello Again  

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I realize I've been rather silent lately. It is not because I have had nothing to say, but rather because there was too much to say and think about and I wasn't quite sure where to start, or whether to start. I try to keep a little divider between my blog and my real life and I am careful with what I share here, especially since this blog isn't anonymous.

Since my semester ended on May 25th, I've had a rather eventful summer. I think I could even say that I've had almost enough fun for one summer. I am definitely ready for the fall semester to start though; but I'll have to wait until August 31st for that. I miss Stern -- the classes, the friends, the Shabbatonim, the events and the fun.

I spent Shavuot in Washington DC with Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue as part of YU's Torah Tours program, which was an amazing experience. The community was incredibly warm and welcoming, and I would love to go back there one day.

The rest of June and July I spent mostly in the city, meeting up with friends and relaxing for the first time since Pesach. My parents even went to Israel for a couple of weeks and I got a taste of independent life, which was nice. I've also been doing some writing, some of which I hope to be able to share at some point before the end of the summer.

There are a couple of topics I'd like to blog about (there's also a lot more to add to the homosexuality discussion), but for now I just wanted to say that I'm still here, still blogging, even if the posts are a bit slow in coming sometimes.

Enough is Enough  

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The Jewish Press ran a piece by Elliot Resnick in their June 17th issue in which the author accused gay Jews of being "self-indulgent" and "shameless" for being openly homosexual, referring to the "It Gets Better" video on YouTube that was put together by a group of gay Jews. One of those gay Jews, as Resnick discovered, was a former camper of his, whom he nicknamed "Dovid." The full article can be read here.

In his article, Resnick rhetorically asks, "Why must you publicize your orientation for the whole world to know?" He is insinuating that it would be preferable for gay Jews to keep their sexual orientation a shameful secret rather than remove the miserable shackles of remaining in the closet. The logic here, I'm sure, is lost on Resnick because if he believes that one's sexual orientation isn't something that the world should know, how would he apply that to heterosexual Jews? He says, "Don't tens of thousands of Orthodox teenagers and young adults - to say nothing of older men and women who never married - struggle silently with their attraction to the opposite sex?" But how is that comparable? He is comparing a gay Jew who would keep his sexual orientation a secret to heterosexual Jews who do not talk about their struggles being celibate. But there is a major difference. First of all, heterosexual Jews are not made to feel ashamed of having feelings for the opposite sex. Nobody would chastise a heterosexual Jew for revealing that he/she is attracted to someone, or to a certain type of person, whereas Resnick believes that gay Jews should automatically just not talk about their attractions. Resnick fails to draw the line between attraction and sexual activity. Heterosexual Jews are not keeping it a secret that they are attracted to the opposite sex; why should gay Jews? Last time I checked, it is not a sin to be attracted to someone. It is also not a sin to discuss one's struggles. Why does Resnick think then that gay Jews should be shamed into silence?

And as a reader commenting under the nickname "Another Frum Gay Jew" pointed out, "It is not comparable to the heterosexual attempting to be celibate, because while that may be physically just as difficult- emotionally it's a whole different ballgame- with rejection from the family and the community, and keeping a secret that they can never discuss, feeling like they never fit in because all their friends are talking about marriage and women and who they are and are not attracted to- and the homosexual either has to say quiet, or worse, lie, for their entire lives."

Resnick's approach doesn't solve any problems; it only creates them. It creates an atmosphere of shame and suffering for gay Jews and it makes them feel unwelcome in the Orthodox community, even if they are committed to Judaism. Resnick asks about gay Jews, "Why can't they struggle silently and heroically as do so many others?" But I have a better question. Why should they? The "It Gets Better" video that Resnick was reacting to was done as a response to the bullying and the suffering that gay Jews have experienced. It was a message to other gay Jews that they do not have to despair or take desperate measures as so many others have done. As another reader explained about the video, "There was no mention of sex, or even dating -- no indulgences of any kind. The problem is not struggling with sexual attraction, but rather harassment, discrimination, violence, contempt, condemnation and ridicule and consequent fears of disappointing themselves, their friends, their families and G-d." And yet Resnick wants gay Jews to remain silent. Does he not realize that silence can mean more suffering and even death?

Resnick goes even further by making the following accusation: "But many Orthodox homosexuals seem uninterested in attaining spiritual greatness or in struggling with their feelings like so many of their brethren." He has no idea what gay Orthodox Jews have to go through on a daily basis, and yet he has no problem accusing them of being "uninterested in attaining spiritual greatness"? I know gay Jews who are committed to the Torah and work as hard as they can to reach greater spiritual heights. Why does Resnick assume that one's sexual orientation determines one's spirituality and that if an individual is open about his/her sexual orientation then they are uninterested in growing spiritually? It is an illogical and hateful accusation.

Resnick ends the article by labeling "Dovid" as having "descended down the wrong path" and calling for the community to prevent other individuals from doing the same. The wrong path? If Resnick is referring to the fact that Dovid openly acknowledges that he is gay, then accusing him of going down the wrong path is ridiculous, which should be clear without explaining.


Shortly after the article came out in The Jewish Press, "Dovid" published a response on under his real name, Chaim Levin. In his response, Chaim addresses the issues raised in Resnick's article and sends a message of hope to other gay Jews who are struggling within their communities. Please read what he has to say here.


There is so much left to say about this topic (in future blog posts), but for now I will end off by reminding that not a single one of us is perfect or keeps every commandment of the Torah as we should. We all have areas in which we slip and fall, which we find difficult to keep. I know I do. Instead of going around and judging other people for their sexual orientation (which is not a sin in and of itself), we should focus on improving ourselves and doing what we can to be better Jews. Being hateful towards people who are suffering in the Jewish community is not the answer. Making our communities places where gay Jews can feel safe and comfortable is, however, a step in the right direction.

Breaking Free - part II: Standing Up for Justice  

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In my previous post, I mentioned breaking free in terms of the choices you make -- not allowing others' perception of you stop you from being the person you feel you have to be and making the choices that are right for you. For me, breaking free has another component: being able to stand up for justice when you witness injustice.

In a way, it is easier to break free of the restraints other people impose on you when you are doing so for your own benefit, because you are frustrated enough with the way your life is that you are motivated to do something about it. There comes a point when you feel the need to stand up for yourself and say, "This is who I am; please understand that and stop telling me things like 'this isn't the person I know' or 'you aren't that kind of person.'" At some point you are able to tell people, "I'm sorry, but don't you think I would know what type of person I am better than you, since you don't know what goes on in my head?" When things like that happen, you feel a greater need to break free. The opinions of others matter to you, but not enough for you to keep sacrificing yourself and keeping your mouth shut.

But what about situations that are not about you but about someone else? While you would break free for yourself, would you do that for others? Would you consciously cast off the restraints that have shaped your life because your sense of justice is outraged by something you see happening to someone else? We're not talking about minor things, about telling someone off for some minor injustice. We're talking about issues that, if you take a certain stance, people are likely not only to judge you but to condemn and even attack you. While you would be motivated to stand up for what you believe in if it personally affected you, would you be brave enough to do that for other people? For the people in your life, and even for the people who are not in your life personally but are a part of the community you live in?

Fear keeps our mouths closed. We can believe in certain things, certain truths, we can mentally protest at the injustice that we witness, we can cry when we see what is happening, we can be passionate in our indignation, but are we brave enough to voice it? Or do we keep silent because our fear paralyzes us? Do we stand helplessly by as other people are hurt? When we know what is happening and every fiber of our being is protesting against it, why do we stand still? Are others' perceptions and expectations of us so important that we are willing to sacrifice truth, justice, honesty, and compassion? That we are willing to sacrifice people?

At what point do we ignore that fear and show where and with whom we stand, even when we know what kinds of reactions we will receive?

Breaking Free - part I  

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Choices are not easy to begin with; you have to live with your choice and it can completely change the direction of your life, whether for good or bad. But at some point you feel ready to make that choice, because after much deliberation you have reached the conclusion that it is what is best for you. You've agonized, spent sleepless nights thinking, scrutinized all the choices before you, spoken to people who would understand where you're coming from. And you're ready. You're ready for yourself.

But you're not ready to be open about it, because the rest of the people in your life don't make it easy for you to make that decision even when you feel that it is right for the person you are, the person they have not yet gotten to know. It is a fact of life that people have a hard time reconciling the little child they knew to the person you are now. But the child they knew was only a product of his/her upbringing, still unable to make informed decisions at crucial moments. They were used to this child; this child did what he/she was expected to do, the child's ideals were in line with the adults' ideals, and aside from the occasional lapses in behavior, everything was fine.

The problem begins when the child becomes his/her own person, learns, reads, is exposed to new ideas, experiences the world, sees firsthand what life is about, meets new people, and starts to create his/her own understanding of how life should be lived.

This is about someone who is finding a place in the world, who wants to live with eyes and heart wide open. Naive? Idealistic? Perhaps. But also introspective, thoughtful, informed? Yes.

Children, as they grow up, need to be given space to be themselves. If you try too hard to choke them with your own truths, you will alienate them. But so many people don't understand this. They cannot accept it when they see that you are becoming your own person, making your own choices. They don't know you; they don't see what is going on inside your head. All they see is the child they knew.

That makes it more difficult to be the person you want to be, the person you know with every fiber of your being is you. You become so caught up with others' perception of you that you begin stunting your own growth. And that's not good.

At some point, the time comes to break free -- to be honest, to be truthful, to talk to people and know that you can be yourself; you do not have to pretend to be the person others expect you to be. Being honest with yourself is not enough; you have to be honest with the people in your life, with the world, both in your daily face-to-face interactions and your writing or whatever other forms of self-expression you may want to use.

Breaking free -- what does it mean to you?


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It is written in corners of pages

Always at the very back of notebooks

A place none but I flip through

A truth none but I see.

It is drawn in the margins

So small it is barely seen

So insignificant it never matters

To none but to me.

L'zman Ha'zeh  

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It's April 2011, and I just realized that what it means is that I have been blogging for two years already. I was actually reminded of it by SternGrad's post, since she's also celebrating her blogoversary. It's been a great two years, and I am glad that I decided to start a blog back then. Big thank you to my readers for making it worth it and for giving me a reason to blog.

Chag sameach!

EVENT -- Jews and Jewish Culture in New Media  

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Hello fellow bloggers,

The Yeshiva University Museum is going to be hosting an exciting event for emerging writers, bloggers, and journalists on May 11th, 6-8 PM. The museum is located at 15 West 16th Street in Manhattan. Put this in your calendars, as it's not an event you'd want to miss. I'll be there and hope to see all of you.

Here is the information:

Jews & Jewish Culture in New Media: A Forum for Emerging Writers, Bloggers & Journalists

The popularity and influence of emerging media is empowering a new generation to question, challenge and raise their voices in unprecedented ways. It has fueled rebellions and revolutions around the world, and offers an exciting and ever-expanding reevaluation and re-articulation of culture. This issue is of crucial importance for Jewish cul
ture and society.

The Yeshiva University Museum is excited to host an informal, open forum for emerging writers, bloggers, and others engaged with Jewish culture through New Media. We will meet May 11 from 6-8pm to tour the Yeshiva University Museum galleries and discuss Jewish topics in new media. Together, we’ll evaluate, critique and debate such topics as: how new media effects our understanding of Jewish culture, ethics in writing about Jewish communal and culture topics, preservation and redefinition of tradition through writing, and how Jewish topics are, should and shouldn’t be addressed.

Please RSVP to or call 212-294-8330 x 8808

Also, please forward this invitation to other bloggers and writers you know who might be interested in this. The Facebook event can be found here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Matchmaker, Matchmaker  

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I have wanted for a while to write about some of the issues in the dating system in today's Orthodox world, and although I have started writing a blog post about it (I'll post that one eventually), something I recently read provoked me to write this one, which I'll post first. This post might come across as judgmental and condescending to some people. If you're the type of person who dislikes that, feel free not to read it.

In last week's issue of the Jewish Press (April 1, 2011), the writers of a column titled 'A Dating Primer' wrote about how singles these days don't set each other up as they used to in the past. Apparently, singles used to look out for each other much better then than they do now. As an example, the writers mentioned two sisters, one of whom started dating about 8 years ago. Her friends set her up with guys, and she was able to find a husband within 2 years. In contrast, her younger sister, who is dating now, does not get set up by her friends. People aren't asking to set her up, while her sister used to get suggestions even before she started dating. The writers of the column suggest that because of this, the girl is "in the midst of a long 'drought' -- she has not had a date in a year."

This girl hasn't had a date in a year because her friends aren't setting her up? Am I the only one rolling my eyes at this?

I don't know if the article was using a hypothetical situation to make a point or was discussing an actual person, but whatever the case may be, it sounds unreasonable to say that the reason a girl has not had a date in a year is because her friends aren't setting her up. This implies that she is incapable of doing something for herself and her relationship status depends entirely on her friends.

Here's a novel idea. She can actually do something for herself instead of waiting for others to do it for her. She can go to a singles Shabbaton, sign herself up for a (*gasp*) dating site, go to places where there are other Jewish singles, and actually meet people. These are perfectly legitimate ways of meeting a guy, and if she was seriously looking to get married, she would look into these possibilities.

I understand that some people in the Orthodox community feel uncomfortable with dating someone they were not 'set up' with, but at what cost? If this system doesn't work, why not explore other options? It is unfair to blame this girl's friends for the fact that she hasn't had a date in a year. How about allowing her to take some of the responsibility?

I have a lot more to write on the subject, but first I would like to ask my readers to weigh in. What do you think about shidduchim vs. dating without an intermediary? What do you see as the pros and cons of both based on your own experience? Which do you prefer and why?

That Within Which Passeth Show  

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As I am writing this blog post, I am sitting in the auditorium of the Schottenstein Cultural Center, hearing Hamlet's desperate voice ringing from the stage. Rehearsals for Stern College Dramatics Society's spring 2011 production of Shakespeare's Hamlet are in progress, and we actresses are scattered across the empty auditorium, while Hamlet paces and ponders onstage.


Stern College has a rather rigorous academic program and a dual curriculum that takes up a lot of time and energy. Tests, assignments, essays, projects -- they all seem to be never-ending. Just as you think you've got a handle on it and you figure out how to balance everything, something new comes along. Another assignment, an unexpected piece of homework that disrupts your fantasy vision of an actual social life. With all of this, it's difficult to find time for other things -- especially something that requires a major time commitment like acting in a play. Rehearsals start after classes and end progressively later as opening night approaches. In a place like Stern College, balancing schoolwork and a play means that you are sacrificing all of your spare time, using every minute between classes or when you are not on stage to do your homework and study for midterms. It's definitely not for the weak of heart. So you can be sure that the actresses who are playing in SCDS's production of Hamlet are in it because they care about it, because they are ready to give it their all so that the show will be a success.

With that said, I would like to invite all of you to come see Hamlet! The show dates are Monday, March 28th and Tuesday, March 29th, at 7:30 PM, in the Schottenstein Cultural Center in Manhattan on 34th street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. Everyone is welcome -- men and women. You can reserve tickets in advance and get them at a discount by emailing (students - $10, general - $12), or buy tickets at regular price at the door on the day of the show (students - $12, general - $14).

I am playing Barnardo in the show, and I would love to see all of you in the audience!


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When I was little, Purim contained a sort of magic for me. The costumes, the music, the dancing, the sheer joy. Purim created the kind of special memories that would stay with me and put a smile on my face years later. This year, however, having midterms right before and another test the day after Purim is putting a bit of a damper on it. So... for all those who need to get into the Purim spirit, check out the Maccabeats' new music video, and raise your glass. ;]

This makes me rather proud of being part of Yeshiva University.

So raise your glass if you see God in hidden places,
He's right in front of you,
We will never be never be anything but proud to tell our story
v'nahafoch hu.