Israeli Independence Day Brings in Sunshine After Somber Week of Holocaust Remembrance

On Tuesday, May 2, the sunshine that took over New York during the weekend danced over Manhattan to make for perfect weather to celebrate Israeli Independence Day. Although fading in and out through clouds, sun continuously glistened over Washington Square park for the “Rave in the Park” event, hosted by Hillel at NYU. In light of Holocaust Memorial taking place last week, Hillel members from college campuses all over the city came together to celebrate the momentous day, and stand with each other to express their love for the Land of Israel.

With the somber mood that had taken over during the prior week with schools and communities taking part in remembrance of the Holocaust, members of the Jewish and Israeli community used this day of celebration almost as a cleansing, washing themselves of the sadness that comes with honoring those who died in the Holocaust, and bringing in this sunshine and happiness in to celebrate where the Jewish Community is today and how they have progressed despite a hard history.

This day, known amongst Israelis as Yom Ha’atzmaut, is the day on the Jewish Calendar that is meant to celebrate the writing of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. Although this day is not an official day off from school, members of Hillel, students who practice Judaism, Israeli students, and all others even without ties to the country, came out on the beautiful day to celebrate.

“It’s just a day of pure happiness,” said Roni Fellah, 20, who is a student and member of Hillel at CCP, the community college in Philadelphia. “You don’t see too much outdoor celebration here in America, but in Israel right now cars probably can’t even drive down the streets, the whole city is on party mode,” she said while laughing with fellow friends. Although moving here when she was just at the age of 4, Roni was born in Tel-Aviv and identifies with Israel “more than anything else. Being Israel resonates with me at my core.”

Roni drove up to Manhattan on Tuesday morning with other friends from CCP to come to the event in Washington Square Park, because there weren’t too many festivities taking place.

“There was like one march and Hillel was doing something at school, but when I saw the event page for Rave in the Park, I just wanted to go so badly, it was the first option I saw for the day that really felt like a celebration.” Roni explained that after the week before, it’s “so important to celebrate Israeli Independence Day. The Holocaust was a blatant genocide of Jews, and after World War II I can only imagine how hard it was to recover from the things that happened. But look at where we are now! The fact that we can even talk about a real State of Israel is something the Jewish people never thought would exist post Holocaust.”

Although Fellah came a pretty long way from home to celebrate the event, locals took the large percentage of guests for the event. One of the many who came to celebrate, was a student at Queens College, Shahar Cohen.

“This is the first year I’ve seen like a party kind of thing on Yom Ha’atzmaut,” Cohen said, pulling her long curls into a ponytail as she tried to cool down from the dancing. “It’s nice to see so much pride in the Israeli Community, it’s something I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Although Cohen usually spends the day at home celebrating with the family, she felt like it was important to come to the rave and show support for the youth of the Jewish Community.

“I’m still having a party at my house when I get home from this, but I don’t know, for whatever reason I just felt like it was really important to come here today. With everything going on in the Middle East, the way people look at Israel here in America is kind of a grey area,” Shahar explained sincerely. “We are the future of Israel, so we’re also the future of Israeli support in America.”

Ukrainian Film Thrives Amid War With Russia

An interview with Ukrainian director Damian Kolodiy about Russia’s main weapon in the war against Ukraine: the media.

Film poster for Andriy Kyryllov’s “Be Back.”

The ongoing violence in Eastern Ukraine has given Ukrainian filmmakers a tragic field from which they are harvesting a trove of documentary and creative films. The three years since the conflict began have seen a wave of films about the struggle of war, both on the frontlines and for families at home.

“There are a lot of stories to tell now that are quite dramatic that didn’t really exist 10 years ago, life and death and war related,” said Damian Kolodiy, Ukrainian filmmaker.

From April 27-30, the Ukrainian Museum in the East Village presented the third annual Ukrainian Museum Film Festival.

“Film provides a way for people to digest and reflect, or escape the climate of conflict in Ukraine, and plays an important role in the social fabric of a country,” said Kolodiy, curator of Friday night’s series of short films.

Russian media still have influence on Ukrainian public opinion, twisting news in their favor or releasing fake news. Film is no exception, as the government of Vladimir Putin attempts to portray the war with Ukraine through its eyes.

An example is Russia’s reaction to “Be Back,” directed by Ukrainian filmmaker Andriy Kyryllov. The film is a five minute, yet infinitely powerful monologue of a girl missing her boyfriend who is fighting in Eastern Ukraine. The film has been used to help soldiers whose families are waiting back home, to assure them that they are missed and loved.

In a Q&A session Friday night after the showing of his film at the Ukrainian Museum, Kyryllov spoke about Russia trying to spin the meaning of his film after it gained traction on social media. Their interpretation was aimed at making the Ukrainian’s war with Russia seem ridiculous, and that the girl wanted the war to end and her boyfriend to come home because Ukraine should not be resisting Russia in the first place.

“There are certainly people who want to respond by making their own content and expose the lies that are coming out of Moscow,” said Kolodiy, speaking about Ukrainian directors creating their own films about war.

Organizer of the Ukrainian Museum Film Festival Hanya Krill said that looking at the history of Ukrainian cinema, Russian interference is nothing new.

“Ukraine had a very active film industry of its own that was cut off by Moscow in the 1930s. So it really kind of stopped and everything that was done from there forward was directed out of Moscow as opposed to being Ukrainian,” said Krill.

When Ukraine gained its freedom from Russia in 1991, their film industry started to regrow. “Filmmakers suddenly realized they were able to do things without direction coming from Moscow,” said Krill.

Now, along with Russia encroaching on Ukraine once again, comes the Russian grip on film and all other Ukrainian media.

“Russia has made their own historical films which have reinterpreted historical events in Russia’s favor. The victor writes the history books, so they’re trying to do that,” said Kolodiy.

“Be Back,” Kyryllov’s first film as a director, was a result of lack of opportunity for Ukrainian actors. Previously an actor, Kyryllov said he stopped his acting career because there was nothing but Russian influenced roles.

“When I was an actor, I can really remember the moment when Russia and Putin started putting out Russian military oriented films,” said Kyryllov. “They started to shoot in Ukraine, and every movie and serious role was 50/50 with Russia, with the money and with the actors.”

“That’s really why I stopped my acting career. There was nothing except these kinds of scripts, with Russian police or military,” said Kyryllov.

“A lot of Ukrainian directors and filmmakers work on Russian movies to make money, then make their own films on the side. So the war has certainly influenced that business model,” said Kolodiy.

“Homefront” directed by Illia Makarenko, another short film featured in the festival, told the depressing story of two sisters left behind by their father who has gone to fight for Ukraine. The theme of a broken home seems to be reoccurring in recent Ukrainian films.

“Families are disrupted and the normal family unit isn’t functioning the way it should be. There’s a lot of domestic issues and soldiers coming back with traumas,” said Kolodiy. “They’re not as well equipped to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and that’s just something that Ukrainians are trying to learn how to deal with.”

The films being produced by Ukrainians are a beautiful byproduct of struggle and loss, that showcase talent and triumph.

“Ukrainians are very talented people. We’ve seen some amazing films coming out of Ukraine,” said Krill.

Story #3- The New Skin Care Trend is Here, and Keeps Growing

Watching your mother put on her night cream as a child is a fond memory many have. Skin care has always been an old woman who desires to be young forever thing, and, even as a teenager with countless pimples, it just doesn’t seem like a thing for a young age. At most, cleaning your face with a soap bar will do.

However, with massive internet access and worldwide reach there is a new skin care culture growing among the younger population. In the past years Korean skin care  has taken over the internet, gaining the attention of huge fashion magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and People Style, and it has taken the Western world by surprise.

“I had seen K-beauty popping up around the internet for the past couple of years but didn’t pay too much attention to it,” commented Reddit user GlycosidicBond, who is part of the ‘Asian Beauty’ community on the popular forums website, Reddit, “Ended up buying Son and Park beauty water and immediately noticed redness in my skin going down. I hadn’t looked at my skin and ever been so impressed. And down the rabbit hole I fell.”

Korean beauty is a part of what is known as the Hallyu Wave (한류) which is the name given to the phenomenon of Korean entertainment spreading throughout the world. Along with skin care, Korean makeup, music, and TV dramas are all part of the wave, and are all connected.

“With Kpop,” said user Luna_182, who was one of many whom were influenced by Kpop, “I knew about Korean makeup, that made me look for cushions on YouTube and I found Meejmuse’s channel, and with her I totally got into Korean Skincare.”

There is some essential differences between Korean routines, and “Western” routines: the steps and the ingredients.

Korean skin care routines often have 5 or more steps, depending on the individual. There is minimalists routines, that use only two cleansing steps and a hidrating step, or full blown routines that can have two cleansing steps, exfoliation, serums, acids and essenses, as well as several hidration steps.

Ingredient wise Korean products are well known for using what we might think as strange and unconventional ingredients, such as snail slime, animal fat, placenta, and fermented plants. It all can be very intimidating for someone new, but there is plenty of forums and communities in the internet to help someone start their journey.

The ‘Asian Beauty’ community of Reddit has over 80,000 subscribers, and posts ranging from product recommendations, makeup swatches and skin care progress pictures. Reddit is not the only source of information for this trend, however, the well-known blogs Snow White and the Asian Pear and Fifty Shades of Snail are both hallmarks for anyone starting to get into Korean skin care.

Both blogs are run by one administrator respectively who started posting to keep track of their own skin care routine and new products they tried, “The purpose of my blog is to provide in-depth reviews with proven ingredients of scientific merit or interest, compelling or intriguing ingredients, guides to acquiring products, primarily from Asia with a focus on Korea, Japan, and Taiwan,” explains the owner of ‘Snow White and the Asian Pear’.

Both blogs function essentially the same: on them users can find product reviews, guides on how to start a Korean-based skin care routine, and what products might work for a certain skin type.

The popularity of the blogs has become such that an online skin care store called Holy Snails dedicated a serum to the owner of Fifty Shades of Snail called Shark Sauce.

Although originating from South Korea and much of the community is based on the internet, there is more ways than just the internet to get Korean skin care products: in New York City’s Koreatown famous brands, such as Tony Moly, Nature Republic, and The Face Shop, are opening their doors to the Western public.

The trend has become such that not only are Korean originated brands are opening: Besfren Beauty is a New York based Korean skin care and makeup store with location in both Flushing and Koreatown.

The first location opened in Flushing in 2012, and three years later the next location, in Koreatown (315 5th Avenue), opened next to the Besfren Café, where customers can buy ginseng based skin care products, as well as Korean pastries, and coffee.

(The images are not uploading because of large files, here is a link to the photographs: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1YdoVI2kE3Db5Eosy0CiQNQk8D1qv-cGgYjy3MtRvMrw/edit?usp=sharing)

The aisles of Besfren Beauty are covered by face masks, makeup cushions, serums and other skin care and makeup products. Although most the products are Korean, there is also some Japanese shampoos and conditioners.

The 5th Avenue location is close enough to the Empire State Building, so many tourists pass by with curiosity. One of the workers there says although many non-Asian tourists pass by, it’s mainly young Americans, both Korean and of other ethnicities, that tend to buy products. Face masks, she tells me, are the most popular.

With growing popularity overtaking the internet, Korean skin care seems to have nothing but bright days ahead of itself. The Reddit community only grows bigger and more and more physical stores are popping up around the city and around the country.

Story #3 Trouble in Bangladesh’s Textile Industry

Brandon Alexander

Bangladesh’s textile and garment industry is by far the country’s largest and most profitable sector. Textile exports are the nation’s primary source of trade earnings with other countries- the US topping off the list as the largest export market. According to Business Insider, in recent years the biggest brands that have merchandise produced in Bangladesh are: H&M, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny, Benetton, GAP, and Zara. However, the rapid, large-scale manufacturing of textiles in Bangladesh has, for many years, had a direct correlation with dreadfully subpar worker rights, working conditions, and frequent industrial disasters.

Following the years after the April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building complex in Dhaka, which made international headlines and featured the deaths of over 1,000 workers and over 2,000 injured, several protests urging increased wages and safer working conditions have occurred. However, while some improvements to factory workers’ safety and building structures have been made since the Rana Plaza disaster and the protests that followed, the rights and working conditions factory employees are subjected to still faces much controversy- many workers feeling much more improvements are needed.

24-year old Momotaz Zora is among the many workers who feel this need for more change. Zora is currently a worker in a garment factory in her home district of Mirpur, located in the capital city of Dhaka. She’s been a seamstress and garment worker at this shop since she was 18, but many of her aunts and cousins who also work in the textile business started working at a much younger age. In all, Zora states that she hopes to not be working in the textile business for much longer.

“It’s not just because of the distance from [my aunt’s] home to work every morning and night, but the way the bosses treat us is what’s the hardest thing,” Zora says. “I’ve been sick only for a few days since I started working [at the factory] but I have never taken a day off. I have seen other women get yelled at and some were even threatened with being fired when they asked for time off due to their sickness. I don’t want to stand out by asking them for anything.”

Verbal and even physical abuse is said to be a common sight in the workplace of many Bangladesh garment factories. Three months after the Rana Plaza disaster, CBS conducted an investigative piece where reporters went undercover into factories within Dhaka and documented subpar conditions that workers faced.

In the report, it was found that the minimum wage in Bangladesh “is currently about $38 per month and the legal age for someone to hold a full-time job is 18, but some part-time work is allowed from the age of 14” (Redman). It was also found that factory employees were often pressured into working far more hours than they were being paid for and would be subjected to both verbal and physical abuse in the event that they brought the problem up to management. This kind of treatment is something Zora has also seen firsthand.

“My work-friend, Fatema once tried talking to a supervisor about getting some time off. A lot of us worked four hours over our normal time for almost a month and she developed a fever. When she told the manager on our floor she had a fever and needed to take some time off he yelled at her in front of everyone. He gave her the next working day off and told her she would be fired if she didn’t come back,” Zora said. “Fatema did come back after taking a day but she was still feeling ill. It took her almost three weeks to feel better.”

According to 2016 reports by the NY Times and The Guardian, many textile factories, especially those that were in areas close to the Rana Plaza site, have since implemented improved structural features such as emergency stairways along the sides of buildings as well as regular safety and maintenance inspections.

Additionally, new “fire safety measures”, such as an increase in the number of fire exits and sprinklers in factory buildings have been added to several garment locations. But while some improvements to the factory buildings have been made, Zora- among other workers who are on the inside of these buildings- still experience a below average standard in the workplace.

Zora’s younger brother, Mihir, now an incoming freshman at Hunter College, remembers the first few years when his sister started work at the garment factory. Mihir lived with Momotaz and their aunt in Mirpur before moving to the US with their mother in 2009. He stated there was a clear negative effect working in the factory had on his sister.

“I stopped seeing her as much when she started working there. She left the house early and came home late in the night. She was always tired from work and I felt bad because we used to always be together. One of [our aunt’s] friends was the one who helped get her the job there, but I wish she found something else,” Mihir said.

Currently, Zora plans to reunite with both her brother and mother within the next five years. She hopes to continue saving money, with little hope that Bangladesh’s textile industry will undergo the radical changes so desperately needed within that time frame. She said that she feels much of the changes that must be made to the way workers are treated are in conflict with the amount of merchandise that must be produced in a given time, and that this is a primary reason for the harsh conditions employees have to face inside the factories.

“They want so much,” Zora said. “We aren’t machines, but they work us like we are. I do not see myself doing this for much longer. I know there are better things out there for me.”

Momotaz Zora, 24

 

Mehir Zora, 18

 

Story #3

Hello!

For my last assignment, I decided to put together a photo essay exploring the traces of the Polish community in Greenpoint. Because there is not a lot of space on the class blog, I decided to put it together on Imgur.

There’s still a few edits I am going to make, but here’s a link that will allow everyone to access it: http://imgur.com/a/9VIue

You will be able to see live updates of my changes.

Here’s the description of the photo essay, taken from Imgur:

“This photo essay documents the disappearing traces of the Polish community leaving in Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood. Once known for its vibrant Polish community, Greenpoint is slowing giving in to gentrification. Still, Polish businesses and some Polish immigrants remain in the area.”

Sakuri Matsuri – Cherry Blossom Festival in Botanic Garden

The start of spring season in Brooklyn falls on a different day than the rest of the boroughs. The year’s favorite season is celebrated on April 29th this year by the admiration of Cherry Blossoms in Botanic Gardens. Sakura Matsuri, Brooklyn’s spring Cherry Blossom Festival, is more than just visually appealing scenery to decorate your social media profile; it’s a celebration of Japanese culture. For $30.00 per ticket ($25.00 for students) you can watch, participate and indulge in over 60 events.

Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Amirai Mathias, 18, cosplay as a character from the Japanese anime, “Naruto”.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Sohenryu Tea Ceremony for Families at the BBG Tea Center in the auditorium.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Soumi Shimizu teaches the art of tea.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Corey, 23, Lloy, 23, Wesley, 23, Kyle, 23, Shanice, 23 (left to right) cosplay as various characters from different Japanese anime.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Jeremy Horland teaches origami to families.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – J-Music Ensemble performs jazz music inspired by Japanese anime and video game theme songs.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Religious Shinto shrine dedicated to “INARI”, the God of harvest and protector of plants.
Sakura Matsuri, Botanic Garden Brooklyn April 29th, 2017 – Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade.

Final Story- A Taco Truck and the American Dream

By the time Cristo Reyes and Javier Velasquez leave their homes in Corona, Queens, it is 10 p.m. and too late to kiss their children goodnight. They live up the block from each other and together drive 20 minutes to a brightly lit and abundantly packed truck that slightly smells like fuel, cleaning liquids and food that is ready to be turned.

Reyes and Velasquez’s popular taco truck is located in the heart of Astoria on Ditmars Avenue and 31st street, almost never seen without a line of hungry customers.

Best friends Reyes and Velasquez have operated their Mexican food truck, El Rey de Tacos, in the heart of Astoria on Ditmars Avenue and 31st Street for almost four years. Astoria, Queens is known as a lively, traditionally Greek and Italian neighborhood that in the past few years can be argued to have been gentrified. Brazilians, Bangladeshis and Colombians are some of the nationalities that have moved into the neighborhood. Astoria is home to some of the most popular and diverse cultural restaurants.

In a neighborhood full of good eats, Reyes and Velasquez knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to operate their food truck in this high volume neighborhood. With the success of El Rey de Tacos, they recently decided to run another food truck in the heart of Flushing on Main Street, in order to support each of their families and send money back to their native country of Mexico.

Reyes, 37, worked as a mathematics teacher in his native country until he and Velasquez were awarded a visa, along with his family, to move to the United States. “I’m here to live the American dream, not pay for one for making the choice to better myself and my family’s financial state. [Velasquez] and I have talked about the increase in costs to legally run our business but I just don’t think it’s worth it and if we can’t agree on how to run our business, we might have to go our separate ways,” said Reyes. Reyes, who was born and raised in Mexico for most of his life, came to the United States with his family 7 years ago in hopes of starting a new life. He worked as a mechanic at a local body shop in Mexico to feed his family.

But the decision of starting up another food truck has caused a riff and tension between Reyes and Velasquez, as Reyes wants to run the truck illegally without having to pay for a permit. Now with street vendor permits set to double in New York City over the course of seven years, Reyes stands by his decision while Velasquez, 35, wants to invest in multiple permits to expand their business.

In New York city, there is a limit on the number of food vendor permits allowed by the city’s health department. The limit of 4,235 permits has caused many vendors to turn to the black market where two-year permits can cost up to $25,000. Legally today, vendors can obtain a two-year permit from the city for $200 with the ability to renew it indefinitely. Under the new proposed legislation, called the Street Vending Modernization Act, however, a two-year permit will cost vendors $1,000.

Food trucks have been a way of entrepreneurship for many immigrants, including Reyes and Velasquez, since running a food truck is much more inexpensive than running an actual restaurant where you have to worry about things such as rent and paying employees. “We always wanted to start our own business but when you look as Hispanic as we do and carry a strong accent, people don’t take you seriously because they assume you know nothing about making money,” said Velasquez.

In the first few months, they realized their truck was the most popular between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., and became a hot spot for people to go to after a long night of drinking or somewhere quick to grab food to catch up with friends. Ever since then, they decided to only stay open during those hours.

“We make enough money to open a few more trucks and [Reyes] wants to go through with that plan but he wants to do it illegally,” said Velasquez. “[Reyes] said, ‘Why should we pay for something we have a right to do? We’re here for the American Dream and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.’”

Without a permit, Velasquez fears that they will have their cart taken away in Flushing and any future ones they decide to start up. “I don’t want to pay over $1000 in fines when I could use that money to legally run my business. I’m scared to work at that location by myself sometimes because I don’t completely agree with running the business that way and who knows if someone comes and catches us,” said Velasquez. He went on to say, “A big piece in the puzzle is a permit and I understand the price for one is planned to increase by a lot but if paying that big price means a better life for my kids and family in the long run, I have no problem in the investment.”

Reyes has a completely different outlook than Velasquez when it comes to running the business that they started. “I work 7 days a week and barely get to see my family, just so I can give them a good living. Why should I have to pay to feed my family? It just doesn’t make sense,” said Reyes.

If Reyes and Velasquez do not come to an agreement and have to part ways, it will greatly affect their business. “We split the costs of whatever we need to buy in terms of food and supplies then split in half whatever we make each night also. We kind of need each other to run both trucks so we need to come to a compromise,” said Velasquez.

Reyes agrees that they need each other to run the trucks but does not think it is impossible to do it without Velasquez. “If worst comes to worst, I’ll only run one truck and close the other. Then slowly when business picks up even more I’ll think about expanding again. I can’t have a business partner who’s not on the same page as me,” said Reyes.

Street vendors have been pushing the City Council to lift the decades-old cap on permits to sell halal food, hot dogs, pretzels and tacos on city streets. The city has limited the number of food carts and truck permits to a number that has not budged since the 1980s.

With the Street Vending Modernization Act, more people may be able to follow the road of entrepreneurship and run their business without having to run into the Black Market.

Story #2 Final Draft- Yemen Crisis

The Yemen crisis has escalated dramatically over the past few months. One pivotal development was when the United Nations announced on March 15 that the area was on the verge of falling into a famine. While Yemenis Americans are grateful to be away from the conflict, their families aren’t as lucky and are forced to face the worst of the crisis. Two such Yemenis, Marium Yalin and Alkhadher Sulaiman, share their thoughts.

Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Prejudice

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, also known as MINUSTAH, has been inside the disaster-torn country since 2004 and is planning to pull out of Haiti after 13 years, but their withdrawal isn’t only impacting Haiti. Haiti’s Spanish-speaking neighbor, the Dominican Republic is taking the withdrawal of MINUSTAH from Haiti as a sign for them to increase border control between the two countries.

This move by the DR has caused Haitians and Dominicans alike to recall the prejudice between the two countries, especially Ana Martinez who vividly remembers the horrible treatment of Haitians in her country.

King of Shwarma A taste of home

Fares “Freddy” Zeideia came to the United States from the West Bank in Palestine as a young adult in the ’80s. He was pushed to leave his homeland and family for a better future in the engrained land of opportunity. He landed in New York and started working as a taxi driver. Although he was excited to be immersed in a new country and culture, he longed for the tastes and flavor of Palestine, so he searched for that sense of comfort, yet couldn’t match it. He decided that this was something that New York was missing, and there the king of Shwarma and Falafel was born.