After grueling one month long journeys that span over 1,000 miles, undocumented immigrants from Central America reach the United States physically and emotionally damaged from their experiences. Close to 70,000 children made the trek north last spring in order to escape violence and poverty, with the hopes of reuniting with their family and starting a new life. Terra Firma, a pediatric clinic headquartered in the Bronx, helps serve their many needs.
Little leaguers of the Manhattan Youth Baseball League congratulate each other after a game. (manhattanyouthbaseball.com)
As baseball tries to put behind the final remnants of the steroid era that put a black eye on the entire sport, it seems the game considered our nation’s pastime is encountering an entirely new issue. A different epidemic appears to be making a wave through baseball, as an increasing number of pitchers have been forced to undergo major surgery each year. While these procedures most commonly occur at the highest tiers of play, experts believe that they can be prevented starting at the lowest levels.
“What are we going to do to protect our sons,” asked Bobby Hoffman, commissioner of the Manhattan Youth Baseball League. Hoffman, 61, began the little league he still oversees in 1990, and his answer was for the Upper East Side based league to stress education and fundamentals.
Hoffman believes that the first step a pitcher needs to take to avoid injury is learning how to throw properly. Pitching is all about repeating the same delivery on a consistent basis, and if that delivery is flawed, eventually those harmful mechanics will catch up to an athlete later on in his career. Hoffman has never had a pitcher in his league go under the knife, and he credits that distinction to the clinics run by former college and professional baseball players before each game. Although, not only do the former players advise the young athletes, but they instruct parents on how to properly teach their children as well.
“The premise of the league was to teach baseball and to not just throw kids out to the wolves,” said Hoffmann, who has an 8-year-old son who plays in the league. “So we started with programs on how to teach dads how to teach proper fundamentals… and then we would also teach during the game.”
While proper pitching mechanics is one way a player can greatly reduce the risk of injury, monitoring pitch counts is another approach Hoffman suggests managers can use to keep an eye on their players.
Using information from a study completed by Dr. Stephen Fealy for Major League Baseball, Hoffman prefers if pitchers in his league do not throw over 60 pitches in a game. It is at that point that fatigue sets in; tired ligaments are overworked, causing pitchers to use potentially harmful mechanics. While the league does not implement a hard rule on the matter, Hoffman makes sure the teams’ coaches are fully aware of his goal.
“I tell my managers, look a 15-year-old breaks down at 60 pitches, you know when your kid’s mechanics are breaking down, do the right thing pull them out of the game,” said Hoffman. “Our parents are our managers, they’re expected to protect their sons as well as the other sons in their care.”
Managers can exercise caution to the best of their abilities, but once their players leave after a game or practice, they can no longer supervise them. Whether it is for select teams or college scholarships youth sports breeds competition, and as a result kids are playing on multiple teams, and playing baseball all year round. Joe King manages an 11 and under travel baseball team out of Levittown, Long Island, and believes overexposure is one of the main reasons for the increase in injuries to pitchers.
“Our league enforces a 60 pitch limit, but it serves no purpose if that child pitched the day before for a team in another league, or even worse earlier that day,” said King, who has coached baseball for 10 years. “My son pitches on the team I coach, but I only allow him to throw once a week.”
King’s son Joseph has been playing baseball for five years and when he is not pitching he plays shortstop and third base. Baseball is primarily the only sport Joseph plays, but the 11-year-old limits his season to the spring and summer. He hasn’t had a history of serious arm injuries, but in a game earlier this month he felt a pain in his throwing arm and was immediately moved from pitcher to second base. Joseph was hesitant about getting back on the mound, although he does have another qualm with the sport he loves to play.
“Last year I used to always get hit in the leg when I was batting,” said Joseph, who bats left handed. “I still played, but it just kept happening to me, so I hope that stops.”
Assuming his luck in the batters box changes, limiting Joseph’s workload and using proper form will help him follow in his father’s footsteps (King is 46-years-old and still plays baseball), but the same cannot be said for other young athletes around the country.
Dr. David Dines, world-renowned shoulder surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, agrees that overuse is one of the main reasons why pitchers damage their throwing arms, and believes it occurs far too often nationwide. Although, that’s not his only rationale for the uptick in injuries, as Dines, who is currently the medical doctor for the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP Tour) and previously was the associate team physician for the New York Mets, also feels that across the board the level of play has risen, and pitchers have been the ones paying the price. It is harder than ever to retire batters, and the adjustments pitchers have been forced to make have proven costly.
“Why is there a rash of elbow injuries in the Major Leagues? Because quite frankly these hitters are so good,” said Dr. Dines, the former president of the American Shoulder and Elbow Society. “These guys have to throw harder, they have to throw with more velocity, with more action on their pitches… and all these things have an affect of putting pressure on either your shoulder or your elbow.”
While it is unclear whether throwing harder makes a pitcher more susceptible to a serious arm injury, studies have proven that pitchers that throw faster do tend to spend more time on the disabled list and out of action. One element Dr. Dines is certain about is that an athlete’s overall fitness does factor in to his chances of getting hurt. Just as pitching requires a lot moving parts to work as one, it is not just a pitcher’s arm and shoulder that needs to be strong, but his core and lower body as well.
“We used to think that it was all arm, elbow, hand and wrist. And over the last 15 to 20 years we now know that in throwing it is the core, literally the core, the spine, it’s all attached,” said Dr. Dines. “At the end it is the concept of rehabilitating, strengthening the core to the shoulder to prevent injury.”
Despite pitchers going down at an unprecedented level, it is not inevitable that most pitchers will at some point be forced to undergo major surgery. Guidelines towards pitcher safety have been and will continue to be administered and improved upon. While the specifics of those policies may change, the same themes continue to be emphasized.
“Stuff happens, a guy falls off the mind, on one pitch a spike gets caught, you can’t prevent that, that’s just bad luck,” said Dr. Dines. “But in general, if you take the approach that you are going to be prudent about the amount of throwing, you’re going to have the proper education and training about the proper throwing mechanism and you are going to take care of your body the way it needs to be taken care of, you can prevent a lot of these injuries.”
It was a sunny day in Coney Island, not a cloud in the sky. The boardwalk was quiet on this March afternoon, the waves were loud, the seagulls louder. The noisiest sounds were coming from the big ballpark on Surf Avenue, usually a desolate place this time of year, but not anymore. The sounds from MCU Park were unmistakable, bats clanging, mitts popping, seeds cracking; it was the sounds of baseball.
Responsible for that racket were students from New York University. It has been 41 years since the Violets had a varsity baseball program, but thanks to a merger with the Polytechnic School of Engineering, that void in the athletic department is no more.
“Its pretty cool, we’re making history, so 50 years down the line we’re going to look back at this and it’s going to be a good memory,” said Andrew Cilento, the team’s second basemen.
Despite the two schools merging nearly seven years ago, after Polytechnic University fell under financial trouble and NYU wanted to replace an engineering program that diminished in the 1970s, the athletic departments for both institutions had not fully immersed until this year. Previously the two universities had separate athletic teams, but now both student bodies comprise a single team for each sport, including baseball.
“Once it was determined that the athletic departments were going to merge, I believe that the fact that they already had baseball, were the impetus for us to add baseball,” said Jeffrey Bernstein, assistant athletic director for sports information at NYU. “The powers that be thought baseball should live at NYU, our conference has baseball, so why shouldn’t NYU.”
The man in charge of leading the revitalized ball club is Doug Kimbler. Kimbler played professionally at the minor league level for both the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs organizations, and has been coaching at the collegiate level since 2001. For the past two seasons Kimbler was the coach of the NYU-Poly baseball team, but his position with the now extinct ball club did not make him a lock as NYU’s next manager. The Violets skipper was even asked by NYU’s athletic department two years ago to begin recruiting for the 2015 season, without knowing if he would be able to coach the young athletes he sought.
“I went out, started recruiting, ended up getting 28 freshman, and after all that I still didn’t have the job,” said Kimbler, a resident of Albany, NY. “Then in February of 2014 I interviewed, with I’m sure a few other people, and then they offered me the job and I took the position, and the kids I recruited are now mine.”
On top of being able to coach his recruits, Kimbler has also been able to continue coaching a few players that were part of his Poly team. Although, just as Kimbler had to earn his position as the team’s manager, the three players from Poly’s old squad now on the NYU club were forced to do the same as well.
“They made the team on their own merits, I didn’t keep them just to keep them,” said Kimbler, who was a former college baseball star at The College of Saint Rose. “I think what we did is that they filled a piece of this puzzle at this point and they earned it.”
Being in an urban environment with limited facilities to practice, NYU’s coach has been thankful that he has a few upperclassmen to lead one of the youngest teams in college baseball. The team recently returned from Sanford, FL, where they played in the University Athletic Association championship, the team’s conference tournament. The Violets went 2-6 in their first go around of UAA play, a considerably strong showing considering their youth, and Kimbler credited their early success to his team’s attitude when they prepared in New York.
“They all went about their business in a way that they needed to, we were inside, they took batting practice, we got ready,” said Kimbler. “We’re trying to get them to not make excuses for themselves because they are young, when you get on the field it’s still baseball, the first one to 27 outs is usually the winner.”
While playing a warm weather sport as a New York team clearly presents its challenges (cold weather, lack of fields, etc.) the players and coaching staff are excited to represent the city’s and the university’s historic sports legacy. NYU competed in baseball at the Division I level beginning in 1928, and reached two College World Series. The Violets produced some major league talent along the way, including New York born Ralph Branca. Nicknamed “Hawk,” Branca pitched for NYU in 1943, and then broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following year. On top of his statistical success at the big league level, the right-hander was famous for being on the team that integrated Jackie Robinson into Major League Baseball, and for delivering the pitch to Bobby Thompson that resulted in “The Shot Heard Round The World.”
Branca was one of 12 players that donned the white and violet to make it to the big leagues. Although, more famous former New York athletes have the current players excited to play in the Big Apple.
“You go through the names that played in the city, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, the list goes on and on,” said Marshall Kramsky, one of 23 freshman on the team. “Just to possibly be in the same conversation of playing in the same city as all those greats that I have looked up to my entire life is just an honor and an unbelievable experience.”
Kramsky and his teammates have the luxury of playing at MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets minor league affiliate. The stadium is located in Cony Island, and along with being considered one of the top minor league ballparks in the country; it will now certainly be one of the premiere collegiate stadiums as well. Despite reemerging at the Division III level, the team’s new digs along with its extended absence from college athletics has created an early season buzz around New York’s newest ball club.
“For this team to come back I think it has meant a lot to this area,” said assistant coach Aaron Walsh. “We see guys on the street all the time asking us when do you start, when do you start playing. I mean we were in Florida and there were four or five people that came up to us and told us hey, congratulations, we’re glad you guys are playing in Brooklyn, and those were Florida residents.”
“Caution! Watch Your Head,” a sign read next to a protruding pipe near the entrance of Mendez Boxing Gym. Loud shrieks and banging noises pierced through the heavy door at the bottom of the steps, while the same instructions were being administered inside, “Watch your head!”
The narrow stairway led to the gym, one of the city’s premier boxing training facilities. A wide range of people visit the gym located off Madison Avenue and 26th St. in Manhattan, including some of the nation’s top prospects. From young to old, raw to polished, all boxers are taught to protect their head, but perhaps having a head worth protecting is what’s important.
“I had to quit high school, couldn’t even get a GED,” said Jose Lopez, a former boxer. “It’s too much, it becomes your life. Tests, exams, it’s draining, takes away from your boxing.”
Lopez, 24, is a trainer at Mendez. The Mexican native, who grew up boxing in California, explained the intense dedication it takes to seriously pursue a career in the sport. Young boxers get up early to workout, follow strict eating regiments, do not partake in nightlife, and some, as Lopez did, drop out of school. Despite living in the United States for most of his life, Lopez does not speak English well, and considered himself fortunate to be employed.
“Boxing is my life, it’s all I got. I’m lucky I have a job,” said Lopez, who now resides in Washington Heights. “Most boxers are poor, so they try to make money, that’s why turning pro is an option. But it doesn’t always workout.”
One boxer keen on turning pro is 16-year-old Josue Vargas. Vargas is about 5 feet 7 inches tall, thin but cut, with remnants of facial hair on his upper lip. His dad is a trainer at Mendez, and the duo just got back from Reno, NV, where Josue earned silver at the USA Youth National Championships, fighting at 141 pounds. Vargas goes to high school in the Bronx, but cannot promise that he will earn a diploma.
“A high school diploma is important to have, because you never know if you can make it in boxing. But when you’re a talented fighter, there’s a whole different story,” said Vargas. “To be honest, school right now has been tough for me, I’m too focused on boxing. I got a better chance with boxing than school, and I’m not really doing that well in school right now,” he admitted.
Amateur boxers must be 18 to become professional in New York City, and Vargas plans on making the leap as soon as he is of age. His next few seasons will determine whether he has what it takes to sustain a professional career, but not all boxers are so fortunate to even have the opportunity to try their hand in the pros. It’s for this reason that one of Mendez’s long time trainers, Elliot Nass, refuses to train young boxers that are not enrolled in high school.
“I train kids that are 15,16. I don’t give a crap how good they fight. If they don’t have homework, I’m not going to train you, go home,” said Nass, who’s been involved in boxing for 34 years. “Yeah, no way, there’s no excuse. If you’re poor, at least you know you can go to school.”
John Nazriev is one of Nass’s prized fighters and graduated high school in his native country of Tajikistan. Nazriev, 24, completed three years of college before moving to the United States, but has been unable to complete his degree while in America. Boxing, among other issues, has slowed down the fighter’s academic interests.
“I was going to come here to transfer my schooling, but unfortunately that couldn’t happen. Once I started boxing, everything became gym and work, and no time for anything else,” said Nazriev, who is the amateur purebred champion at 152 pounds. “I would like to, but when I get the opportunity. Right now, it’s kind of tough.”
Customers at Fairway Market on Second Avenue scour the meat department for any remaining food. Photo Credit: Ben Shapiro
Only a little over two years removed from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers were flooding the supermarkets as Winter Storm Juno was beginning its decent on the city.
“It wasn’t this bad, I don’t think so. Sandy was different because by the time we realized how serious it was, everything was cleaned out,” said Mary Vays, Tudor City. “It’s a good thing, we all know what happened during Sandy.”
Vays, 42, was shopping for her daughter and husband at a mobbed Fairway Market in Murray Hill today. The large supermarket chain’s supplies were running low at 2 p.m., and the line for the register spanned halfway across the border of the store.
“I just walked around, and I have never seen a line this long, it’s crazy,” said Vays, who has been living in the same neighborhood for seven years.
Despite the rush of customers before the heavy snowfall, the excessive register line, which spanned almost 50 yards back and merged with the group of customers eagerly awaiting cold cuts, moved rather swiftly and did not appear to take longer than 15 minutes. The store’s employees got people in and out of the market, but there was still only a limited supply of food for its patrons. Vays, who keeps kosher, was disappointed but not overly surprised to see the limited kosher section out of food.
“The kosher section was cleaned out, so out of luck there,” said Vays, who teaches Fashion Design at three different colleges in the city. “The kosher section was very upsetting. All the Jews came and took all the food, it’s been cleaned out for a while now,” Vays joked.
Although she was unable to buy any meat products for her family, Vays was able to secure pertinent food items, which in her mind included water, cereal and milk. She was not alone in purchasing water from the supermarket, as almost every customer on line had varying amounts of bottled water in their cart. Unique to Vays’ cart though was baby formula, which like any new mother was atop her shopping list.
“My first reaction was to find baby formula because I have a newborn at home, and then come out and get stuff that we might need for the apartment,” said Vays.
Going to the supermarket is not the only way Vays plans on preparing for Winter Storm Juno. After listening to weather experts she plans on removing items near the windows because winds are projected to be high. With snow already beginning to fall as she was concluding her shopping, Vays trusts meteorologist’s predictions regarding the incoming storm.
“I don’t think they are going to make a huge mistake, maybe a few inches here or there,” said Vays. “With technology as it is these days, I believe they will be able to forecast how much we are getting.”
Smiles and anguish as The Rise members hold a wall sit in unison. Photo Credit: Ben Shapiro
On top of the steps of the New York Public Library a group emerged through the darkness of the cold, rainy morning wearing brightly colored athletic gear. It was half past six on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it was time to work out.
More than 30 people woke up before dawn to take part in a boot camp class run by The Rise. The organization runs free outdoor group fitness classes throughout New York City, adding their name to the many crossfit type programs emerging across the city and the nation. These classes offer quick, high intensity workouts that both double as a means to get into shape and an environment to form new friendships.
“I would say that a lot of people would show up initially because they probably think they’re going to get a good workout,” said Dave Johnson, one of the leaders of The Rise. “They end up staying for the friendships, for the social scene, and then they end up getting fit over time, it’s a byproduct of hanging out with your friends.”
Johnson, 33, started The Rise a little over two years ago with friends Anthony Burdi and Joseph Mullins as a way to work out with one another and hold each other accountable. What started as a way for three friends to stay in shape has grown to 30 plus people gathering at least three times a week to motivate one another to be the best they can be. Social media has helped the group increase in numbers, but Johnson admits that the key to becoming more popular has been simply showing up.
“It was just the three of us, with other people here and there for a while,” said Johnson, a native of Colorado. “Then word started spreading that we were doing this… and eventually people found out that we were serious, that we were going to be there rain or shine, we were going to be there every Monday, Wednesday, Friday.”
Similar to other bootcamp or crossfit related classes, The Rise workouts vary each session but usually include staple exercises such as pushups, crunches, burpees and other body weight moves that work multiple muscle groups. The Rise is unique in that outside training equipment is never used during a session, as it is common to see resistance bands or TRX ropes integrated into the routine of other bootcamp classes. According to Johnson, the abundance of group training classes is part of an emerging fitness movement that is seeing more and more people turn away from traditional exercising that does not involve a social aspect to it. Whether it is the inclusive environment or the fast paced regiment, these types of workouts are proving to be effective.
“I don’t know if I have been in better shape in my life, so I think the results speak for themselves,” said Johnson, who has been involved with free fitness groups for almost eight years. “It’s partly that, but it’s also the community. People pushing each other, and having other people to see. That guy is not quitting, I don’t want to quit.”
There are many other similar classes being taught throughout New York City, but most are led by full time physical trainers and therefore cost a fee. The leaders of The Rise are workout enthusiasts that feed off the camaraderie and energy of training with other people. The trio, led by Johnson who is studying to become an economics professor, enjoys positively impacting the lives of others. All they require to take part in a class is an early wakeup and an optimistic attitude. Also, just like many of the people that join The Rise, they enjoy making new friends as well.
“There are no better people to be friends with than the people you are working out with,” said Johnson. “My best friends are here, and I’ve made them through this group.”
The community factor helps push people during these workouts, but it also is the reason they are drawn to them in the first place. The Big Apple can be lonely at times, and especially for people who are new to the city. Group fitness classes contain members who immediately share a common interest and hobby to bond over.
Arie Smith, 24, has been a regular with The Rise for almost a year now, and a native of Great Neck, Long Island, Smith said he understands the social value the class brings to certain individuals.
“I grew up in New York, but I think for a lot of people who have just moved here, or are even here from another country, this is like their main social group,” said Smith, who works as a software developer in Manhattan. “I mean, I’ve met a ton of friends here, we have outings and stuff. I don’t know, I think it’s an amazing place to meet people.”
One of those people not originally from the area is Danielle Brining, who has made The Rise a regular part of her weekly schedule. Brining, 25, is originally from Bermuda, and is now at medical school in Texas, but she has been on assignment to do research in New York for the past six months. Not knowing many people in the city, Brining needed a way to make new friends, and found the program on a website promoting free activities taking place in New York. Despite not previously enjoying early morning workouts, she found The Rise’s positive energy and unity contagious, and has been going back ever since.
“I have never been a morning workout person before, but once I started coming here, everyone was so awesome, I thought they would hold me accountable, but it’s not accountability, it’s that you want to see them,” said Brining, who hopes to return to New York City for her residency. “They are just great people, we hang out together, we had like a friendsgiving. It just kind of keeps me coming in the morning even though I am the opposite of a morning person.”
Aside from the social aspect, Brining is one of many former college and high school athletes that participate in these types of workouts. Brining played rugby in college and missed the structured workouts and gameplay that college athletics provides. She compared the jovial atmosphere of group fitness to that of being part of a team, where she doesn’t feel as if she is working out until she experiences soreness the following morning.
“I always had leagues in college and stuff, but once you get out of college, you don’t really have groups that are as easy to can get involved in,” said Brining. “I have tried them at gyms but when you don’t know anyone at the gym… but here everyone is so awesome, and with the high fives and everything, it doesn’t feel like a workout.”
While former athletes look to group fitness classes for the structured training and sense of teamwork it provides, workout classes such as The Rise serve non-athletes wanting to fill physical and emotional needs as well. Tiffany Judkins has been attending The Rise workout classes since the summer of 2013 after previously not prioritizing physical fitness. Judkins wanted to get into shape, but more importantly needed something to commit to, and people she could count on. After going through what she described as traumatic experiences, Judkins, 33, found the perfect escape.
“I was looking for something that would help me refocus my life on something positive. To commit to it, not look back, to not second guess myself,” said Judkins, who has lived in Manhattan for nine years. “Before this group I had a big life transition, I was looking for something to fill that space, and this community helped me grow from that. If I miss a workout, I miss my friends.”
Gena Wilson, a cancer survivor, shows off her medal at the finish line of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. She is surrounded by her Team in Training Coaches. Wilson, 47, finished the marathon in 9 hours, 40 minutes and 47 seconds.
by Ben Shapiro
None of the remaining spectators could quite get the facts straight. “She is from Sweden,” a man said. “No, born and raised in Scotland,” another person chimed in. “I think she is the first person to run the marathon with this rare disease,” someone said hesitantly. The people gathered late last night at the finish line of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon did not know the story behind Gena Wilson’s life, but she was part of their team, and they were going to wait for her to finish the race.
Originally from South Carolina and now living in Glasgow, Scotland, Gena Wilson was one of the last people to finish the NYC marathon yesterday. Although, it was not her country of residence that made Gena a big hit at the race’s finish line in Central Park, but rather that she has survived two bouts of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her most recent battle came in 2013, where doctors told her family to get on the first plane to Scotland because they though she was not going to live much longer.
“The cancer had come back in the form of a brain tumor,” said Wilson, 47, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011. “I really was not supposed to live.”
Wilson, who works at a Christian mission organization in Glasgow, credits god for keeping her alive. It is the only way she can come to terms with how she was able to beat cancer twice, and come out of the process strong enough to complete a marathon. Along with working for a mission, Wilson, who now has completed her second marathon, uses these events to share her story, and inform people of the power of faith.
“The reason why I wanted to run is because, well, god healed me,” said Wilson. “My main thing is to tell the world that oh my goodness, I shouldn’t be here, but look what an amazing god who controls everything did for me, once again.”
On top of trying spreading her religion, Wilson also ran the New York City Marathon in order to raise money to help fight cancer. Wilson was part of Team in Training, an organization sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that trains people to complete endurance competitions, and in return the participants raise money for cancer research. For Sunday’s marathon, the group began training five months in advance, following a strict fitness regiment that included meeting twice a week for team conditioning sessions. Living in Scotland, Wilson did not have the ability to train with her teammates, but she was able to find people willing to help.
“I was just doing my own walking plan,” said Wilson. “It was hard, but there were so many people that were such a blessing. Tons of people walked with me.”
Despite not preparing with Team in Training, Wilson was mobbed with hugs and high fives from coaches and members of the team when she finished the race around 8:30 p.m., good for a time of 9 hours, 40 minutes, and 47 seconds. Wilson appreciated their support during and after the race, but she was truly grateful for her family whom she knows she would not have been able to complete the New York City Marathon without.
“I couldn’t have made it without my mom and sister,” said Wilson, who was joined by the two for the last few miles of the race. “My mom and sister were the ones who came up here, spent the week, and just did everything for me.”
New phone app, CombateHateU aims to help Jewish students fight anti-Semitism.
by Ben Shapiro
A new phone app called CombateHateU was released today to help Jewish college students deal with displays of anti-Semitism on their campuses.
Officials from the Simon Wiesenthal Center along with representatives from the historically Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi gathered this morning at the Museum of Tolerance on 42nd street in Manhattan, New York, to announce the introduction of this new tool to fight anti-Semitism.
“We need to empower people to stand up and take action, reclaim their territory, their rights,” said Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “It will allow people, Jewish, not Jewish, anyone who cares about freedom of speech and quality of intellectual and academic discourse on campus to participate and to be able to make it a safer and more secure place for people.”
In the wake of recent demonstrations of discrimination displayed at Emory University and Ohio University, the leaders of these two Jewish organizations feel the need to stand against anti-Semitism is as strong as ever. They believe the fighting along the Gaza strip has increased hostility towards Jews around the country. Weitzman, a native of Brooklyn, New York, said this issue is prevalent all across the globe.
“This is a problem that is going on internationally, certainly across Europe,” said Weitzman during the press conference. “There was just a case a week or two ago, where Jewish students were barred from a British sporting good store because they looked Jewish.”
CombateHateU is an advanced application based off a previous model released by the Wiesenthal Center that was intended for use by high school students. The new model allows college students to inform members of the Wiesenthal Center when and where illustrations of anti-Semitism are occurring, whether it is physical actions, or derogatory speeches from students and professors. Students can describe the event, or even post videos and audio links of what occurred. The application first reminds students to go through their campus institutions designed to handle social matters, and also insures them of their anonymity when reporting these issues through the application.
“It has the opportunity to give us a description, tell us when something happened, let the student tell us who they contacted,” said Rick Eaton, co-author of “Digital Terrorism and Hate” and one of the main contributors towards the development of the application. “We never would give that information out, but it would give us the opportunity to use the weight of the Wiesenthal Center to contact campus authorities or whoever that we think might be able to help in these incidents, but it is always confidential.”
Eaton, along with the other senior members of the Wiesenthal Center, are glad their idea has come to fruition, although now they want to make sure Jewish students around the country are aware of the new tool they have at their disposal.
“One of the most important things, and we ask the brothers of AEPi that are here, is to share this app, not only with your AEPi brothers but with your Jewish friends on campus that may need to see it,” said Eaton, who works out of the Wiesenthal Center’s Los Angeles headquarters.
One of those AEPi brothers in attendance was Nissan Mirakov, 19, from Fresh Meadows, Queens. Mirakov attends Baruch College in Manhattan, and is vice president of the Hillel House at Baruch. Mirakov is proud of the active population of Jewish students at Baruch, and specifically in his fraternity, but voiced concern for the potential Jewish student who is not surrounded by other Jewish people, or is not affiliated with any Jewish organizations.
“Nationally I think it will help us out a lot,” said Mirakov.
A Lyme disease silent demonstration in front of the New York Times building in midtown, displayed a large sign that read, “Lyme disease is a pandemic. Where is the coverage?” Photo Credit: Ben Shapiro
by Ben Shapiro
Silent demonstrators dressed in all black, wearing lime green ribbons on the arms, stood in front of the entrance to the New York Times building in midtown Manhattan this afternoon calling for more awareness and press coverage of Lyme disease.
“This is really to bring awareness to the plight of Lyme disease patients, the lack of research, and the huge numbers of people that are affected,” said Jill Auerback, the Chairperson for the Hudson Valley Lyme Disease Association.
Auerback suffers from Lyme disease herself, and does not believe the state of the disease has improved at all since it was recognized 40 years ago. The initial testing to determine if one has Lyme disease often times produces false negatives, and some people who are diagnosed remain sick even after completing a standard month round of antibiotics. In fact, according to the New York State Department of Health, 10 to 20 percent of people continue to experience symptoms that include severe fatigue, muscle and join pain, and frequent fevers.
“The test is still totally unreliable,” said Auerback. “If we were to compare that with the AIDS test, which is 99 percent effective, there is no reason for that. We should have a test right now that is accurate.”
Auerback blames limited research funding for the lack of progress in the field, but also notes that different individualized responses to the disease and its treatment makes it difficult for physicians to properly diagnose and medicate patients. Auerback is concerned with an increasing number of ticks nationwide, and she believes people need to be better educated on tick prevention. Auerback had signs put up in her hometown of Duchess County, N.Y., warning residents of areas with a high population of ticks.
“We need to stop the disease. We need to stop it by stopping the ticks,” said Auerback. “You need to reduce human exposure.”
Fellow demonstrator Rachel Cipriano, 29, a native of New York City, has suffered from Lyme disease for 15 years. Cipriano hopes the continued efforts from Lyme disease advocates will put pressure on the media to give the disease the attention it deserves. She is also optimistic that the increased exposure will help better inform people who may be misdiagnosed with Multiple Schlorosis, Parkinson, and other auto immune diseases and continue to suffer.
“We want to let them know that they may in fact have Lyme disease,” Cipriano, said. “In many cases you can see that it (Lyme disease) is the root cause, so we want to save that patient suffering from their situation.”
Cipriano said young people need to know that they are not alone in combating Lyme disease. Growing up with it throughout high school and college, Cipriano felt that her friends didn’t understand when she complained of the side effects.
“It’s hard for young patients, particularly for me, growing up, I didn’t have anyone to identify with,” Cipriano said. “The words, ‘I’m tired’, don’t really encompass what it is.”
Unlike Cipriano, 31-year-old Josh Tocco does not have Lyme disease. Tocco who lives in Goshen, N.Y., volunteered to join the demonstration in support of his wife and brother in-law who suffer from the illness. Each of them had not been feeling well enough to make the hour and a half trip down to the city from Goshen.
“They’re just too sick to make the trip,” said Tocco. “They have like good days and bad days, and they’re just having bad days lately.”
Joseph Pariente and Sharona Herskovits. Two of the leaders of the Self Help Nazi Victims Services Programs. Photo Credit: Ben Shapiro
by Ben Shapiro
Aided by volunteers, one by one a small group of Holocaust Survivors slowly got up, formed a circle and danced “The Hora”, a traditional Jewish song of celebration.
“This is the music of their childhood,” said Joseph Pariente, a 63-year-old social worker from Brooklyn. “This music, that they hear, brings them back to the childhood that they did not have.”
Traditional Yiddish songs were played at The Flatbush and Shaare Torah Jewish Center this afternoon in Brooklyn. With help from New York Cares Volunteers, the Self Help Inc.’s Nazi Victim Service Program used the Brooklyn synagogue to host a social event bringing about 50 holocaust victims together. Friendly chatter or “schmoozing” filled the room for the entire two hour gathering, as the guests enjoyed a plate of chicken, coleslaw, and the traditional Jewish dish known as kugle.
Pariente believes these events are very important to the large population of Holocaust survivors that reside in Brooklyn. Many of them don’t have any remaining family members, and these social functions are there only chance at interacting with others.
“This is one of their main socializations, said Pariente. “They come out, they get dressed, the women put makeup, they put mascara, they put on the whole bit, because to them, it is an outing that they have been looking forward for the whole month.”
Sharona Herskovits is the supervisor of the Nazi Victim department that works out of Midwood, Brooklyn. Herskovits decided to get in to social work after taking the advice of a college guidance counselor who tried channeling her passion for psychology. Now, working for her 15th year at Self Help, not only does Herskovits love what she does, but she also has a personal tie to the organization she represents and its cause.
“I grew up with it, my grandparents were Holocaust survivors,” said Herskovits, who is in her 30’s. “They were both in Auschwitz,” she said.
As a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Herskovits has extra reason to care for this dwindling population. Her group aids these victims in several different ways, including housekeeping, case management, and the fulfillment of other daily needs, with the overall goal of keeping them comfortable in their own homes. Still, despite her department’s efforts, which help almost 1,000 people, Herskovits believes more needs to be done to support these survivors.
“I mean, you need a lot more funding because they are dying out, they are slowly deteriorating, or shall I say, not slowly but rapidly,” said Herskovits, a resident of Brooklyn. “Some of them are not in the financial area where they can afford care.”
For many of these survivors, no family is the main culprit for their financial woes. Some of them are reliant on reparation checks from the German Government that can come in as frequently as once a month. Although, 84-year-old Helen Weiss does not suffer from this problem, she still lives with her husband Jack, a fellow survivor, and the two of them have seven grandchildren. In fact, having a family is what helped Weiss escape Nazi Germany almost 80 years ago.
“I want a family. I don’t want to die,” Weiss remembered telling herself when she was just a 14-year-old girl thrown into Auschwitz.
Weiss explained that most of the survivors that met up yesterday afternoon are from Mukacheve, Ukraine. Some of them were even sent to the same concentration camps. Their background and hardships have bonded this group of survivors, forming a community that cherishes each chance they get to see one another.
“This is their family,” Weiss said speaking about her fellow survivors. “These meetings are very important to us.”