Monday, October 15, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another published article, front page!


Sukkot in Lubavitch Crown Heights: A Time for Dancing and Singing
by Brooklyn Eagle (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 10-03-2007

Celebration Covers Six Blocks; Men, Women Dance Separately

By Sharon Udasin
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
CROWN HEIGHTS — Sparkling confetti and children’s plastic glow-toys dazzled the air on Kingston Avenue Sunday night as black-clad men danced in jumbled circles till 6:30 a.m., during their weeklong celebrations that follow the Jewish holiday Sukkot.

The festivities began Saturday evening and continued through last night, according to the 71st Precinct. During Chol Hamoed — the days between the onset of Sukkot and the holiday Simchat Torah — Jews of all denominations gather together to celebrate in Crown Heights, said Ben Lifshitz, the creator of a community news source, crownheights.info.

Continue reading...

Queens Gazette

In a free Queens weekly!

21-Year-Old Murder Case Finally Comes To Trial

BY SHARON UDASIN

Twenty-one years after a woman was brutally murdered in a burglary of her Sunnyside Gardens home, the Queens district attorney finally brought a suspect to trial.

But the prosecutors fear that their case may be crumbling.

During testimony, a leading prosecution witness said that the defendant threatened to harm his son if he testified and developed a case of amnesia.


Anthony Parilla repeatedly said, “I don’t remember.”
Click here to read the rest of the article..
Or click here for the pdf.

Here's the rest of the issue, from qgazette.com.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Chasidic street dancing in Crown Heights!

When I ventured out of my apartment to report on Sunday evening, I didn't have a class assignment or any J-School project -- yet for some reason, I couldn't resist traveling down to Crown Heights at 9:30 p.m. Sure, I ended up writing an article, but I have no idea if it'll ever be published. Most likely, no one will ever read the story but me.

But that's when you know you really love the profession.

Last night, I visited the nabe to observe and take part in Chol Hameod, the festive days that follow Sukkot and lead up to Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Saturday night through Tuesday night, revelers dance in the streets, from about 10 p.m. till 6:30 a.m. I only stayed till 2 a.m, because I didn't want to be traveling back from Crown Heights any later than that. I must say, it was a lot of fun, and I met several great people. While women can't participate in the public dancing, we were certainly able to watch the men in their horah circles and conga lines.

Here I am interviewing State Senator Eric Adams, who was accompanied by Rabbi Moshe Rabushkan, the head of Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. Photo credits to Ben Lifshitz (creator of the online news source www.crownheights.info).

I only have one piece of advice after this event -- getting on the subway at 2 a.m. at Kingston Avenue is probably not the most brilliant idea, and transferring trains at Franklin Avenue is even more idiotic. While nothing happened to me, it was frightening to be standing alone on a platform at 2:30 a.m. for 15 minutes, waiting to switch from the 4 to the 2.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The fun of college living

Yet another link to an interesting Times article today... I never really felt like I was in jail in my freshman dorm at Penn, but then again, I was in the quad. Hill House certainly looked like an out-of-date state penitentiary.

NATIONAL
Published: September 27, 2007
In a reversal from 2000, more Americans over all now live in college dormitories than in prisons.

Unbelievable

From The New York Times...

NEW DEHLI JOURNAL

Picking Up Trash by Hand, and Yearning for Dignity



Sept. 27,
2007






"An essential class of workers, garbage collectors in India’s capital are among the city’s poorest and most marginalized groups."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejad

To be quite honest, I wanted to punch the screen (no, J-School students were not among the priveleged few who got to attend the speech itself, but neither were most of the press members) when Ahmadinejad kept saying "60 years ago," when he was condemning Israel. After becoming friends with soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect Israel -- our Israel -- words like these made me want to cry. However, I did really, really like Bollinger's introduction.

But I had to write an objective article as part of a class assignment in one hour following the speech. And here it is... unfortunately not quite as objective as it should've been. Unfortunately, time interfered, and I was unable to include some key points -- just in case you were wondering, women are treated quite well in Iran apparently, and executions without trial are the same as American capital punishment, according to Ahmadinejad. Oh yeah, and Iran doesn't have homosexuals. Wonder why? Now that's a tough one.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad skirted questions about Israel’s right to exist and campaigned for continued Holocaust research during in his speech yesterday at Columbia University.
He no longer denied the Holocaust as a factual event in history, but he claimed his right as an academic to support continued research on the topic from all sides.
“I’m not saying that it didn’t happen at all,” Ahmadinejad said. “Granted, it happened. What does it have to do with the Palestinian people?”
He equated this historical event to a scientific or mathematical theory, capable of changing and developing through scholarly research. Such questions, he said, continue to be inhibited by the “two or three powers who think that they have the right to monopolize all science.”
Ahmadinejad wouldn’t tell the audience whether or not Israel is legitimate nation, even after two probing attempts for the answer by the moderator, Dean John Coatsworth. The president only responded that he supports an election by the people of Israel – the nation he would only call Palestine.
“You know quite well that Palestine is an old wound,” Ahmadinejad said. “For 60 years, innocent women and children are killed by airplanes that break the houses over their heads.”
He sharply repeated the phrase “For 60 years” again and again, citing examples of what he saw as Israeli atrocities against Palestinian victims.
Ahmadinejad spoke by invitation at Columbia’s School of International Affairs and World Leaders Form, in a discussion introduced by University President Lee Bolinger. The Iranian leader walked onto the stage with a simple wave to his audience of approximately 600 people.
“We do not honor the dishonorable when we open our forum to their voices,” Bollinger assured the audience in his introduction. “This forum has nothing to do with the right of the speaker…it is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies.”
“Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” Bollinger concluded, sparking a resounding applause.
Ahmadinejad was visibly offended by Bollinger’s remarks, avowing that Iranians always treat their visitors and civilians with respect, including the Jews.
“We love all nations,” Ahmadinejad said.
Ahmadinejad is ready to open discussions with the United States and claims that his government has been ready to do so during his entire presidency. He is eager to speak with the leaders of all nations, except for the people of what he called “the Zionist regime.”
Prior to the speech, community members gathered inside the University gates in protest. Students from the Jewish Theological Seminar joined together in circles, singing Zionist melodies and praying for the preservation of Israel. An array of multi-colored yarmulkes and ankle-length skirts decorated the campus, accompanied by the tunes of “Am Yisrael Chai.”
“We respect his right to speak, but at the same time we want to speak against him – anyone who acts like a modern Haman,” said rabbinical student Philip Weintraub, 23, comparing Ahmadinejad to an ancient villain from the Megillah scrolls.
“We need to show that somebody who’s providing mass murder should not be allowed to say his words without protest,” said Daniel Nevins, dean of the rabbinical school at the Seminary. “His freedom of speech is whole country – why does he need Columbia University?”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle article

My first front page article............EVER!!
http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=15574

Crown Heights Group Races To Landmark Historic Houses
by Brooklyn Eagle (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 09-20-2007

Much of Area Isn’t Protected;
Threat of Demolition Looms

By Sharon Udasin
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
CROWN HEIGHTS — Towering balustrades poke through hardwood floors, marking the entrance to each room in the tucked-away row house on Sterling Place. Delicately stenciled patterns garnish the rich maple decor, carving a permanent aura of warmth in northern Crown Heights.

Century-old housing lines the streets of the neighborhood, said Denise Brown, founder of a non-profit organization called Crown Heights North. The historic houses retain their originally vibrant color, rivaled only by the area’s diverse population.

But many of these homes could be at risk.

To keep reading, click here...





Sunday, September 16, 2007

Let's go Giants

Sorry for the lack of written posts -- the amount of writing required by Columbia is a bit overwhelming at the moment.

So instead:

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Excitement in the 'hood

I love my beat neighborhood, and it's full of excitment, but it definitely makes me a little nervous at times.

On Monday at 6:15pm (broad daylight, mind you), a 12-year-old girl was randomly shot by a stray bullet on a main street. You know, I probably should be wearing a bullet-proof vest in this neighborhood. The girl survived, but the case remains rather curious to me. America is supposed to be so safe and well-governed, yet stuff like this happens constantly in Crown Heights -- and all over New York.

After seeing her rescuer, Mekita Coe, on CBS News briefly Monday night, I decided to look her up on whitepages.com. Sure enough, her contact information was there, and I ventured down to her home on Tuesday morning. As I walked towards her her apartment past the lines of old row-homes, I passed by an ABC News anchor walking in the opposite direction.

"You must be from The Daily News?" she asked me.

Nope, I'm just a Columbia Journalism student-reporter -- but actually, she was fine with that and still seemed to take me seriously. I asked her if it was difficult to get to talk to people about the incident, and she said it had been pretty crowded before, but now she was going on her lunch break. I wonder who she had actually spoken to before; you'll see why in a moment.

I ventured on alone with my pen and pad and quickly found Mekita Coe's apartment. I stood there nervously for about 15 minutes before actually ringing the bell, but I finally managed to whisk up the courage. After hearing that I was a reporter over the intercom, Coe actually still received me pretty positively and said she would be downstairs in a bit. So I waited on the porch for about another 15 minutes, getting a good grasp on my surroundings. In the middle of the street, where an NBC News van was parked, I saw an NBC crewman suddenly get into and out of the van. But he lingered, staring at me suspiciously and eying my pen and pad.

He definitely sensed something was up over here.

Ms. Coe came down at last, and we began a great conversation. She thought that it was "cute" that I'm a student, and that made her especially eager to talk to me. Coe is an educated, young black mother in the neighborhood who is appalled by the frequency of such random violence in the neighborhood. In fact, she sends her own daughter away to boarding school because she finds the area so unsafe and the education so horrendous.

We continued to discuss the previous day's events and her reactions and perceptions.

...When lo and behold, who suddenly appeared to interrupt our conversation but BOTH the the ABC and then the NBC camera crews and anchorwomen. Why'd they need me as a lead anyway? All they had to do was do their whitepages homework! And just as I was getting one of the best answers from Ms. Coe, the anchors rushed the crew to snap on their cameras. Hah, that's not stealing?

The ABC anchorwomen urged me to keep talking and doing my job, even though she knew I was a student. But the NBC woman was more aggressive and clearly had to have her way -- essentially she took control of the discussion, and I backed down. [Yes, I'm shamefully aware of my mistaken timidity.]

Nonetheless, this was a fantastic experience, and I got to be involved in the news, firsthand, with some of the bigger networks and skilled reporters. This was really an exciting day...it's horrible, though, that a girl had to get shot in order for me to do my job...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Freedom of speech versus falsity

As I learned from IvyGate, there is an ongoing tenure war at Barnard College, raising questions worldwide about fact versus fiction. A certain professor is up for tenure -- she's a Muslim woman who published a recent book, in which she asserts that Israel never really belonged to the Jews. Clearly, this is a quite one-sided, unsubstantiated claim that has been proven otherwise by thousands of historians for ages.

Should such a "scholar" really be hired by Columbia University?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Exploration

Today will be my first day on my beat, exploring and reporting in Crown Heights -- presumably getting lost, meeting interesting people and getting lost again. And after pressing snooze for an hour, hopefully I have enough sleep in me to push through a fun day of unknowns.

I feel like I'm about to enter Jerusalem or Tzefat again, as I arm myself with a long skirt and covered arms to face the Lubavitch community. I wonder if they'll accept me as a Jew or if I am a total outsider to their traditional version of an ever-changing faith.

Hopefully my French "fluency" will help me delve into the other half of the community, the black Caribbean population. Behold, my French minor may actually prove useful for something!

Well, here I go, off to the A-train for a fun-filled day of explorations...

Monday, August 20, 2007

My newest home for the year...

Shall be Crown Heights -- a diverse, black-Caribbean and Lubavitch-filled neighborhood, which will serve as my beloved beat for the year.

Lengthier post to come shortly, as my newest journeys unfold.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Am I ready?

Yes, in fact, I am.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dreams at an expense

Yesterday, I ventured into (onto?) Long Island to play tennis with my friend Jen -- at her house, nonetheless. It's been quite a while since my last visit to the island, though I've definitely spent many a Jewish holiday and Bar Mitzvah in East Meadow. Jen's town, Old Westbury, is absolutely gorgeous, expansive properties separated by trees and beautiful neighborhoods interrupted only by country clubs. The nearby Hicksville train station was decorated by hordes of wealthy nine-year-old boys, all ostentatiously clad in their faux-ghetto attire.

Perhaps one day, when I've become the Andrea Mitchell of print/online journalism, I'll be able to afford such things. Until then, I'll just hope that next year's cardboard box has running water.

I'm certainly grateful to my parents for being such overly generous providers, including this year's rent and tuition in New York City. Living with Dr. Mom and Dr. Dad, I've been so lucky throughout my entire life -- able to have almost anything I ever needed or even wanted. And family vacations were no tent in the woods; in fact, five-star hotels were rather customary accommodations. I'll be forever thankful to my parents for the financial ease by which I glided through childhood.

But was this a tease?

I could've gone to med school, I could've been in Wharton. Hey, maybe I even could have been a chemical engineer like my brother. And in all of those careers I'd be making six-figures rather quickly. But I'd be quite unhappy. The truth is, I've loved writing since I first learned how to fingerpaint in pre-school, and journalism is an exciting (albeit dying) field, where I can explore the world and report back in words.

I wonder, however, am I pursuing my dreams at the expense of the comfortable life I have always known?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Post later tonight!

For anyone who reads this, I apologize for the weekend interlude. I'm off to voyage to Long Island for some tennis playing, and I will write another post by the end of the day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

United Nations of terror

One of my top mentors from NJBIZ, reporter Marty Daks, alerted me to a particular Human Rights Council debate (3/23/07), available in the YouTube segment below as well. Marty wittily retitled the video for me as "UN muzzles Jews who criticize the 'Human Rights' Council," a testimony to the anti-Semitism and hypocrisy that plagues this "peace" organization. Perhaps, as my friend Jason points out, Marty's word "muzzle" may be a bit strong -- the United Nations ignores the representative rather than shutting him down. But what's the point of free speech if a voice passes by unheard?

Now why do the UN members choose to ignore this man's comments? Might they be too ashamed of the
accuracy laden in his thoroughly researched statement?

For years now, I have seen the UN as an utterly useless organization, but lately, their behaviors and decisions are certainly bordering on terrorism. The UN Watch speaker includes sharp evidence to legitimize his case against the Human Rights Council, those so-called protectors of international human rights.

He begins a venerable barrage of attacks against the "criminal" Human Rights Council, declaring, "One might say in Harry Truman's words that this has become a do-nothing, good-for-nothing council -- but that would be inaccurate. This council has after all done something; it has enacted one resolution after another, condemning one single state --
Israel."

The speaker criticizes how "Hammas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity," an unthinkable regression in any viable climb towards human rights. Some of the most vocal advocates of the Human Rights Council are the Middle East dictators themselves, who would hypocritically declare that "they seek to protect human rights -- Palestinian rights," just as "the racist murderers of Darfur women care about the rights of Palestinian women."

The UN Watch representative proceeds to demonstrate how these alleged supporters of Palestinian human rights don't really even care about Palestinian rights at all -- really, their claims serve only to vilify Israel. He proves his claims by recalling the glaring events of recent months:
"More than 130 Palestinians were killed by Palestinian forces. This is THREE times the combined total that were the pretext for calling special sessions in July and November, yet the 'champions' of humans rights -- Ahmadinejad, Assad, Qadaffi, John Dugard -- say nothing ... Why has this council chosen silence? Because -- because Israel could not be blamed. Because, in truth, the despots who run this council couldn't care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights. They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to deligitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else -- to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights."

He concludes by declaring that the current council is turning the founders' dreams into a "nightmare," and Council President Doru Costea (Romania) -- immediately dismisses the representative's statement as both false and offensive. To do anything else would be surrender, an admission that the speaker is correct.

With terrorist nations at the forefront of the council, this supposed human rights conglomerate is nothing but a two-faced cocktail party for dictators, brimming with injustice and hypocrisy. And as usual, who must they scapegoat? Why, the Jews of course. Killings fly by unnoticed, unless the deaths occur under Israeli hands. Palestinians terrorize both Israelis and each other, genocides occur in the very countries where Human Rights Council members preside and yet, the victims' voices are silenced before they can even speak.

Anyone ever wonder why neither the United States nor Israel are even
members of the Human Rights Council?

From Locust to MTA

Well, it's eight more days until school starts...graduate school, that is. No more Locust Walk, no more Gia Pronto, no more four hour sorority meetings to make t-shirt color selections. Graduate school. My last chance to put off real life for just one more year, or so I thought. Really, The Journalism School is more of a stepping stone -- a trade school -- to grow into a professional reporter.

I can't even begin to imagine all of the exciting people whom I'll meet. In addition to the world renown journalists on the faculty, many of the other students are already reporters entrenched in the field, coming back to school for a master's degree. The average age in our class will be 28, and it may be a bit intimidating at first to hold my ground among people with so much experience. But luckily, the DP has given an amazing foundation, and I am grateful for all the instruction I received both there and during my summer position at NJBIZ newspaper.

This summer began an exciting new epoch in my life, and I can't wait to become part of such an electric and constantly changing field. Who knows what this year is going to bring.

So next Thursday, I'll grab that book-bag and PennCard Metrocard for one more year of school and training . . . even if that 1-train can never rival the age-old cobblestone of Locust Walk.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fun things aren't always expensive

Manhattan is notorious for high prices and less-than-affordable rent costs. Movies, Broadway shows, $10 drinks, even Tasti-D Lite ---all threaten to make a huge dent in your wallet. The cost of living here alone is exorbitant, and once the rent is paid, it's difficult for young professionals and students to spend far beyond bare necessities.

So what about fun?

Few New Yorkers are aware of the free activities available to them throughout the summer. My favorite -- run entirely by volunteers -- is the free kayaking on the Hudson River. The New York City Downtown Boathouse oversees facilities at three different ports: Peir 40 at Houston St., Pier 96 at 56th St. and next to the riverside cafe at 72nd St. Without hassling any participants for donations, the organization provides free life jackets, kayaking time and optional instruction for both beginners and advanced boaters. All you have to do is sign a waiver and take responsibility for your own safety, but trust me, you won't drown.

And hey, I may have been splashed by some unknown megamorphic Hudson River toxins and/or lifeforms, but we had a great time. In all seriousness, it's a fun experience and incredibly relaxing. Now the question is -- when you look across the river, which cluster of high rises is Weehauken, and which is Jersey City?

Another really interesting place to visit is (Penn nerds, read on) The Science Barge. Located essentially adjacent to the 72nd St. kayaking port, The Science Barge is a self-contained environmental studies museum and agricultural producer, perched on -- you guessed it! -- a barge. The scientists and interns who work on-board experiment with different types of power, such as solar, wind and used vegetable oil from NYC restaurants. While the functionality and profitability of these alternative sources is certainly debatable, the barge presents an admirable effort to uncover future solutions for environmentally-friendly power systems. Also inside is a miniature vegetable greenhouse, growing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, arugula and various herbs -- all of which are sold, if I remember correctly. The scientists experiment with new growing methods and soil types, using the residual waste from an on-board fish tank to fertilize the plants. Water recirculates from plants to filtration back to plants, leaving absolutely no run-off from the ship into the Hudson River.

No run-off? Well, what about human waste?

The answer, which I feverishly procured, is that there is no restroom aboard The Science Barge. Alas my fellow small-bladdered females, you must be prepared to hold it in for the duration of your tour. Fortunately, wherever the barge docks in the park, there is always a nearby bathroom facility. In order to have a functional restroom sans run-off, the barge would need to have a compost bathroom, which is very expensive and difficult to maintain at this point. Perhaps a future endeavor?

And no, I really didn't have to pee.

The anti-Semitism diaspora

As Jews, one tragic thing we must always remember is that we are hated throughout the world. Purely and simply hated--resented--terrorized. Just as there is a diaspora of Jewish people, there seems to be an even larger and more widespread diaspora of anti-Semitism.

Poland: Jewish cemetery desecrated

Vandals spray painted swastikas and other Nazi symbols on about 100 gravestones at a large Jewish cemetery in Poland, police said Monday.

Visitors to the cemetery in the southern city of Czestochowa discovered the damage on Sunday and police have not yet found the culprits, said Silesia regional police spokesman Andrzej Gaska.

"This is one of the biggest acts of destruction in years," said Jan Gebert, spokesman for the Jewish community in Warsaw. "In fact, I can't think of any other cases in Europe that have been this big."

The vandals used black spray paint to tag the gravestones with the letters SS, swastikas, and the slogan "Jews Out" written in German.

Gaska said police had not observed activity by anti-Semitic groups in the region for some time, and that the incident appeared to be of a "hooligan nature."

Czestochowa's Jewish cemetery has about 4,500 graves and is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Poland.

This country was home to about 3.5 million Jews - Europe's largest Jewish community - until the Holocaust, when most were killed by Nazi Germany. Today there are an estimated 30,000 Jews in Poland."

Terrorists and children

Suicide truck blast kills 28 in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq
CNN.com

"A suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden truck into a village near the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar on Monday, killing at least 28 people and wounding 50 others, an Iraqi army official said.
At least 19 of those killed were children
, Brig. Gen. Najim Abdullah told The Associated Press.
The blast left a 10-foot crater in the ground and damaged 10 homes in the Shiite Turkmen village of Qubbak, about six miles (10 kilometers) northeast of Tal Afar, the army official told CNN.
The suicide bomber used a dump truck and covered his deadly wares in a layer of gravel, Abdullah told the AP..."


How, I wonder, can such people possibly be human? While any form of terrorism is nothing less than shocking, targeting children seems to be the most ruthless, psychotically twisted form of assault. And it doesn't even make sense. These terrorists are no longer even targeting their so-called "enemies;" rather, they're going after innocent victims who don't even have the wherewithal to take a side. Normally, I would characterize terrorist activities as horrific and evil yet grounded in entirely sane and calculated decisions. After all, if we call Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden insane, then we essentially excuse and condone their behaviors. But how can going after hordes of defenseless children and killing indiscriminately like this possibly have any rational basis? It's a mind-boggling, nauseating issue... What are these terrorists even getting out of their ploys, besides hatred from the rest of the world and resentment from their uninvolved families?