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Communications Specialist

It’s mid-summer and I haven’t been writing many articles for my school newspaper or myself, which is one reason I haven’t been posting to this blog. Another reason, and the main one at that, is I have been working as Communications Specialist at Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, a Jewish Labor-Zionist socialist summer camp in Maryland.

I have grown up at Camp Mosh since I was 11. It is an exciting and different experience to come back as a counselor/Communications Specialist. I’ve really been enjoying writing and documenting a place I know and love with people I care about.

I created a blog for the summer called Camp Moshava Communications 2011. I have been writing daily posts for the blog, explaining events and values Habonim holds and Mosh adheres to, and translating Hebrew to English for parents. I also photograph and video daily and special events. I respond to parent e-mails and inquiries and create a video slideshow at the end of the summer. Visit the blog, as well as the Facebook page, YouTube or Twitter for more information about Camp Mosh and what happens during the summer.

Once the school year begins I plan on writing several articles a week for the University of Maryland student newspaper, The Diamondback.

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Sharing Jewish and Israeli culture with D.C.

Avalon Theatre hosts Israeli film nights on fourth Wednesday of every month

MARCH 27, 2011

Marlena Chertock

D.C. and Maryland residents can get a taste of Israeli culture through film by attending the Avalon Theatre’s Israeli film nights.

Every fourth Wednesday of the month, the Avalon Theatre in D.C. hosts a screening of an Israeli film. The events are called Reel Israel DC.

The theatre opened in 1923 and became a non-profit theatre in 2003. Avalon Theatre hosts several film events, shows documentaries and foreign films and has programs such as Senior Cinema Thursdays.

The Matchmaker” was shown as part of Reel Israel DC on Wednesday, March 23 to a mostly filled audience. See the trailer here.

Before the film began, the Director of Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of Israel to the United States Sarit Arbell spoke about the recent violence in Israel. On Wednesday, March 23 there was a suitcase bomb that detonated near a bus station in Jerusalem. The bomb killed one 60-year-old woman and injured several others. There were also rockets fired into several Israeli cities. Arbell said thinking about Israel amidst the violence is important. Watching an Israeli movie is one way to keep Israel “on our minds,” she said.

“The Matchmaker” is in Hebrew with English subtitles. It is a 2010 film by Avi Nesher that tells a romantic story and coming-of-age tale.

In the film, Yankele Bride is a matchmaker of sorts. He walks around parks seeking out women without wedding rings.

“That’s a very nice dress,” he’ll say, “where did your husband buy it?”

“I don’t have a husband,” the women will always reply.

Then Bride pulls out a business card and explains his occupation. “Maybe I can help,” he says. “I’m a matchmaker. I’ll find you love.”

Arik, a teenage boy growing up in Haifa, Israel gets caught up in Bride’s world when Bride offers him a job. Arik acts as a detective, watching people to see if they are truly looking for love when they come to Bride.

The film tries to dig deeper than most Hollywood movies. The actors address topics of happiness, war, the Holocaust, survival, love versus a quick hookup, appearance and friendships between diverse age groups.

The next film in the program is “Five Hours from Paris” and will be shown at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Avalon Theatre at 202-966-6000.

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Performing well on a final exam

Culture of Ancient Greece class at Elon University presents parody of ‘Hippolytus’ as final exam

Marlena Chertock

MARCH, 14, 2011

A Culture of Ancient Greece class wrote, designed the set and costumes and performed a parody of Euripides' play "Hippolytus" Monday, March 14 from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. in McKinnon Hall. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

One class’ final exam wasn’t a test at all. The Culture of Ancient Greece class had to perform a play about one of Euripides‘ tragedies for its final on Monday, March 14 at 12:30 p.m.

The play, performed in McKinnon Hall, was a parody of Euripides’ tragedy “Hippolytus.” It ran for 30 minutes.

It is important to find different ways for students to understand ancient Greek culture, said Kristina Meinking, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages who had her class perform the play.

“Hippolytus” is a play about forbidden love. Hippolytus does not pray to the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, as much as he does to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and chastity. Aphrodite casts a spell on Hippolytus’ stepmother, causing her to fall in love with him, her stepson. Tragedy ensues as the stepmother and family decide how to deal with her love.

Students read four plays by Euripides, a playwright from 480 A.D. to 406 A.D., throughout the two-credit class.

“The first day of class I said you don’t have a final exam, you put on a play,” Meinking said. “A lot of students dropped. It went from 33 to 25.”

But the smaller class size made it better, according to sophomore Amanda Wooton.

“I’m constantly looking for ways for students to get a sense of what the culture of ancient Greece was like, what sorts of issues came up, what did people think about, what were the roles of the gods?” Meinking said. “One way of getting at those questions would be to use the lens of tragedy.”

Students rewrote the lyrics for "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" from Disney's "Hercules" and other songs for the parody. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

Writing and putting on the play was a good way to learn about ancient Greece, Wooton said. The process became more interactive, she said.

“I was able to understand it better,” she said. “We had to modernize each part [of the play] and cut it down. Through that we had to really analyze the play to be able to get the true meaning of what each person was saying.”

Meinking stole the idea from her undergraduate studies at Skidmore College, she said. She took a course called Society on Stage where the class read classic plays and performed them.

Plays offer a useful way to think about women’s issues, religion and the connections between tragic and comic, Meinking said.

“For this play, the students have opted to really play up the connections between tragedy and comedy,” she said.

Students included several songs in the play that they rewrote lyrics to. The songs included are “Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy, “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” from Disney’s “Hercules” and the theme song from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Reading plays in class gives students the basis, but performing a play helps students learn more, according to senior A.J. Ridley.

“You get the overall concept of the script and the theme from reading the play,” he said. “But performing it ourselves and then relating it to today, to what we can relate to, our experiences, you learn a lot more.”

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Ridley talks about what he learned from class play

Ridley talks about learning through performing

Opening scene of parody of Hippolytus

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‘Laughing helps your health’: Comedian Adam Norwest performs at Elon University

Marlena Chertock

MARCH 11, 2011

Comedian Adam Norwest feels like he’s performed standup comedy since he was a fetus, he said. He gave a show in Irazu at Elon University at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, March 11, 2011 to an energetic, eager-to-laugh group of students.

Norwest has performed professional improv since he was 13.

“To me, comedy is like an adventure book,” he said. “I have to figure out where to take you guys.”

People who perform comedy are messed up in the head, according to Norwest.

Norwest was fired from a phone company for being insensitive, he said.

“People would call in, saying, ‘My phone’s not getting calls,'” he said. “I would say, ‘Get better friends.'”

His Friday act consisted of mostly dirty jokes, honest and personal humor and questioning people’s questions about his own sexuality. He is straight, he said repeatedly throughout the show.

Norwest targeted several audience members for added effect. He called one African American student Beyonce and poked fun of two male students sitting in the front row for their attempts to keep straight faces.

When he said his parents asked if he was gay, an audience member said her parents asked her too. He referred to her as “lesbian” for the rest of the night, even picking on her boyfriend.

“I’ve been told I look like Lance Bass,” Norwest said. “I think that’s rude.”

Norwest made a lot of jokes about being single.

“I use the second half of my bed as storage,” he said. “It’s a King size. I realize I’m not just single, I’m alone. That’s a true and depressing part of my life.”

Laughing helps your health, Norwest said.

“I think when people are having a bad day, they need to laugh,” he said. “When people are having a good day, they can laugh. It’s fun to be able to use my talents to help a bunch of people.”

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Norwest talks about how he got into comedy

Norwest talks about why he loves comedy

Norwest describes his best experience on stage

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Environmental journalist encourages political activism in climate change issues

Marlena Chertock

MARCH 10, 2011

Environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert described climate change, the future of the world’s food availability and encouraged students and others to become involved in this issue in a speech Thursday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in McCrary Theatre.

Kolbert, who works on The New Yorker, defined climate change as anthropogenic, or human-induced. Carbon emissions, people not taking actions to reverse or lessen the problem and other human actions are contributing to climate change, according to Kolbert.

“The climate change problem can be overwhelming,” Kolbert said. “It’s very big, it’s global.”

But she also believes we have an obligation to do something about it, she said.

“What is it going to take to convince Americans to take this problem seriously?” Kolbert said. “Are we going to wait until there simply isn’t enough to eat?”

People should care about climate change and the future of food, according to Kolbert.

“Do they like to eat?” she said. “If their answer is yes, they should care about climate change.”

Agriculture is intimately tied to climate, according to Kolbert. Food can’t be grown where the temperatures are too hot or cold. Food prices are rising worldwide, she said.

“Probably some parts of the world will be helped, farming will get better and some will suffer,” Kolbert said. “People want to know more specific than that, what places will be affected. But science can only give approximations.”

Kolbert showed many scientific and data models that predict and offer approximations.

“Some of what I’m about to tell you could be wrong,” she said, referring to science’s subjectivity to change. “Some predictions could be wrong.”

Kolbert also explained that the arguments people sometimes use against climate change or global warming don’t hold up in science. People often want to debunk science or throw out the scientific evidence for climate change, she said.

“The argument can’t be a certain drought or flood was caused by global warming,” she said. “But people can say this is what you would expect in a warming world, these types of droughts and floods around the world.”

People can’t rely on their regional or personal experiences of the weather and average temperatures to reflect what’s happening globally, Kolbert said. If it’s a really cold, bitter winter in one person’s region and he questions global warming, that doesn’t hold true for the rest of the data collected from around the world, Kolbert said.

People have to look at large data sets, she said.

The data will show that 2010 was one of the warmest years to record, Kolbert said. All of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the last 12 years.

“It’s a lot easier to say there’s not a problem,” Kolbert said.

But she encouraged people to get politically involved in this issue that isn’t going away.

People are not taking their opinions and voices to the next step, they are not getting involved politically and need to be, according to Kolbert.

She spoke against putting the blame on others and making someone else figure out how to deal with the issue.

“I’m stepping out of my role as a journalist,” she said. “But into the role as a fellow inhabitant of the planet, as a mother.”

Allowing global warming and climate change to continue, without doing anything to prevent it, is not acceptable and doesn’t seem rational, according to Kolbert.

“I encourage all of you not just to throw up your hands, but to get involved,” she said. “On a personal, university and national level.”

Opinions don’t amount to anything unless a concerted, national effort is taken, she said.

“Until privileged Americans start taking action, I don’t see why anyone else on the planet would or should,” she said.

The U.S. is a major and perhaps the number one contributor to the problem, according to Kolbert. She showed a chart that listed the U.S. as the top contributor of carbon dioxide emissions.

There are three available options, Kolbert said, citing John Holdren, the advisor to President Obama for Science and Technology.

  • Mitigation-reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuels, taking action to combat climate change.
  • Adaptation-people don’t have to change their ways, breed new crops that are drought-resistant, heat-tolerant, migration, people will have to move away from regions where agriculture becomes impossible.
  • Suffering-Kolbert said this aspect doesn’t need explanation.

The planet will not snap into a new routine, Kolbert said. If greenhouse gas levels continue to rise, the climate will keep changing and never reach a new equilibrium.

“I am not a farmer,” Kolbert said. “But I think if you talk to some people who are, they’ll say if you don’t get to predictability, agriculture is very hard.”

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Elizabeth Kolbert talks about not relying on personal experiences with weather and temperatures to make opinions about global warming

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English professor encourages ‘affectionate interpretation,’ awareness of Asian American rhetoric at Elon University

LuMing Mao discusses Asian American rhetoric

Marlena Chertock

MARCH 3, 2011

LuMing Mao, professor of English at Miami University of Ohio, discusses Asian American rhetoric and why it is important to retain differences in togetherness. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

Rhetoric, the study of writing or speaking effectively, can be ethnic and can change among different groups of people, according to LuMing Mao, Miami University of Ohio professor of English.

Mao spoke about Asian American rhetoric in Yeager Recital Hall March 3 at 7 p.m. as the first speaker for the Togetherness in Difference Lecture Series.

Mao defines rhetoric in two ways: the effective systematic use of language in social, political and cultural context and making knowledge. It’s a way of reading and a way of engaging.

“I would like to think my work is a way of generating knowledge,” he said. “I would like to be regarded as part of the body of Asian American rhetoric.”

African American English has a longer history and body of work, Mao said. Asian American history has started 10 or 15 years ago, he said.

In a very structured speech, Mao presented and discussed three quotes, three questions and two examples of Asian American rhetoric. He quoted Geneva Smitherman, a University Distinguished Professor of English at Michigan State University, author Maxine Hong Kingston and author Richard Nisbitt.

He discussed if Asian American rhetoric has distinctive and identifiable features.

“I consider myself part of the American experience,” Mao said. “On other hand, I very much want to be connected to the ancestral culture of China, East Asia. Sometimes I feel I belong to no place.”

Asian American rhetoric is a hybrid in the making, Mao said.

It forms out of a counter discourse, out of a response of the dominant discourses in American culture, according to Mao. It is an ethnic rhetoric marked by “otherness.” The rhetoric allows Asian Americans to construct new genres and codes that speak to their own needs and wants.

The rhetoric can employ a collective identity that can break out of the constructed and stereotyped Asian American, Mao said.

Asian American rhetoric forms from a desire for Asian Americans to break out of their silence and write their own experiences into the larger American narrative, Mao said.

“The most productive question for me to ask is not what is Asian American rhetoric, but where, when and how do other Asian Americans use rhetoric to bring about social, cultural and political changes,” he said.

Mao presented two different examples that dealt with Asian American rhetoric.

He played “hyphenation,” a five-minute track from i was born with two tongues, spoken poetry from a Chicago-based Pan-Asian Spoken Word Troupe. An Asian American woman combines music, words and metaphors to explain how the society she lives in makes her fragmented.

“I am Asian slash American, Asian slash American slash woman,” the poet said.

Mao called i was born with two tongues a hybrid of spoken poetry, music and political empowerment. It draws upon the oral tradition of black and Caribbean communities to create Asian rap, he said.

Mao also read sections of “The Women Warrior” by Kingston, which describes a woman growing up as a Chinese American.

People should become more aware of rhetoric and how they’re using it, Mao said.

“Only by being more conscious and aware of what we’re doing can we be more aware of the consequences of what we’re doing,” he said.

The world is now a diverse, smaller place that brings people together, Mao said. But he doesn’t want togetherness to be celebrated and romanticized as eradicating differences. This is naïve and unrealistic, he said.

“Togetherness does not absolutely erase our differences,” Mao said. “I don’t want the fact of being together to erase differences.”

Words have consequences and meanings that impact others. Words have histories and histories have significance, according to Mao.

People should deal with words and differences by practicing what Mao calls affectionate interpretation. It’s a form of putting oneself into the other’s shoes — empathy.

“Be charitable when you communicate with others,” he said. “Be mindful and aware of the consequences of your own behavior.”

When togetherness happens, people should become aware of differences, Mao said.

“We (should) use our differences not as a barrier but as a resource to cultivate better understanding, better communication and better lives for everyone,” he said.

This lecture series is funded through a College of Arts and Science Fund for Excellence Grant. The second and final speech will be given by Dr. Victoria Bergvall. The speech is “But words will never hurt me: Critiquing media messages about sex, gender and brain differences.”

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LuMing Mao discusses differences in togetherness

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