Monday, February 23, 2009

Peer Interview: Lucas Sullivan

By Aliyah Finney

Rutgers University, New Jersey’s state school, is extremely diverse and offers countless opportunities for profession path and social networking . This was one of the determining factors in me choosing to apply and eventually enroll at this particular school. One such student, who was attracted to the same aspect, is 20-year-old Lucas Sullivan.

Like myself Sullivan attended a small high school of a limited racial diversity; the complete opposite of the Rutgers community. Sullivan went to Newerk Academy, a prep school with a graduating class of 100. It is a prestigious school, though Sullivan thought it “too preppy… All that changed when I came to Rutgers however, where cliques seem not to exist.”

Now here, Sullivan, like many a student, had some trouble finding himself. Being of European and Japanese decent, Sullivan had the opportunity to travel to Asia and England. This shaped is aspirations as he enjoyed the time he spent abroad, “I feel very fortunate to be able to have made so many trips in my life.”

For the first year and a half of his college life Sullivan was not exactly sure what he wanted to major in, though enjoyed testing the waters. “Maybe it's just college itself, but it seems that at Rutgers, you can have a good time with any group of people as long as you're outgoing and friendly.”

Though now it seems as though Sullivan has finally become grounded and found a set path towards his future. Considering that he is currently a junior, and has just changed his major to Journalism and Media Studies Sullivan is a little beyond the typical journalism student, though his case is anything but unique. He, like thousands of other students, will spend at least four more years in school in order to obtain his degree.

But the most important fact is that Sullivan has become comfortable with his current major. “In terms of my future, I know that I'd like to write for some publication,” Sullivan is worried though, “I'm not sure how well print media will be doing whenever I graduate.” Print media purchases and therefore jobs have all been declining steadily over the years. Though there the medium itself will never become obsolete, with al of the downsizing getting into the industry has become more competitive now than ever.

Despite this Sullivan is sticking with it. “With any luck, jobs will have opened up by the time I'm fully trained in journalism and ready to put myself out there."

Sullivan has also chosen Phsychology as his minor. He does not necessarily intend to use this degree in association with his future occupation, but just finds the subject interesting. “I took a couple of classes in High School and thought, why no?”

Hopefully Sullivan will continue to enjoy his Rutgers experience and add to the number of notable Rutgers alumni.

The Mentality of a Boy Scout

By Ezra Dreiblatt

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” At first glance to many people under the age of twenty-five, this seems like something out of the army manual. To nineteen-year-old Jason Scharch from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, it is the Boy Scout Oath that he stated countless times during his twelve years in the Boy Scouts of America. For Jason, the Boy Scouts played a large part in defining his pre-adolescent and teenage years. His troop of roughly 30 boys from his town provided him with camaraderie and a sense of purpose from a young age. For Jason’s parents, it was an opportunity for their son to learn essential outdoor skills while at the same time teaching Jason certain values that would serve him well later in life. The emphasis on honesty, responsibility, and leadership is one of the main reasons the Boy Scouts is still an important part of American culture.

Jason started out at the age of five in a Cub Scout Pack of fifteen boys from his town. The Cub Scouts are the youngest subdivision of the Boy Scouts and allow young boys an opportunity to be active and have fun. They also gave Jason an idea of what the Boy Scouts structure would be like. While all Boy Scouts are made aware of all that they can achieve within the organization, very few go all the way and achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. Of the nineteen boys that Jason began the journey with, only he and one other put in the work and dedication necessary to become Eagle Scouts. From an early age in the Cub Scouts, Jason and his troop were taught outdoor skills such as lighting fires, creating shelters, and tying knots. More importantly though, the Boy Scouts began to slowly shape Jason into what they defined as a “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight” man. All the important aspects of being a Boy Scout, such as the stating of the oath, the wearing of the uniform, and the acquisition of outdoor skills were molding Jason into becoming the type of man that the Boy Scouts had been churning out for a century. As a young boy, these aspects of the Boy Scouts did not resonate with Jason. The closeness of the troop as well as the competition to acquire badges was what drove him early in his time with the Boy Scouts.

Jason’s last four years with the boy scouts was when he says he learned the most and was finally able to apply the skills and values he had learned as a young scout. For example, at the age of fifteen he moved up in rank from just being a member of a troop to being a Senior Patrol Leader. This brought on a test of his leadership and communication skills because some members of the troop were older than him. It turned out that this wasn’t as big of a problem as even Jason thought because as he put it, “I wasn’t doubting my own abilities, and once they saw that, they didn’t wither.” In his junior year of high school, Jason decided that he would attempt to achieve the highest rank the Boys Scouts offered, the rank of Eagle Scout. According to Jason, “this had been something that I had always wanted to achieve but I had never thought I would actually stick with the Boy Scouts for that long.” To achieve this commendable rank, Jason had to lead his troop in building a hockey shed for his town. Receiving no assistance in terms of coordinating, it was Jason’s responsibility to contact the lumberyard, assemble the materials, and organize his helpers into groups in order to keep the operation as smooth as possible. His success in this venture proved that while the Boy Scouts may have lost some of their luster, they are still molding fine gentlemen every day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Life After High School

By Shaun Van Moerkerken

There comes a time in every teenager’s life when they are faced with the difficult decision of deciding their future upon the abrupt end of high school. In some cases, this decision is an easy one; a career path and college choice is already in mind, but this is not true for all cases. My classmate Travis Drobbin, age 21, had much to say on this topic and could relate with students who were faced with this tough decision. “I felt like I was in a prison and could not relate to anyone," Travis had to say about his first semester of college.

Travis said that upon the completion of high school he had narrowed down his choice of colleges to 2 finalists; Rutgers University or Monmouth University. At first, Travis was leaning more towards choosing Monmouth University for the economical reason of receiving scholarship money to attend their institution. Even with the money Monmouth was offering him, Travis turned down their offer because ever since childhood, Travis wanted to be a scarlet knight, “I was already very familiar with the campus and really felt comfortable making it my new home.” When accepted to Rutgers, Travis was unaware that Rutgers at the time was broken up into 6 different schools and you were accepted to that specific school. Travis was accepted to University College, which little he knew was known for transfer students and adult night time students, which is not a great atmosphere to make new friends and start your college career.

Upon arrival at Rutgers, Travis was assigned to dorm at the Livingston Campus, which is not a crowd favorite among students here at Rutgers University. Even though he originally wanted to live at College Avenue, he decided to make the best of his situation, which only got worse from this point. He soon found out that he and his roommate were the only freshmen on his floor in Quad 1 and under the age of 21. This is a bad situation for a freshman because cliques have already formed among former students and it is difficult to make new friends. To make matters worse, Travis and his roommate did not get along either due to their differences in lifestyles.

Winter break arrived and Travis was never more happy to see home. After his long month break, the woes of Livingston Campus life had left his mind but were quickly remembered upon his return. This is when Travis realized that something had to change. The first idea that crossed Travis’s mind was transferring out of Rutgers and reverting back to his other choice, Monmouth University. He met with his parents at a restaurant and talked with them about transferring out of Rutgers, and had convinced them.

The following day, Travis received a phone call for a dinner invitation to rush the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. He had been selected because his brother in-law had once been a brother of the same fraternity. Even though he was thinking of transferring, he reluctantly accepted the dinner invitation. After attending many rush events he received a bid to join the fraternity. After that day, Travis decided not to transfer out of Rutgers and found his niche of friends that he feared he might never find at Rutgers University. These tough decisions that teens face of finding a close group friends almost made him make a life changing decision. “I know now that I made the correct decision and have never been happier here at Rutgers University.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

State University Dean Rubs Policy With U.S. Presidents & Presidential Candidate

By Sylver McGriff
Photo by Sylver McGriff

One man tapped for policy guidance by 2 U.S. presidents. Add a vice president, and a presidential candidate to the mix, and you have a veritable presidential magnet. His name is Jorge Reina Schement.

He wears a baseball cap. Which, as dean of Rutgers’ School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, no doubt makes students feel comfortable shooting the breeze with him. He wears a bow-tie as well, which may occasionally reel in the easy smile that plays at the corner of his mouth. “It’s an absolute pleasure working for Dean Schement,” his assistant, Kathy, enthuses. “...he has a gift of really relating to students, faculty, and staff.” And, apparently, to Presidents as well.

“I don’t really know why they chose me,” Schement muses modestly about being selected to work with the Obama Transition Team. “My research is in an area of policy called Universal Service area encompassing the Federal Communications Commission...the White House and the Congress [which] attempts to make sure that as many Americans as possible can have access to the telecommunications network of the United States...[which] now includes broadband and internet access. Over the years, I have published widely in this area...about those groups that have not had as complete access as others, and how we can expand our policies to make sure that they have access.”

Schement’s books include such titles as: “Between Communication & Information,” “Encyclopedia of Communication & Information,” and “Tendencies & Tensions of the Information Age: The Production & Distribution of Information in the United States.”

During the last administration, Schement was a member of President Bush’s Presidential Technology Advisory Committee (PTAC). And he advised presidential candidate John McCain on telecommunications for Native Americans. “As a Senator from Arizona, McCain was very interested in that,” Schement recalls.

How is it that Schement is able to cross party lines in his advisory capacity? “It isn’t the case that we don’t cross lines and are completely partisan. I think [there is] an important service to provide regardless of who is in government. They may not be interested but that’s not my concern. My concern is to present what I know.”

As for Schement and Vice President Joseph Biden, they rubbed shoulders as well as policy talk for over a year on weekly Amtrak commutes to Washington during the time when then Delaware Senator Biden was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “I came away with a sense of him as being a very smart guy.” Schement commented.

An impression that also applies to Dean Schement, himself.

A Life Changing Experience

By Russell Booth

Karen Andriamoasy is from central New Jersey and is a 20-year-old junior at Rutgers University. Karen is a journalism and media studies and East Asian studies double major. Her concentration in the East Asian studies major is Japanese. She first discovered her interest of Japanese culture when she had to do research on the country. Exploring the history of Japan allowed her to discover what she wants to do in life. When she was younger she became interested in marine biology after watching a documentary about sharks. She soon realized that becoming a marine biologist was not something that she wanted to do. Karen began to take up an interest in music and literature. At the age of 7 Karen began to take piano lessons. Afterwards she joined the school band and sang in the school choir. She is also able to play the saxophone and is currently learning how to play the guitar. Karen is a fan of all music genres and has written several songs, which were about her personal life experiences.

Her interest in Japan first started when she was working on an assignment in her computer class. The assignment was to create backgrounds using images of different countries; Karen began to read about Japan and Tokyo. After reading she became captivated by the country’s history and culture. The more she learned about Japan, the stronger her adoration became. Karen began to read Japanese books and listen to Japanese music. One of Karen’s favorite books is the Japanese novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. The novel is about a man named Toru Watanabe, who is narrating the story and reminiscing about his freshman college year in Tokyo. Toru develops relationships with two different women through his reminiscences. The reason why she likes the books is because “the story is more about language, detailed, and graphic.” Another novel that Karen likes is Truancy by 15-year-old New York City high school student Isamu Fukui. This novel is about a city ruled by the mayor and educators. The main character Tack is leading a student rebellion known as the Truancy. Karen prefers Japanese literature to western literature. She states, “I prefer Japanese lit to western lit because it’s more insightful and engaging.”

Karen is currently taking classes at Rutgers University to learn how to read, write, and speak Japanese. Since music has always played an important role in Karen’s life, she started to listen to Japanese music. Some of her favorite bands are the groups Uverworld, BoA, and Utada HiKaru. All of these singers perform different genres of music. Karen plans to visit the country very soon. She also plans to combine both of her interests after she is done college by publishing in Japanese. Learning about Japan’s history and its culture had a very important impact on Karen’s life. Her research allowed her to find something that is very important and influential in her life. She has become so fascinated with Japan that she desires to have a career that can combine her interest in Japan with her interest in writing.

Raised in Radio

By Maria Monica Abrenica

“I was always told, like most kids I know, to do whatever I wanted to do,” said Alex Cole.

For nearly two years, Cole has been serving the Rutgers community of New Brunswick through his volunteer work at 88.7 WRSU-FM (New Brunswick, New Jersey, New Music). He became part of the student-run station during his freshman year in the fall of 2006 and started in the News Department. As of today, Cole produces and hosts “Oh, The Shenanigans,” a music program that broadcasts from two to four on Tuesday afternoons.

Cole was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey on August 3, 1988 and was raised in Keasbey, N.J. He is currently residing in Menlo Park Terrace, which is part of Metuchen. He was raised by his father, Brian Cole, who has always been into computers and by his mother, Carol Cole, who works in the legal department of the gasoline company, Hess.

When asked how he got involved in radio work, Cole responds in a manner reminiscent of his childhood and says that his parents and the environment he grew up in had a lot do with it. “For the majority of my life, I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” he said. Cole recalls that he felt fairly privileged in having access to the latest technological gadgets due to his father’s line of work. His face lights up as he recollects how his parents were instrumental figures in the process of radio influencing his early years. “When in my mother’s car, the news would be on. With my father, it was always 89.5 FM WSOU, the metal radio station of New Jersey.” While the fascination he had for technology kept growing, the “future of a nine-to-five job in a cubicle,” as Cole describes it, wasn’t something he found appealing. Since he already had the love for music and attentiveness to what was going on in the world, Cole decided to look into radio when he entered Rutgers. He simply hoped then that it would make an interesting extra-curricular activity, but it only took about two weeks from his first time on air before he realized that a career in radio is what he wants to pursue.

Cole’s flexibility as a broadcast journalist is reflected in the way he puts time and effort into volunteering at WRSU. He describes the nature of work involved in both news writing and broadcasting and in music program production. For news, the inspiration for most stories are taken from the Associated Press wire and are carefully covered by the writers and reporters in their own words. The university portal,, is also a source for news, but entirely original stories are more than welcome. Cole says that a ten-to-fifteen minute broadcast requires a minimum of an hour and a half of preparatory work, but “of course, original stories require more prep-work and are usually pieces that have taken anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete.” The 20-year-old radio enthusiast is now in his fifth semester at Rutgers pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies and a minor in Criminology. He is also an active brother of the Alpha Phi Sigma fraternity.

The music show that Cole produces and hosts is a lot easier for him to prepare for, but he also says that its flow varies from one DJ to another. Usually, three songs are played in succession and then a microphone break comes. “I pretty much play whatever music I want then I’ll come on mic and talk for a bit with my co-hosts about the songs and about anything we deem necessary at the time.” Zach Huff, an English Major in his junior year at Rutgers in Newark, and Danny Mullins, a junior majoring in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers New Brunswick, host the music show with Cole.

As of today, Cole is not involved with WRSU’s News Department, but says that he will definitely get back into it soon. It is his music program today that he is most passionate about because it not only communicates who he is, but broadcasts the power to share a creative outlet with his listeners. “It’s a great feeling. It’s an even greater feeling to know that people are listening and requesting songs. Who knows? Maybe a person was having a really tough day and you played a song that makes them feel better.”


By Diana Curreri

“Wow. Um, well… I don’t really have one,” replied Kara Jordhoy when asked to explain a significant event in her life. “Honestly, I’m a pretty boring person.” I knew this could not be possible; there had to have been at least one life altering event in the past nineteen years of her life that stuck out more than any other. “Oh! I’ve been dancing since I was four. I love to dance.”

Kara Ann Jordhoy was born in Seoul, Korea on November 25, 1989. She was adopted at five months by the Jordhoy family from Chatham, NJ. At age two her family moved to Houston, TX and by age four she was put in dance classes for jazz, ballet, and tap. When her parents signed her up for dance classes, little did she know that this would be one of the most significant events of her life. It would also be just the start of her lifelong dancing career.

“It didn’t really start to get serious until sixth grade,” she recalled. In sixth grade, a girl on her school bus told her about the tryouts for the dance team. She competed against 200 girls to be picked for the following year’s junior high dance team. Only sixty girls would be chosen for the chorus line style dance they would perform. This was the first time dancing changed from a fun sport to a competitive one for her.

Just a year and a half later in eighth grade, Kara again found herself competing for a spot on the junior varsity dance team. Not only did she make the team, but she received officer position. In this position, she was responsible for choreographing entire dance routines, teaching the dances to the squad, and it allowed Kara to fix and change moves depending on the dancers’ abilities. This team competitively danced against other teams in the same category on local, state, and national levels. She also choreographed dances for football games and parades.

When high school came around, Kara knew dance would take up much of her time. In fact, she was on the varsity dance team all four years of high school and during her junior and senior years, she was given the title of captain.

Currently a freshman at Rutgers, she is double majoring in communication and social work with a minor in dance. Although she is not competitively dancing anymore, she is still practicing for a recital with the Rutgers Performing Dance Company, whose performance is at the end of the semester on Douglass Campus. “I do this because it is fun, I have such a love for it, and I’m really too busy with school to compete anymore.”

When looking back on her accomplishments with dancing, Kara stated, “Dance has taught me how to take criticism from other people. This has helped me motivate myself into trying harder and succeeding not only in dance, but in school as well.” Through dance, Kara clearly has the drive and motivation necessary to succeed wherever her future takes her.

Opening the Lid on Agent Orange: Barry Helps Direct Investigation of Veterans' Health Problems

By Alex Guadagno

The impact of Jan Barry’s investigation was not immediate, but it was significant. For the first time, the right questions were on the table and the framework was laid for further exploration of Vietnam veterans’ health problems and whether or not they could be attributed to the US government’s use of defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Over the course of the next ten years, agencies would be founded to seek justice for afflicted veterans; lawsuits would be filed against major players in the production of Agent Orange; the efficacy and candor of government organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency would be seriously called into question.

“It pointed the investigation in the right direction,” said Barry of his Morristown Daily Record series and role in the ensuing events. “It helped [other reporters] focus on where to ask the questions.”

Barry’s series of articles was printed in the Daily Record (Morristown, NJ) in 1980 over the course of four days. He had been working as a reporter since 1976, but this was his first in-depth investigative report.

Barry, age 66, is a Vietnam veteran, and first worked as a columnist and researcher at CBS News. However, his journalistic career essentially began at The Record (Bergen County, NJ), where he worked as a fact checker. It was there that Barry was able to develop a flair for asking the sort of questions that would later produce such provoking reports.

According to Barry, who never saw the effects of Agent Orange firsthand, his own experience in Vietnam did not give him much of an edge on the investigation. “It did provide an network and helped in that I could talk to other people who had been in Vietnam,” said Barry, who recalls being slipped a few memos by Veteren’s Administration headquarters employees trying to sidetrack the investigation.

After receiving the green light for the investigation from his editor at the time-- who was a GI in the war himself-- Barry didn’t even have to make a physical return to Vietnam in order to substantiate his evidence on the lingering health hazards of Agent Orange. Shortly after the Morristown Daily Record articles, it was discovered that dangerous levels of dioxin were still present in a Newark chemical plant, Diamond Shamrock, which had manufactured Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. It was a researcher in Puerto Rico who shed light on the concern that New Jersey journalists had previously been ignoring.

In his 1983 New York Times follow-up article, Barry admonished New Jersey news people for not getting to the story first. “Why did it take three years for the lid to be opened?” Barry asked. The follow-up article also recapped some major developments that three short years had brought forth after his initial investigation: a University of Medicine and Dentistry dermatologist confirmed he had been treating Diamond Shamrock workers for chloracne (dioxin-related skin disease) since 1964; The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported high cancer-death rates and chloracne in employees of plants like Diamond Shamrock where dioxin was present; a class action suit was filed in Superior Court against Diamond Shamrock; The New Jersey Agent Orange Commission was formed by veterans and scientists to conduct its own health study when the EPA’s research stagnated.

One article in Barry’s landmark Daily Record series focused on challenges to the dependability of a health study conducted by the Veteren’s Administration on Vietnam Veterans’ health. The VA estimated the comprehensive health study could take up to a decade. “For some veterans concerned to see a thorough health study done as soon as possible, the VA is the wrong agency, with the wrong approach, at the wrong time,” reported Barry.

The New Jersey Agent Orange Commission closed down in 1996, though only after it backed groundbreaking research on the harmful effects of Agent Orange and played its part in winning Vietnam veterans their 1984 settlement of $180 million, reported the New York Times. The settlement included Diamond Shamrock, as well as Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Journey to Israel Affects a Life

By Joe Bindert

Jaclyn Mandelbaum took a trip to Israel this past winter break, a trip which she says helped her appreciate her own culture as well as the Israeli contemporary lifestyle. She had the opportunity due to the fact that her natural Jewish heritage provides the “birthright” principle – the idea that every Jewish person should be allowed to visit Israel at some point in their lives. The trip was completely free for forty young adults, all between the ages of 18 and 26. They spent ten days in various locations throughout the country. Jaclyn says she will likely be friends with the people she met for the rest of her life. “The highlight of my trip was having the chance to interact with Israeli peers,” she says. “I learned so much from them. I hope to remain in contact with them forever.”

The trip included a variety of activities, including hiking before dawn, a journey through Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and other various locations throughout the country. She claims the lifestyle is also very different there. Soldiers patrol the areas constantly, and are always carrying various weapons to protect themselves and others, due to the high levels of violence that occur in some parts of Israel and the Middle East in general. The fact that suicide bombings can occur in the country randomly was also very unsettling for the travelers as well, and it has become such a threat in general that even places like shopping malls have to have metal detectors outside in order to prevent suicide bombers from entering.

On a different day, Jaclyn stated that the group met with five Israeli soldiers – all of whom shared different life stories and experiences with her and the others. The stories included accounts of missiles making an impact on local bus stops, the dangers of living in the Gaza area, and tips on how to spot a suicide bomber. One important tip the soldiers shared with the group was to watch for people wearing long sleeve shirts on buses during the summer months, as that is a sure sign that someone is a suicide bomber. Another interesting thing to think about that the solders shared with the group is the fact that enemies of Israel often do not have very current technology in their weapons systems, and therefore are more prone to hitting civilians than vice-versa.

Jaclyn was pleased overall with how the trip worked out. “Israel was a life-altering trip. I have a new appreciation for the country. I would recommend to any Jewish teenager to take advantage of the amazing opportunity that we are given. I am so grateful for the generous philanthropists and the Israeli government who make this trip possible.” She said that the trip gave her great insight into the Israeli culture and way of life that she never would have fully understood had she not been able to see it for herself.

Jaclyn is a 20-year-old Rutgers junior from Marlboro, NJ majoring in Journalism and Media Studies.

Finding Fulfillment at Rutgers

By Lucas Sullivan

When asked about what she thinks of college so far, Aliyah Finney will tell you that she is very content with her current selection. “Originally Rutgers was going to be a safety school for me, and I was going to go to UPenn,” said Finney, who is currently a 19-year-old sophomore attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “I even planned on transferring, but once I got here I really liked Rutgers.” Before arriving at Rutgers, Finney attended Dunellen High School, located in Dunellen, N.J. She noted an interesting piece of trivia about Dunellen: the first ever QuickChek convenience store was established there. Finney wasn’t terribly satisfied with the high school itself, however. “Dunellen has a pretty bad reputation,” she said with a laugh. “There were drugs and even a pedophile at our school, and the building just sat on a street corner.” Aside from the questionable activities of some of her peers and teachers, Finney was also displeased with the relatively small size of the school. “Our graduating class had only 73 students in it,” she recalled. “And it seemed that the school in general disliked our class. We had the highest number of teen pregnancies, and some seniors would come to class high on drugs, pills, whatever.”

Luckily, Finney would find much more contentment and gratification at Rutgers. Taking on the difficult task of double majoring in Linguistics and Journalism with a minor in Japanese, she seems very pleased with her Rutgers experience thus far. “In the end, I’m glad I came to Rutgers. It wasn’t high on my list, but it’s close to home and offers such a large mix.” For Finney, part of the appeal of the college is its bigger size. “The larger classes are definitely a plus,” she said. “Also, it’s definitely a lot more diverse than my high school.”

Originally, Finney planned on majoring in Marketing, but it proved not to be what she was looking for. “I wanted to get a job promoting foreign movies, so Marketing seemed like a good choice. But the classes dealt more with statistics, which I wasn’t at all interested in.” While Finney is not absolutely positive on what specific classes she wants to take, she is confident that as a sophomore there is plenty of time remaining to pursue her interests. Though she previously had a job working at the Rutgers Telefund, the “nation's highest revenue-generating university phone program since 2002,” according to their website, she was forced to temporarily quit her job in order to keep up with her workload. “I’ll work there again over the summer,” she said, “but for now it was just too much work.” In terms of residence life, Finney had lived in Morrow Suites on Busch Campus, but found them cramped and uncomfortable. She now lives off campus with 2 other residents, and finds it more to her liking. “It’s nice. We’re all in relationships, so they mainly just keep to themselves.” All in all, Finney feels fulfilled attending Rutgers. Student life thus far has been enjoyable, and she knows that there is a lot more that the school has left to offer. “I definitely want to get more involved here,” she concluded, “and seeing as I may take five years to graduate like many students, I should have plenty of time!”

More Than the “Bear” Minimum, One Fan’s Dedication Stands Above the Rest

By Stephen Yoon

Meeting a famous celebrity is something that most people can only fantasize about, much less meeting your favorite celebrity. People often do crazy and outlandish things to try to meet a famous person, but Tiffany Hsia of Edison, New Jersey took a much more creative approach to getting her favorite celebrity’s attention. Hsia, a 25 year old journalism and media studies major with already completed bachelor’s degrees in history, political science, and geography, has a hobby of making personalized teddy bears for friends and family, and decided to extend that hobby to one of her favorite people—Josh Groban.

It is a common tactic to get to talk show studios early in order to catch a glimpse of the visiting celebrity of the day, which Hsia employed when Josh Groban appeared on ABC’s popular daytime show, The View on May 29, 2002. Even though she got to the studio where the taping was being held at 5 AM to wait in line to see him, Tiffany felt that she needed something else to separate herself from the rest of the pack. Luckily for her, she had come prepared. In a stroke of inspiration she had prepared a personalized teddy bear of Josh Groban, using felt to create the pants and turtleneck sweater and doll's hair to emulate Groban’s curly black hear. Indeed, she even went as far as to make a miniature version of a microphone Groban would use out of pipe cleaners.

When asked why she went through so much effort to get someone to simply notice her in the big crowd, she replied that she was a “huge Josh Groban fan, and I wanted to do something to get his attention.”

Luckily for Hsia, it worked as Groban’s publicist Liz Rosenberg noticed the very familiar looking bear and commented on how much he would love it. These words rang true as Groban immediately spotted the bear and gushed over how much he loved it. Tiffany immediately gave him the prized bear as he was rushed into the studio, and she was later approached by Rosenberg in the audience, who mentioned that Groban wanted to meet Tiffany for her efforts. I asked Tiffany how meeting Groban lived up to her expectations and she replied that, “In person Josh was a lot more attractive, but he was very witty, funny, and nice.” Despite the humorous reply she was clearly very excited, and became even more enthralled when Groban brought the bear out on stage and the camera focused on her to highlight the bear and the effort she put in.

After the show Tiffany and her friends went to meet Groban, who thanked her again for the bear and the support which he said helped him throughout his performance on the show. Indeed, her bear became so popular that she was later on asked to remake the bear for the Josh Groban foundation. Hsia has not stopped her hobby of personalized bears, and has in fact gone on to make bears for other celebrities like Michael Buble, Jane Monheit, and Matthew Morrison.

Tiffany Hsia has taken that stereotypical children’s fantasy of meeting a celebrity and made it a reality through her creativity and determination. She commented that, “These bears gave me the ability to meet my favorite celebrities so it was worth the time and effort in the end.” Tiffany demonstrated that with a novel approach that makes one stand out of the pack, people can perhaps get closer to their aspirations of meeting their favorite celebrity.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Shaun Van Moerkerken reflects on his high school football days.

By Travis Drobbin

High school football in the town of Hopatcong, New Jersey has been historically known as being sub par. This was definitely the case for 20-year-old Shaun Van Moerkerken’s first three years on the football team. Shaun played sparingly his first three years on the team. Shaun played primarily both an offensive and defensive lineman. As the final game of his junior season approached, his coach told the players that everyone who didn’t see much playing time, but still stuck with the team would play. All the reserves got very excited about the possibility of some real game experience. These few minutes of playing time would be vindication for all the early morning workouts, and the summer days spent on the football field. These minutes would provide the reserves with a reward for all their hard work. As the game quickly approached the players were getting even more excited at the upcoming playing time. Shaun waited on the sidelines for the coach to call his number. The halves of the football game came and went, while Van Moerkerken was stuck on the sideline dumbfounded by the coach’s empty promise. He was so disappointed by the broken promise that he questioned his dedication and willingness to play the following year. He came to the conclusion that football was not worth it, and the following day he informed his coach that he would not be returning to the team the next year.

The summer came and went, and Shaun tossed and turned over the decision he made the year before. He even considered coming back to the team to play his senior season. Shaun decided to stick with his decision to forego his last year of high school football. He felt that the practices were too difficult, and the team was consuming too much of his time. The team was not predicted to be any better than the year before, and was expected to finish the season below .500. The Hopatcong Varsity football team won their first game of the season, but lost their second. Shaun felt vindication for his decision, “I made the right choice, because teams not that good. There isn’t any way they will win it all.” Shaun spoke too quickly; as the team then went on to win every game after that leading up to the state championship game. With Shaun sitting in the stands the team went on to win the game, and in turn be the state champions. “I was happy, but at the same time I was sad. When everyone was dancing and crying on the field, I was in the stands.”

Even though Shaun was not on the field to celebrate the victory with his teammates, he was there to celebrate as a dedicated fan. Shaun and a few of his friends began the group called the “Chiefs Line,” which was a group of students who painted their bare chests to spell out chiefs. Regardless of the temperature, or the distance they had to travel the line was at every game cheering on their beloved football team.

Get a Job: A New Life-Changing Phrase

By Kara Jordhoy

Like most middle class teenagers, Diana Curreri was forced by her parents into getting a summer job. However, unlike the majority, that single job at a major clothing store influenced her decisions regarding school and employment for the next six years. The typical parental phrase “get a job” can now be regarded as inspiration towards a possible future career.

“My mom forcing me to get a job changed my life forever,” Curreri said. “I only saw it as a summer job, but it was way more than that.”

Born on a rainy Wednesday in Brooklyn, New York on March 18, 1986, Curreri was an average child growing up in the Tri-State area. She attended school, played sports and had many friends. When Curreri was eight years old, her family took her and her younger brother Dean to live in Marlboro, New Jersey. While still living how they did in Brooklyn, Curreri’s mother had different plans for her once she turned sixteen.

“She told me to go to a group interview at Old Navy,” Curreri said. “I was so against it, but she was tired of paying for things that I needed.”

Much to her dismay, Curreri dragged herself to the group interview on June 12, 2003. There she met six other people applying for the same job, but only her and another girl obtained the positions. Old Navy supplied them with uniforms: a collared shirt and a name tag, and were given a schedule. Then summer began.

“I liked getting an income every other week,” Curreri said. “Then I just decided to continue working there.”

By working at Old Navy, Curreri was able to get flexible hours that went perfectly with her high school workload. She started out as a regular part time employee; one that helped customers and worked the register. However, something happened that Curreri did not expect: she started to like her job. Soon that “summer job” became a full time position.

“After a year I was given more tasks to do at work,” Curreri said. “I had numerous positions at Old Navy, including working in management.”

Once Curreri graduated from Marlboro High School, she decided to keep her job and attend Brookdale Community College for two years. After getting her Associates of Arts degree, she took a year off of school to concentrate on working full time. She then realized that she needed a Bachelor’s degree to pursue her career even further, so she transferred to Rutgers University- New Brunswick. She then decided to live closer to the school and work at Gap, a division of Old Navy, in East Brunswick. From there, Curreri has worked at the Gap in numerous malls in towns including Freehold and Monmouth.

“I want to stay within the company, but do something bigger than just being inside of the store, like layouts or human resources,” Curreri said. “I plan on moving to San Francisco to work in cooperate at the Gap there.”

Curreri is looking to graduate from Rutgers University in the fall of 2010. She is currently majoring in Journalism and Media Studies, and hopes to maybe write newsletters for Gap Incorporated, or for retail in general in magazines.
“I love the Gap,” Curreri said. “I can’t wait to embellish my career there.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NJSTARS: A Smooth Transition

By Jaclyn Mandelbaum

Just the thought of transferring from a small community college to a large university certainly may be nerve-wracking to many people. Joe Bindert, age 21, reflected upon his transition from Ocean County College to Rutgers University. Certainly, Joe has encountered a very different life-style here at Rutgers University than he had been previously accustomed to. He has expressed how he has adapted to this change, and has given his opinion about the whole process.

After graduating from high school, Joe, resident of Forked River, NJ, had the prestigious opportunity to partake in the NJSTARS program. NJSTARS is a scholarship opportunity that is available for high school graduates in the top 15% of their class. This program covers the tuition of all 19 community colleges in New Jersey. If an appropriate grade point average is maintained after completing an Associate’s Degree, participants qualify to have their Bachelor’s Degree paid for at any state college. This is the path that Joe chose to take.

Joe described the immensely different atmospheres that Ocean County College and Rutgers University take on. He said, “The biggest change is the size of the school. Rutgers is enormous compared to my community college". He explained how peculiar it is that the whole community college is smaller than any one of the five campuses at Rutgers. Certainly, accompanying large campuses are large classes. Lecture halls with hundreds of students were a new and interesting experience for Joe as he adapted to his new environment. Joe came to Rutgers as a Junior, without a friend accompanying him. He said that he “felt almost like a freshman because everyone else already knew each other”. However, was not long before Joe befriended a decent amount of people and fit right in.

Rutgers University is home to people of a variety of interests, backgrounds, and hobbies. The wide-range of people and open-minded attitude provides the University with a rich culture. Joe is enjoying this attribute that he felt Ocean County College lacked. He described his experience there simply as “going to class”, and not much else.

In addition, Joe is enjoying the reality that there is always something to do on the Rutgers campus. No matter what day of the week, or what time of the day it is, people are always outside doing something. He described how it is not everywhere where you can order food to be delivered at 5:00 AM.

Content living on the Busch campus in the McCormick dorms, Joe is in no rush to move. He is thriving in his new atmosphere and said, “When I got to Rutgers, I wasn't sure how well I would adjust, but it seemed pretty natural after awhile, and I met a lot of great people". He believes that his transition from community college to Rutgers University was for the better. “It was the right choice”, he said. Joe recommends that Rutgers is a good decision for transfer students who are looking for a big-school feel.

You can learn more about the NJSTARS program at

Friday, February 13, 2009

Diving for a Cause

By Alexander Cole

The phrase “skin diving” comes up in conversation. Perhaps a few of the people will raise their eyebrows. One or two people may even be forced to stifle a giggle. However, for Maria Monica Erline Padua Abrenica, 22, this would be a response that provokes an eye-roll. Skin diving, contrary to popular misconception, is the practice of diving using a mask, a snorkel, fins, and a wetsuit or rashguard. While it is normally a purely recreational sport, Monica gave another reason why she enjoys skin diving. When asked about her involvement in the sport, she said, “Skin diving is something I do for a purpose.”

Born and raised in Manila, the coastal capital of the Philippines, she is very passionate about marine life. During her time at the University of the Philippines, she took the opportunity to join the Marine Biological Society, or UP MBS, in 2006. This organization seeks to promote marine environmental awareness through the sport of skin diving. The members of this group are identified in groups known as “batches.” Monica’s batch was called “Dugong Dagat.” She recalled a particularly memorable moment for her: “…our induction took place in Lobo, Batangas, which is a province back in the Philippines… It was a lot of work and it was challenging, but I would certainly do it all over again.” Another event she recalled was “PagCLEANatan,” which was a marine and coastal clean-up that took place in Pagkilatan, Batangas. She described it as an informational event her batch planned out in which locals were invited to help with coastal cleanup. When this takes place, the MBS members used skin diving as a way to clean up the underwater garbage, such as discarded soda cans, wrappers, etc.

I asked Monica about what was involved in being a member of MBS, along with the necessities of skin diving. She told me that learning proper breath holding, snorkel blast clearing, use of the buddy system, and equalization techniques are of paramount importance, from a skin diving view point. “Miscommunication,” she adds, “is also a concern that affects safety under water. This is why it is imperative to learn the proper hand signals.” Besides the many hours of training and pool-time required for these skills, Maria jokingly commented, "I don't know if you wish to include details on the application process, but the final rites took place on a period of 3 days at a beach. Imagine a ‘Survivor’ kind of event.”

Monica now resides in Middlesex County, New Jersey and attends Rutgers University. She is a sophomore within the School of Arts and Sciences and intends on majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. Though it has been two years since she left her native Philippines, she still fondly recalls why she joined UP MBS. “It made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile; that I wasn't just wasting my youthful energy on superficial things like acquiring the best clothes or gaining popularity among my peers.”

For more information:
(n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2009, from University of the Philippines Diliman:
Maps, G. (n.d.). Manila, Philippines. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from Google Maps:
Skin Diving. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2009, from
Society, U. o. (n.d.). what is UP MBS? Retrieved February 3, 2009, from

Making Moves

By Shawn Lopez

When I moved to New Jersey to begin my freshman year of college at Rutgers University, I experienced a slight culture shock. Who would have thought my hometown in Baltimore, Maryland could be so different from that of New Brunswick, New Jersey. For the first time in my life I was told I had an accent; when running errands with a couple of my fellow blonde-haired friends I was asked if I was from California; and I was essentially late to all my appointments because I took for granted the convenience of u-turns and left turns. I had only moved one hundred and fifty miles away from home and yet I still had to make quite an adjustment. I thought to myself, “People adjust to places thousands of miles away from home all the time. How do they do it?” This question was answered by my teammate and friend, Kaja Stamnes.

Kaja, 20, a student-athlete at Rutgers University, is a junior on the Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse team. When Kaja was 11 years old, her family moved over four thousand miles from the least densely populated state in the US, Alaska, to the most densely populated state, New Jersey. Her father, a professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks accepted a job offer at Stevens University in Hoboken, New Jersey. While it seems this move would be quite devastating for an 11-year-old-girl, Kaja had no problem transitioning from place to place. She was an experienced traveler due to her father’s work as a research professor. He went on sabbatical every so often. When Kaja was seven she lived in Norway, where her parents grew up, for about six months and then she spent the following three months of her life in Australia and New Zealand.

Kaja spent most of the first eleven years of her life living outside of Fairbanks, enjoying a picturesque view of Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain peak in North America. In sixth grade, she moved from the mountainside to the more suburban town of Maplewood, New Jersey. Kaja explained she had “the best of both worlds.” She went from having a mountain as her backyard to making a twenty minute train ride from her home to New York City. Kaja went on to say how she could not have moved at a more perfect time because she was entering a middle school that had a mix of students from multiple elementary schools, so no one actually knew she was “the new girl.” She also grew up playing soccer in Alaska and she used that to make friends in New Jersey.

It seems like everything fell into place for Kaja. “What about the Midnight Sun,” I asked, “Was it strange not having it anymore?” I thought it had to be an adjustment from having nights with sunlight to what we are use to on the East Coast. Kaja replied, “I thought it was weird that it could be dark outside but still hot in New Jersey but it did not take much getting use to.” When asked what the hardest part of her transition was, Kaja answered laughing, “It wasn’t really hard. People thought Alaska was a really eccentric place to be from. I remember one of my neighbor’s, an adult, asked me if there was grass where I lived before. And then there was the occasional… ‘did you live in an igloo?’” Kaja found it hard to believe what little people knew about Alaska but by this time she had practically lived on the other side of the world so the questions did not phase her.

Because of her travels, Kaja seemed to be a cosmopolitan woman by the time she reached middle school. In addition to residing in Alaska, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and now New Jersey, Kaja has studied abroad in Italy and Greece. While most of us dare ourselves to step foot out of the state we grew up in, adjusting to new places has proved to be no obstacle for Kaja. Kaja’s childhood, “often spent on planes” has made her a flexible and intellectual individual, ready to face whatever challenges are thrown her way.

An Athlete With Tested Determination

By Kaja Stamnes

The path at which students arrive at college is usually determined by a variety of factors, often many unforeseen at the outset of what can sometimes be a long and arduous journey. A family's ability to pay, rejection from one's first choice, proximity to home, all these and more are questions that arise as a student prepares to enter their undergraduate experience. As a member of the athlete community, however, the factors which determine one's college choice often are shaped in a distinct way from the typical student; the process begins earlier and the dynamics are often more personal. I sat down to talk to my teammate and friend, Shawn Lopez, a sophomore on the Women's Lacrosse Team here at Rutgers about how she ended up a Scarlet Knight.

Shawn began her career as a lacrosse player in sixth grade, in fact quite late considering she grew up outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where kids often pick up their sticks for the first time in elementary school. Previous to lacrosse she had played soccer, but by the eighth grade she began to play club lacrosse and realized that she would like to play in college. This is not unusual once a player begins to play in summer tournaments with their club team; in fact most teams advertise the schools of alumni and charge high rates under the assumption that your child will get it back in the form of a lacrosse scholarship.

As a member of the Skywalkers club team, and a student-athlete at Maryvale Preparatory School, Shawn enjoyed steady levels of recruitment in her early high school career. As a sophomore she had already had contact with various coaches, and excelled in multiple sports at her school. Unfortunately, despite the benefits of staying in shape that an athlete reaps from being a multi-sport star, in Shawn’s junior year she seriously injured her feet and legs. Due to repetitive stress on her legs from cross-country, she fractured both tibias (the bone along the shin) and multiple metatarsal bones in her feet. A bone scan in January revealed the news, taking away the possibility of a junior season, the most important from a college-recruitment standpoint.

Shawn’s first choice at this time had been Notre Dame, but as the news of her injury reached the coach, they unfortunately couldn’t afford to keep a place for her there. “I understood, because their program isn’t fully funded, and it’s risky for any school to save a spot for someone you haven’t seen play in over a year,” says Shawn, though admits being initially disappointed. Despite this feeling like a major setback, Rutgers coach Laura Brand continued to pursue Shawn and after an unofficial visit, she committed to the team.

As a member of the Scarlet Knights, Shawn has continued to show her strength and commitment to lacrosse despite a nagging injury since her time here. Her satisfaction with ending up at Rutgers, rather than South Bend, Indiana, and her upbeat attitude (especially now back in action in practice) show that everything fell into place for Shawn, despite what her initial expectations were as a high school student. She says, “Now that I’m here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I really wanted to go to Notre Dame, but I’m very happy here, I love my teammates, being close to home, everything.” As we enter the third week of our hardest preseason yet, Shawn’s assurance seems no less unwavering, and I have to say as her teammate that I feel the same way. Hopefully this year, Shawn and the rest of us will get to stomp on the Fighting Irish.

An Interview with Stephen Yoon

By Tiffany Y. Hsia

Stephen Yoon may not think it, but he is Generation Y’s example of a young and modern Renaissance man. A former high school football player and a current junior at Rutgers University, Yoon is double-majoring in Political Science and Journalism and Media Studies with a minor in Music. With aspirations of becoming a political commentator by day and jazz saxophonist by night, Yoon and I discussed the beginnings of his jazz fascination and the memory of one of his most memorable musical voyages.

Yoon, 20, of Paramus, N.J., has been playing the saxophone for eleven years, since the age of 9 when he had a mandatory music class in the fourth grade although he began his musical journey on the piano when he was 5 years old. “I chose the sax because even when I was a kid I loved jazz whenever I heard it. I saw the saxophone as the icon of jazz music,” said Yoon. Remarking on the Asian stereotype of strict parents forcing their children to play instruments, Yoon stated, “I am very thankful that they encouraged me to keep playing.”

It’s a good thing that he kept playing too; otherwise the Sound of America Music Program of 2005 would have been missing one of its sax players on their annual trip to Europe. The process to join this national band is a rigorous multi-step one. Yoon first had to be a member of an all-state band with a high enough ranking just to qualify to apply to the program and then he had to submit an application, questionnaire and audition tape to become a member of the seventy-five person national band. “It’s an extremely competitive group with musicians that often go on to become professionals,” Yoon revealed.

The tour started off in Germany and worked its way through France, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria, playing to packed concert halls and standing room only venues. Yoon’s most memorable incident actually occurred at the first concert of the tour in Rothenburg, Germany. “We had a lot of logistical problems…additionally it began to really pour. Even though we all had expensive instruments that could potentially be damaged by the rain, we all elected to finish out the concert because we all wanted to perform and represent ourselves to the fullest extent… nobody has more pride than a musician,” reminisced Yoon.

The Sound of America program also provided its young musicians with educational tours in each city or town that they arrived at, as well as allowing Yoon and his fellow band mates the opportunity to explore on their own, though Yoon remarked that they had a strict curfew. Some of Yoon’s favorite cities on the tour included Venice, Paris and Grindelwald, Switzerland. It was on one of these unsupervised jaunts that Yoon discovered one of his favorite places on his trip. “We took a cable car ride to a peak of the Alps… from there, my friends and I hiked up…until we found an amazing peak with an incredible view of a lake in the middle of the Alps.”

When asked if he plans to return to Europe, Yoon said, “Of course! Paris was (and is) one of my favorite cities in the world and we went to a bunch of scenic areas that I’d love to go back to such as the Stresa and Cortina D’Ampezzo in Italy.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

16-Year-Old Accident Victim Speaks Out About College

By Kiyanna Stewart

On the sixth year and seventh month anniversary of the near-fatal car accident, which initially left Brooklyn-native Jamere Stewart with a severed leg, the 16-year-old is doing much more than doctors expected, as he and his family begin to prepare for college.

On July 17, 2002, Jamere, then 10-years-old, was carried away on a stretcher from the grisly scene of the accident at a Burger King on Albemarle Road in the Flatbush section of the New York borough. His left leg was horribly mangled after a minivan swerved out of control and slammed into the restaurant, striking the boy and three others who were passing by. The driver of the van saw the boy and the carnage, and collapsed. She was eventually not charged in the accident. "I just remember being dragged by the car for a few seconds, from the street, through the glass of the Burger King, and then stopping at the counter inside [Burger King]. I also remember my dad running inside, and waiting with me until the ambulance came," he recalled. "I think I was very strong."

Jamere now attends Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey's Bergen County, after having moved to the small suburb with his parents and sister in August of 2003, only one year after the accident. The eleventh-grade student is known by his teachers and fellow students as a "hard worker and an amazing athlete," said Director of Athletics, Corey Robinson. Jamere is a member of the high school's top-ranking varsity wrestling team, the Fair Lawn Cutters. "Wrestling was a way for me to become physically active again. I played soccer in AYSO [American Youth Soccer Organization] throughout elementary and middle school and after the accident, wanted to regain my mobility, stength and speed. After being on crutches and in a wheelchair for so long, I had to get into sports again, " explains Stewart.

When asked about his star player, Jon Piela, Head Coach of the Cutters, emphatically expressed, "he's a blessing. He has a great story and because of what he's physically, emotionally and psychologically gone through, is one of the strongest kids I know."

Stewart plans to pursue a profession in the medical field as a surgeon or sports therapist. "It's important for me to be able to help others, because many people were there to help me. During all seven of my surgeries and after going to rehab for a year, I learned to appreciate all the people I came in contact with. Everybody," Jamere exclaimed. Tufts University, Rutgers- The State University of New Jersey, Rice University and Boston University are among his top choices for college, but he and his family plan to continue the search for an academic environment that best suits him. "We're presently researching colleges with excellent medical programs, that won't exactly break the bank. The economy will certainly affect our final decision next year," said Jamere's mother, Yasmin Stewart. "After the accident, he received a hefty settlement, so we're counting on that to pull him through at least undergraduate school, but hopefully some of graduate as well." The Stewarts won't be the only family applying for federal aid next year. According to U.S. News & World Report, in 2008, about 1.4 million more students filled out the Federal Application for Free Student Aid, an increase of about 10.4 percent over 2007. With layoffs increasing and stocks tumbling, that number may skyrocket in 2009. " The money is important. I know everyone's thinking about it. I just want to be at a school I love, so I can ultimately be a great surgeon. That's all I want for myself right now. But, are they ready for me? I don't really know," chuckled Jamere.

Cultural But Not Religious

By Jason Scharch

“Prayer never spoke to me.” These are honest words from 19-year-old Rutgers student Ezra Dreiblatt, who is an enthusiastic participant in the Jewish community, but somewhat emotionless about the religious aspect of his upbringing. After spending eight months in Israel between his senior year of high school and his freshman year of college, he felt differently about the Jewish culture and religion, therefore causing a shift in his lifestyle. When he returned to the United States, Ezra says he related to the cultural aspects of being Jewish better than ever, however it was his religion that he no longer had a connection with. Dreiblatt told me, “Being in Israel taught me the difference of being culturally and religiously Jewish.” He revealed more about his strict upbringing in a Jewish home, but also how his trip facilitated his change.

Ezra describes himself as a conservative Jewish person, who attended Synagogue on Saturdays throughout all of his life, and always observed the Sabbath. But, as he got older Dreiblatt was able to make more decisions for himself, including the choice in high school to be a little less strict with religious aspects, playing video games on a Friday night for example. He said, “It became more important to me to live my life, and have fun with some friends than to make sure I didn’t use electricity on Friday.” Although his religious strictness varied at times through his life, he always identified with the Jewish culture and population.

Seventeen years old at the time, and looking forward to an experience like no other Ezra was given the chance to spend nine months in Israel, but he ended up learning more about himself than about the Jewish religion. While in Israel Ezra was exposed to varying levels of strictness in regards to Jewish people keeping kosher, as well as their attitudes towards religion as a whole. Ezra said, “The program enforced a certain level of religious strictness, but there were always ways around this. As long as you didn’t draw attention to yourself, it usually wasn’t a problem.” This was the beginning of his transformation to a less religious, and a more lenient person.

The most important experience to him was the last four months he spent in Negev, a desert in Israel where he worked and lived with a small group, providing help at a school and old-age home. He refers to this as one of the best times of his life, connecting with people of varying religious strictness, but all the while embracing the cultural aspect of being Jewish and using this to relate to his peers and friends. This experience further proved the importance to him of certain aspects of being Jewish, such as marrying a Jewish woman, but for now he is content with being more lenient in the aspect of religion. He said, “I’m keeping an open mind toward keeping Kosher or Sabbath again, but right now I’m fine being culturally Jewish.”