The Jewish ‘Millennial’ identity crisis


While many practicing Jews celebrated the beginning of Passover this past Monday at sundown, in 2014, the meaning behind all of the matzo eating and story telling during Seder is as important as ever.

I may not be Jewish — I am a born and raised Catholic — but this year I have been mesmerized by the traditions that practicing Jews have passed on to the Millennial generation. These traditions not only carry the symbolism behind the history of the Jewish people, but also remind a new generation as to how important faith and family are — even when this sense of importance is skewed.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in three Jewish Millennials, meaning they were born around the turn of the 21st century, say they are not practicing Jews, but identify themselves as either ethically or culturally Jewish. These numbers correlate equally with the changes the nation is experiencing as a whole, where 20 percent of the public consider themselves as not affiliated to a religion, the Pew report found.

Among Jews in the youngest generation — the Millennials — 68% identify as Jewish by religion while 32% describe themselves as having no religion and identify as Jewish based on ethnicity, ancestry or culture. Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue and one-fourth do not believe in God.

This is why many spiritual leaders and elders see the eight days of Passover as an opportunity to continue to engage the younger generation. This includes a growing number of young adults who are struggling with their faith due to the distractions of this day and age as well as apathy towards religion.

During the Seder, “One of the things you are always looking for in the Passover Seder is the youngest child. They are the ones who recite the (traditional) four questions,” said Eric Smitt, the president of Congregation Beth El, a conservative congregation in West Melbourne. These questions are the root as to why it is important to keep the Jewish faith alive, he pointed out.

Smitt said:

“The whole evening is a joyous moment that teaches and at the same time has a lot of symbolism. There is a lot of history and it’s very engaging. The most interesting thing that I see is the people who are coming in through a marriage. You find that the non-Jews are more involved and tend to be more religious than the Jewish person.”

This makes sense, after all, these non-Jews deliberately made the decision to convert to a religion in its entirety, and most likely have a newfound perspective of the value of religion and the traditions that come along with it.  Whereas young people who were born into the religion may find it more difficult or unnecessary to connect with their faith.

While the older generation’s concerns about the new wave of reform and non-practicing Jews are valid, many Millennials are discovering new ways to challenge, question, and adapt their religious beliefs and practices to fit in today’s progressive world.

Colbert shocks media as new host


Since the announcement of David Letterman’s retirement from “late night” last week, rumors of who the new host for “The Late Show” on CBS would be went viral. After much speculation about Chelsea Handler and SNL alumni Amy Poehler, the network confirmed on Wednesday morning that the host would be Stephen Colbert.

This, unsurprisingly, took the news and entertainment media by storm.

What is so refreshing and bold of CBS’ choice is the host himself — he’s a satirist, comedian, writer, host, and producer — not many hosts have that on their resume. The network is hoping he will be the perfect competition for the neighborly network of NBC, which offers “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon and “Late Night” with Seth Meyers in its lineup — all three being hosts who represent a younger demographic of political, progressive, comedic, and sharp audience members.

In a classic “Colbert-esque” public statement, the comedian said,

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

This latest shake up in late night has received mostly positive reviews from the media and from social media, which is where I first heard of the news. However, Colbert’s infamous character from the show he hosted on Comedy Central for the past two decades, “The Colbert Report,” was quite a controversial one.

Suey Park, a writer and activist, who wrote an opinion post on about the matter, stated that,

“The main thing we’ve learned from #CancelColbert, and the outcome we now see as Colbert is elevated once again, is that the belittling the voices, activism, and writing of women of color is a profitable venture.”

Colbert’s portrayal as a satirical conservative has caused him to be as hated as he is loved due to his racist, stereotypical, and prejudice remarks—all made under the assumption that he is playing a “character” but, after 20 years, this has become a blurred line.

One thing is for sure, he will definitely be stirring up the “plain as toast” comedy routine that is “The Late Show” and the media are sure to love it.

Pharrell praises women in album


Pharrell Williams, the award-winning producer, rapper-singer songwriter and recent Oscar nominee, has taken the media by storm due to the recent explanation of the title of his newest album, “G I R L.”

Columbia Records released the album on March 3, and although it has mixed reviews, its message is progressive. In comparison to the saturation of demeaning albums produced by rap and R&B artists of this decade, “G I R L” is a breath of fresh air.

The concept of the album was explained by Pharrell in an interview with GQ magazine , where he stated, “Women and girls, for the most part, have just been so loyal to me and supported me.”

This may seem like a shallow attempt to please a new and younger audience, yet it is still an impressive motive.

In contrast to his latest hit with Robin Thicke titled, “Blurred Lines,” which is a sexist song that sexually objectifies women, the album aims to focus on society’s skewed image of female sexuality rather than exploiting it.

In an interview with Zane Lowe backstage of the Brit Awards, Pharrell explained in clarity his reasoning for the album’s title and theme by stating,

“The reason why I named it “G I R L” in capital letters is because when you look at it, it looks a little weird. And the reason why it does is because society is a little unbalanced. And I just thought like, if I’m gonna make an album, I need to make an album that says everything that I’ve ever wanted to say, like dreamt of.”

The 41-year-old father and husband has made it clear that his new focus for 2014 and the future is to influence future generations of hip-hop and R&B artists to approach albums in a more progressive light. Pharrell added,

“I admire women in a lot of ways, but I needed to make sure that everyone knew that. On the surface, I do look and I do like them and I appreciate them in my little dirty ways here and there, but at the core, is what I’m telling you. We need them. Every living breathing human being on this planet regardless to your sexual orientation benefits from two things from a woman: the agreement to enter the act and the agreement to have you. So they have the power.”

Pharrell has managed to become one of the most influential hit makers in pop history, and his positive impact on pop culture, media, and entertainment is incomparable.

Coverage of Ultra lacks details


In 2013, about two dozen young adults were hospitalized after attending Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami — but the media refused to cover these instances.

While rumors of overdoses, deaths and injuries rotate among numerous social media websites every year during Ultra Music Festival, no major news corporations seem to cover such events.

In order to find out whether the rumors are true, local Miami news organizations such as Miami New Times, investigated into the matter. Reporters discovered that Miami Fire Rescue did not have full information in regards to the matter other than that out of the 44 placed calls to 911, only 24 people were taken to the hospital. According to the Miami New Times:

“Police arrested 167 people at Ultra this year [in 2013], primarily for narcotics and gatecrashing. (Last year [in 2012], there were 78 arrests during the three-day event, 45 of them for narcotics, and more than 60 people were injured last year [in 2012].”

While these statistics are valid, they are not covered by the media nearly enough. People from the ages of 15 to 40 are attending this festival and many are doing so blindly of the health and safety risks the event entails. From the lack of transportation and water, to the non-existent cellular data service and overcrowding, the festival can be more dangerous than people think.

Yet, every year, thousands of electronic music fans from around the world continue to purchase $400 tickets for a three-day weekend where they most likely will get more sweat from surrounding attendees jumping to the beats of the music than they bargained for.

This weekend, March 28-30, there will most likely be ambulances on the festival grounds, but even more alarming will be the lack of reporters on the scene to document it.

Realty TV star lands on Vogue cover


After months of speculation, the day is finally here—Kim Kardashian is on the cover of the reputable Vogue magazine.

Yes, it’s true. A notoriously famous reality star turned model and businesswoman is posing for the most famous fashion magazine of the 21st century.

The Internet has been in frenzy from posts ranging from the overly ecstatic to the mournfully dreadful.  This is due to the star’s not-so-common start in the entertainment business, and most likely, the fact that she is posing with her fiancé, Kanye West.

Due to the Internet, fans and “haters” are able to soak up Vogues April issue with the dynamic duo through multiple platforms. These range from Twitter announcements and posts about the spread, to an in-depth video of the making of the photo shoot.

An example of said media advertising started immediately with Kim’s Instagram post on Friday. She posted onto her Instagram account stating, “This is such a dream come true!!! Thank you @VogueMagazine for this cover! O M GGGGGG!!! I can’t even breath!” The post was linked to a photograph of the magazine cover, as well as the article itself. No less than six hours later, the post has generated 547,495 “likes” and the numbers keep on rolling in.

These sources of excessive insight are the ingenious ways magazines like Vogue use social media to promote their stories instantaneously around the world. Therefore, for celebrities, such as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, the hysteria on social media only makes the story surface more Web sites, more smart phones, and more bank accounts.

What makes this cover story relevant is the subtle hashtag underneath the caption of the photograph, which states “#worldsmosttalkedaboutcouple.” While this statement is a vast exaggeration, the hashtag serves two purposes — a clever nod to the fact that the couple’s Instagram followers combined ad up to 20 million, as well as a subtle advertisement for the social media sites that use such hashtags so people can follow the story and discuss it in an organized fashion.

Nowadays, through the use of social media, stars as hated as they are loved like Kim Kardashian, can cover more than one platform.

Overall, business models that incorporate social media are helping everyone involved generate more business and more income, while we sit here and continue to stalk the couple’s baby, North, on Kim’s Instagram page.

Not all riots are merciless


Members of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist art collective based in Moscow, were attacked this week while eating at a McDonald’s in Russia.

Six men wearing political paraphernalia came after two of the group’s primary members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, with paint from syringes and threw garbage at them as they were eating breakfast.

This is neither the first nor the last time the dissident members of Pussy Riot will be in the headlines for being targeted by government officials and radicals.

However, with the power of social media and video documentation, Pussy Riot has been able to make a positive, yet controversial, mark in Russia and across the Western hemisphere. It has done so by promoting an equal rights agenda through provocative musical performances.

These performances and “riots” are videotaped and spread around the Internet until government officials demand for them to stop. Only issue is, they never stop.

After this week’s attack, the women took to YouTube immediately to affirm the obscene behavior they had unfortunately encountered from sexist and prejudiced individuals. Even in 2014, the art collective continues to strike a nerve in Russia.

“It hurts! Why are you doing this?” Tolokonnikova said in the video, with green stains on her face and hands. “You don’t have the right to hurt me. Please don’t do that to anyone anymore.”

After the band members posted the video of the attack online, the global response was proliferating — and in retrospect, all publicity is good publicity for such activists. This assault is another example of the corrupt mentality plaguing Russia.

Pussy Riot is distinguished in the West as a group of courageous activists who continue to fight for the most basic human right — the freedom of speech. However, as illustrated in this post, the group’s provocative and, at times, disruptive approaches to art activism are still unappealing to the ultra conservative, “Putinistic,” eye.

People continue to love Woody Allen


Film director Woody Allen has held both the most reputable and most controversial reputation in Hollywood during the past 50 years.

However, the biggest controversy to date involves a 22-year-old child molestation allegation against Allen, who is nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay for his latest film, “Blue Jasmine.”

The scandal, which involved ex-wife Mia Farrow many years ago, was revisited in a recent open letter to The New York Times, where Dylan Farrow spoke publicly about the accusations that her adoptive father, Woody Allen, had sexually abused her when she was seven years old. “He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set,” she said in the letter. “Then he sexually assaulted me.”

While Woody Allen was neither charged nor convicted of the crime, news coverage of the controversy has left a permanent mark on his image in the public eye.

Despite the on-going media coverage of accusations and rumors, as his fans and movie connoisseurs well know, audiences worldwide have continued to adore his work, which is exemplified with his recent Oscar nomination.

It is fascinating how a person’s talent, impressive career, or honor in a field can have the magnitude to surpass all controversy.

A prime example of this type of spectacle is the infamous “Charlie Sheen meltdown” of 2011, where his multiple rehabilitation attempts led him to absolute mayhem and embarrassment — for Warner Bros., that is.

Behind all of the accusations and rumors that were being spread daily, he continued to be one of the highest paid actors of all time, and his show, “Two And a Half Men,” continued to be at the top of the ratings. In retrospect, his “breakdown” was drawing in more of an audience than ever before.

While these individuals continue to gain the power that comes with fame and success, there will always be thousands of incredible artists in the field that will never get the amount of attention they deserve. While this is no news, it is something to reflect upon this upcoming Academy Award season.

Media versus Venezuela

The recent anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, in direct protest of President Nicolas Maduro, have not only taken the country by storm, but social media as well.

Social media is uncovering the truths and lies behind what Venezuelans, and Americans, hear and see through mainstream broadcast news. Recently, former president Hugo Chavez forced a slant in media coverage, making Venezuelan broadcasters report biased and political propaganda-driven news.

This has caused the new generation of Venezuelans to take action—this time, not in a physical manner.

“I don’t trust our television and radio stations at all,” said Adriana Sanchez in a brief interview with USA Today in Caracas. “The government stations just run propaganda, while the few privately owned stations are afraid to broadcast the truth. What other options do we have?”

Many Venezuelans have resorted to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay informed and to understand the discrepancy between what they see on their television screens and what they read online. While both the government and the opposition are using social media to promote their own agendas, the truth is more readily available to citizens who need it most—including journalists.

According to the Venezuelan news website,, media outlets have been victimized by protesters and police harassing journalists on the streets.

CNN reported this week that its news crew had its cameras and transmission taken away at gunpoint.

This suppressive nature of news journalism has had a tremendous impact on what major news corporations and publications from around the world are reporting. While the chaos continues to unravel in Venezuela, news outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, BBC, and Al Jazeera English, have all had minimal coverage of Venezuela due to this lack of information.

Therefore, it has been up to Venezuelans to make a stand for their rights and their country without fighting fire with fire. From the Venezuelan-Americans of Miami to the new generation of Venezuelan descendants around the world, social media has provided more ways to uncover the truth than ever before.

A multimillion-dollar media holiday


When most people think of Valentine’s Day, the images that come to mind are chocolates, flowers, cards, and candlelit dinners—all manufactured images by advertisers and media companies that have perfected their techniques of triggering viewers’ tear ducts into consumerism. Once the holiday approaches, people are compelled to be suddenly generous and search for the ideal gift for loved ones, and it comes at a price.

The average person spends about $130 on Valentine’s Day each year, with men spending roughly double the amount of women. “The average man plans to shell out $135.35 to impress the people in his life while women only expect to spend $72.28,” stated a survey.

Advertisements continuously promote manufactured love—filled with clichéd greeting cards and abundant heart-shaped chocolates. Many people feel obligated by these unrealistic expectations portrayed through media to buy gifts, reserve dinners at fancy restaurants, and send Valentine cards to loved ones out of pure obligation to this mainstream holiday.

The Greeting Card Association states that about 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, and that does not include the millions of cards exchanged by kids as well.

Furthermore, it is the most prosperous holiday for florists, with about 224 million roses grown every year before February. Data shows that 64 percent of men and 36 percent of women buy flowers for Valentine’s Day, according to the IPOS-Insight Floral Trends Consumer Tracking Study.

These costly expectations directly and indirectly affect relationships as well.

About six million people anticipate or plan a marriage proposal on Feb. 14 every year, creating a stigma that pressures many couples into making major decisions on a deadline. Coincidently, condom sales rapidly increase right before the holiday. According to the Indo-Asian News Service, “sales of condoms increase up to 20 percent during Valentine’s week,” which coincides with the supposed $15 million spent on infertility and pregnancy tests the following weeks after, according to The Nielsen Company.

All expenses aside, the holiday’s significance in American culture, and in cultures around the world, is founded in the precious nature of relationships—whether with a significant other, family, friends, or even colleagues and classmates.  While mainstream media have created a multimillion-dollar industry out of the holiday, Valentine’s Day is a reminder to make sure the people who mean the most in your life know they are loved. Maybe advertisers and corporations do have the right idea, after all.

Media focus on Russia’s anti-gay laws


Friday is the official start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia; however, the biggest story coming out of Sochi has little to pertain to the games at all.

From the homepage of Google to the breaking headline of any online news source, there is no doubt that the media is fighting back against Russia’s anti-gay policies being enforced as the Winter Games ensue.

The law, which criminalizes any discussion of gay rights in the presence of minors, is an example of the unfortunate reality we live in — discrimination continues to persist in many parts of the world. According to the Associated Press, gay activists have been penalized across Russia ever since the law was implemented in 2013. Such a law only fuels hatred and justifies violence.

Yet, there is one global medium that has sided with civil rights — that is, the news media.

Google’s “Doodle” on its search homepage, which debuted on Thursday night, is its logo with an illustration incorporating the colors of the rainbow. It has been seen around the world, even Russia, and has sparked both cheer and outrage. Below the logo was a subtle, yet powerful, message in clear support of equality for all.

Google, a worldwide corporation, has taken a stand to publicly show support for LGBT people who are struggling for equality around the world.  According to Google’s website, “every day Google answers more than one billion questions from people around the globe in 181 countries and 146 languages.”

That is, roughly one billion people a day, whether aware so or not, will glance at that logo and be aesthetically drawn to the colors of the rainbow — the official colors of the pride flag. It is in these subtle ways that the media and many major corporations have brilliantly managed to maintain the principles in which they stand for — delivering to all the people.

Google is not alone. Three official sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Chobani, AT&T, and DeVry University, have taken public stands against the anti-gay law in Russia as well.

These positive actions have outshined the media’s coverage of the anti-gay law itself. Their public defense of the LGBT community during one of the world’s most televised events, the Winter Olympics, is an indicator of how both companies and the media can work hand-in-hand to create change in this society. These efforts that are seen, read, and heard through media outlets can influence government policies around the world.

While mainstream media does not hold the opinions of every individual, it is the one domain that can have the largest positive impact on society.

The debate on what is the “proper” media representation of the LGBT community is still ongoing, but there is not doubt that major companies’ positive actions can create a domino effect on other companies to follow suit. In this day and age, showing public support via media platforms is vital in order to effectively communicate any message, especially one of equality.