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Culture, Identity, & Religion

Cultural topics such as "Who you Are?" and Religion.

Delta Sigma Phi News!

The Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity hosted their annual DeltaSig Open Doubles Tournament benefitting the American Red Cross. This year the event ran in conjunction with their Dad’s Weekend!

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Alumni Spotlight - Dr. Amy Wechsler, T'91

Dermatologist & author of The Mind-Beauty Connection

Where are you from originally? What made you decide to attend Duke?
I am from Queens, NY and Rockland County, NY.  I decide to attend Duke for a number of reasons - I already knew that I wanted to go to medical school and I knew Duke had a strong pre-med program and a first-class hospital; I wanted to leave my comfort zone of the Northeast and try someplace new; I visited Duke with my family and fell in love with the school and the environment; I love college basketball; - the list goes on and on!
If you had to describe your Duke experience briefly, what would you say about it?
I loved every minute of my time at Duke.  I was struck by the fact that no one on the faculty said no to me - if I was interested in pursuing an activity, there was always someone who was willing to help me turn my interests into reality.  I had a great mix of academics and extracurricular activities and social time.  I made life-long friends, had inspiring professors, and did unique things like spending a lot of time at the Lemur Center.  

You graduated before the Freeman Center was built. Were you active in Jewish life on campus when you were a student? What groups or activities were you involved with as a student?
I was active around holidays - services were in the Chapel and my mom encouraged me to attend.  I was in a sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta), I babysat for faculty members, I volunteered at Duke hospital (most notably in a pediatric AIDS clinic) and at the Lemur Center, I shadowed an orthopedic surgeon starting in my sophomore year (I was actually in the operating room), I was a Big Sister to a young boy in Durham, and I played on the Club Volleyball team.

Talk about your career and life now.
I have a private practice in NYC - I own my office and I set my own schedule, which is great because I am a single mom of 2 awesome kids.  I work hard, I feel privileged to take care of people for a living, and I plan my schedule around my kids' events and activities.  I also consult with Chanel on their skin care products.

You are one of only two dermatologists in the country who is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry.  How did you decide to focus on psychology AND dermatology? And how do the two disciplines relate to each other in your daily practice? 
I first became a psychiatrist (and child psychiatrist), but in practicing psychiatry I missed taking care of the physical ailments of my patients.  It took me a few months to figure out which specialty I wanted to combine with psychiatry, but when I discovered dermatology it made perfect sense to me.  The mind and skin have myriad connections and affect each other in innumerable ways.  I spend a lot of time with my patients and I look at them holistically, since what's going on in their lives can impact their skin and vice versa.  

You published a book, The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin. You’ve been on TV programs such as the Dr. Oz Show, and featured in many publications such as The New York Times and O Magazine.  What has been the most exciting experience so far in your career? 
I don't have just one "most exciting" experience... in the office I love clearing up severe acne and watching each of those patients blossom as their self-esteem and confidence improves; I loved being on Tyra [Banks] for the first time because that was my first national TV appearance; I loved publishing my book because I worked hard on it and was proud of it; I love working with Chanel because it's a company of extraordinary people who do incredible work; I love finding skin cancers in their early stage; I loved being in the NY Times the first time because I am a New Yorker and my grandpa read it from cover to cover every day. 

Passover is coming up. What traditional Passover foods are worst for your skin? Which ones are best?
There are no Passover foods that are necessarily bad for skin!  Foods high in antioxidants are good for the skin - dark chocolate covered matzah is my favorite and dark chocolate has antioxidants in it - just eat it in moderation!

Any advice for us stress-prone Dukies?
Try hard to get enough sleep!  We heal and lay down new memory during sleep.  Without enough sleep, most people become irritable, cannot deal with stressors as well, don't perform as well on exams, and get sick much more easily.  I never pulled an all-nighter at Duke because I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate well the next day.  It's important to have a good balance of work and leisure time.  Take care of yourself - connect with friends, take a walk outside, exercise, wear sunscreen, and don't smoke!

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IHouse 50th Anniversary - World Music Night

I hesitated at the threshold wondering, ‘Is this the right place?’ Then a group of smiling faces greeted me and I was welcomed into the Duke International House family. That was four years ago, at the IHouse Intl Spouse / Partner Orientation. As I was reminiscing thus, SangHee’s voice brought me to the present with a ‘Hello everyone, Good evening!’ It was World Music Night, part of the 50th anniversary celebration of IHouse, where we were treated to eight wonderful performances and (you guessed it!) a quiz.

‘To me, music is like breathing’ – Huda Asfour, (postdoc, Biomedical Engineering department) got the show started with an Arabic song accompanied by the rich notes of the Oud (Arabic instrument) that she played. Next performance was her own composition that conveyed the feeling of ‘being unsettled’. You can listen to more of her songs here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘To me, music is a means of expressing my thoughts and emotions’ – Bryan Somaiah, (undergraduate, Trinity College) got the attention of the audience with his sweet voice, simple lyrics and soft notes of the acoustic guitar.
‘Music is energy for life’ – Duke Dhoom (dance team of undergrads and grads) took to the dance floor with a spring in their step. Their performance was so energetic and lively that we had to grip our seats to stop ourselves from getting up and dancing.

World Music Quiz – Lisa Giragosian (IHouse) tested the audience on their knowledge (in my case, ignorance) of world music by playing songs from different countries. Needless to say, the closest I got was identifying the continent from which the music came. So, no prizes for me.

‘To me, music is happiness’ – Pratiksha Sharma (Undergraduate ’18) sang a Nepalese song about unrequited love, in her soothing voice.

IHouse Divas – Annette Moore, Li-Chen Chin held the audience spellbound with their mellifluous rendering of ‘The Round of Leprechauns’ and ‘Tap Dancer’ on the flute and clarinet.

‘To me, music is the Food for Soul’ – Rimli Sengupta (spouse of Duke postdoc), in keeping with the season, harmonized a melody about the onset of spring, followed by an emotional English song ‘Leaving on a jet plane’. Her voice touched us gently like a breath of fresh air.

‘Music is happiness and passion’ - Devil’s Reject (undergraduates) had the audience clapping to their A Capella singing of popular songs like ‘Are you coming to the tree’ and ‘I’m Yours’.

Racemates – Duke Indie Rock and Progressive Folk band played some great music for us. Check out their facebook page for more info. Special thanks are due to them for managing the sound system, the entire evening.

Thank you IHouse, for the musical jamboree and for reminding us that: ‘Music is the universal language of mankind’ – H W Longfellow.

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Passover

Happy (almost) Passover! In honor of the Passover tradition, we’re tacking on a fifth question: what makes JLD’s Passover so special?

Well for starters, Jewish Life at Duke will be offering free Seders at the Freeman Center on both the first and second night of Passover. Many students who are looking for a traditional Passover experience attend these Seders with the larger Duke community. Throughout the holiday, the Duke community can go to the Freeman Center for kosher-for-Passover meals. Other locations on campus have kosher- for-Passover dining options for those Dukies who can’t make it over to Freeman during the week.

But for students who might want to embrace the holiday in their own way, JLD offers the opportunity to host their own Passover Seders. Providing funding, food, haggadahs, supplies, and training, JLD prepares students to bring the Passover tradition to their own campus homes. In recent years, over 650 students took part in at least 17 Seders on campus!

Students get super creative, hosting Seders with themes such as a ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Freedom’, or ‘Rainbow (LBTQ)’. Students sometimes even cook their Passover dinners from scratch in their dorm kitchens; the commitment it takes to make tzimmes over a communal hot plate is impressive!

Other students join with their friends, sororities and selective living groups to have a small Seder within their own Duke families. The past couple of years, I myself co-hosted Seders for my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. We picked food up from Freeman, then brought it back to Central Campus where we all set up together in the dorm. Having my sisters gathered around the common room, celebrating the holiday with me, quelled any homesickness I might get around the holidays because I realized: I was home!

The first time I decided that I wanted to help lead a Seder, I was nervous – what if I got the prayers wrong? What if I told guests to eat the Charoset before they dipped the Karpas in salt water? Luckily, Jewish Life at Duke helped me to feel comfortable and competent. We upheld many of the traditions and parts of the Seder I grew up doing, from pouring a glass for Elijah to searching for the afikomen. It was also an awesome way for the non-Jewish members to experience a Seder. It may not have been a flawless Seder, but everyone was together in celebration and made it all work.

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Speaking Up for Yourself - IHouse CLG workshop

“What does it mean?” asked one of the participants at the CLG Workshop on Speaking Up for Yourself hosted by Seun Bello Olamosu, IHouse where Dr. Gary Glass and Brandon Knettel, Intern, from CAPS made a presentation about communication strategies.

When somebody ‘steps on your toes’ do you just grin and bear it?

Why do you hesitate to speak up?
Cultural Differences and Gender Influences
In American culture, the concept of “self” is valued. People like to talk about their accomplishments, express their emotions and they may not hesitate to challenge authority or just ask for what they need. But other cultures may place more value on humility, being less expressive and respect for authority. Further, lack of clarity about gender roles can make it more complicated.

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Sometimes, people may treat you differently because of your racial or ethnic background. Is it “discrimination” based on bias or because they respect differences and want to put you at ease.

Language
If speaking up is difficult, writing could be more so because there are so many things to think of like grammar, spelling mistakes and striking the right balance between sounding passive and assertive.

How can you overcome your inhibitions and speak up?
Understanding Conflict
Conflict can be “A Tool used to improve Relationships”. There is a saying in my country – “Fire can be used to light a lamp or burn down the house”. This is true of conflict too. If it is not used the right way, it can end up hurting everybody.

Confidence
“The enjoyment of what you KNOW to be TRUE about YOU”. And, using that knowledge about you, to manage different situations at work and home.

How Do You Speak Up for Yourself – Effectively / Respectfully?
1.    Assess whether to assert yourself: Evaluate the situation - Is this the right time? What would be the consequences of speaking up or not speaking up?
2.    Identify what you want to assert: Figure out what is wrong with the situation and what is to be done to change it.
3.    Confidence Cycle: Rehearse, Implement, Evaluate, Correct or Adjust as Needed.

Communicate Your Needs
Express your needs using “I” statements like, “I would like it if you” rather than blaming the other person like, “You never do”.

Conflict is a Tool
Use conflict effectively to understand the other person and to help them understand you better.

Coming back to the question asked at the beginning of the workshop, I realized that Dr. Glass had not only answered it but in the process, he had given us a practice lesson in speaking up for ourselves.
 

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Black Love

“Black Love”

On the night of February 11, #BlackDuke all joined for the annual “Black Love” event. Well known in the black community, “Black Love” is endeared by many as an opportunity to discuss the perils of finding a “bae” in the Duke community. Discussed topics ranged from the hook-up culture, interracial dating, off-campus cuffetry, and how academic stresses can stifle a dating culture. For me, though, the narrative I fully expected was lacking from the discussion. Given that I can count approximately 3.5 couples in the entire black community, all heterosexual, in a community as rich with attractive individuals and diversity of sexuality as Duke’s black community, it is absolutely astonishing to me that so few people are “cuffed,” or even remotely considering the pursuit of cuffetry. Literally no one has a Valentine; it’s ridiculous. And since loneliness seems to characterize our community’s bae relations so accurately, I expected someone to cogitate the reasoning for this fascinating phenomenon, or at least bring it up as having been their experience in on-campus boo searches at “Black Love.” I misjudged.

On one hand, when I hear “black love,” I’m reminded of a shackling and oppressive history of black enslavement, and I think what besides a supreme love for a Divine Creator and community support could have helped our ancestors come to terms with the plight they had been subjected to against their wills? More contemporarily, “black love” makes me think of George and Wheezy. Florida and James. Raven and Eddie. (I’m deliberately leaving out the couple that had been my locus of understanding what black love could look like and be, because I’m sick of the husband telling me where on my gluteus maximus I’m allowed to wear my pants AND because that marriage was annulled in my consciousness the moment I discovered that the freakin’ obstetrician had “a thing” for violating women). Juxtaposed with those flowery and arguably unrealistic depictions of black love on television, however, is the seeming reality, both in the Duke community and in the black community in general—nobody is freaking cuffed! Why?

If I may venture a guess, I think that there are quite a few contributing factors to the phenomenon of general baelessness in our black community. For starters, you have to consider the type of black kids who are coming to Duke—mostly middle to upper-middle class; very respectable; having, for the most part, been to the best high schools and preparatory programs in the country. In effect, you have put 800 black valedictorians in an overwhelmingly white space, all of which have been convinced by their parents that exceptional negritude is fundamental to black success and is ideologically unproblematic. Some of us are a bit nerdy or socially awkward, but just about all of us have been told that we are “hot stuff,” contributions to the race—“uplifters”—for as long as we can remember. And yet, many of us have had difficulty navigating race relations, since our respectability made us “too white” for black spaces, and our melanin always made us stand out in white ones. I’d like to posit that that complex scaffolds an environment controlled by pride, formed out of black students’ scorn for their racial pasts. An environment of pride makes genuine, authentic interactions with other black students difficult to come by (to say the very
least). Pride stifles trust and vulnerability, the undeniable building blocks of any successful relationship (platonic or otherwise).

The same phenomenon doesn’t exist in our interactions with whites, I’d imagine, because they landlord the spaces we’re being allowed to rent, like the college environment—the spaces were not made for us, and no has blueprinted a re-model to accommodate our needs and preferences. And yet, we know how valuable the real estate is, and can’t forget how long the waitlist of exceptional negros is behind us; but, I digress. My interest is in deconstructing the environment of pride, such that we facilitate the kinds of loving interactions we’d like to see… (To be continued)​

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Alumni Spotlight Meet the Freemans

The Freeman siblings then (at Heath's Bar Mitzvah) and now
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The Freeman Center for Jewish Life is the hub of Jewish life at Duke University. The Freeman Family Program Fund is generously underwriting this year’s Bar Mitzvah Program. Get to know the fund's founders, Danyelle (T’96), Amanda (T’98), and Heath (T’02), as they sit down with Tori Cohen (T'15) to discuss their parent’s legacy, Duke basketball, and “epic” bat mitzvah hair-dos.

How did your interest in Duke begin? What made you all decide to attend?
Danyelle: As the oldest, I was the first to visit Duke, during my junior year of high school. I fell in love the minute I stepped foot on campus. It's such a wonderfully diverse school set in the South, which was so unique to me at the time. Not to mention the allure of the basketball team!
Amanda: I decided I wanted to go to Duke when Christian Laettner hit that crazy buzzer beater shot against Kentucky in 1992. My interest in the school was piqued. I was really drawn to the fact that it was a “work hard, play hard” school. I loved the combination of strong academics, strong sorority/fraternity scene and school spirit. Best decision I ever made.
Heath: Our family fell in love with the school [once Danyelle began attending] and the rest was history. The academics, social atmosphere, and athletics are truly unmatched. Oh - and the weather! And Amanda, I never realized that's what sold you. You know I own Laettner's jersey from that game ("The Shot")?!!

Were you active in Jewish life on campus when you were a student? What groups or activities were you involved with as a student?
D: When I was at Duke back in 1992, there was no Jewish center…. We had services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the basement of a church. There was no real Jewish community [at Duke] and no Jewish life to speak of, which is exactly why my parents took such an interest in creating one. It's truly amazing that Jewish life is thriving at Duke today and I'm so proud that my parents had so much to do with it.
A: I wasn't active in Jewish Life either. First, there really wasn't much opportunity to be active. Without a center, Jewish life was pretty non-existent. We grew up in a more culturally Jewish than religious home. I did as much as I could to carry that on while in school by attending services in the basement of the Bryan Center and holding at-home Seders with friends. My social life centered on my sorority, Tri-Delt.
H: The Freeman Center opened in the first half of my college career, so I wasn’t super active in Jewish Life while at Duke. I played football (Field Goal Kicker) and was in a fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, and that took up most of my free time outside of academics.

Could you tell us a bit about your career and life now?
D: I'm a food writer. About 10 years ago, I launched a blog called Restaurantgirl.com, a website that covers the New York restaurant scene. Two years later, I became the chief restaurant critic for the New York Daily News. I was the first blogger to become a critic for a major publication and the very first non-anonymous critic in country. I also published a book called Try This: Traveling the Globe without Leaving the Table, with Harper Collins. It’s like a cheat sheet to the world's cuisines, from British to Thai, Vietnamese, and everything in between. Right now, I oversee my food blog, consult with restaurants and food brands, and raise my daughter and stepson. I also invest in food and tech-related ventures, which is a huge opportunity nowadays.
A: I am the Founder and CEO of SLT (Strengthen Lengthen Tone). I own nine boutique-fitness studios in the New York City area that offer a challenging, sweaty, and fun workout that combines the best elements of Pilates with cardio and strength training. I am also the co-founder of Sweaty Saturday, a fitness industry non-profit that raises money for Partnership for a Healthier America. I'm a serial entrepreneur with a particular focus on health and wellness.
H: I’m a founding member and President of Alden Global Capital, a $1.7 billion investment firm focused on opportunistic and distressed investing. [Right after I graduated] I worked for Peter J. Solomon Company, a boutique investment bank specializing on mergers and acquisitions, restructurings and refinancing.

Besides Jewish Life at Duke, what other ways are you involved with Duke as an alum?
D: Jewish Life at Duke is my primary focus at Duke for now. I want to devote all of my energies to it.
A: I heart Duke...a lot! I am always happy to do what I can to help out Duke. I am on the Duke NY alumni board, I host annual cocktail parties at my apartment for alumni to meet and mingle, and I've participated in relevant industry and women's focused panels.
H: The Freeman Center for Jewish Life is my main passion/focus/involvement. More recently, I have been working on ways to get more involved with Duke Football, its current players and alumni.

You recently established the Freeman Family Program Fund. What inspired you to create this?
D: We're very excited and proud to launch this program, so that we can really get behind specific programs that we're passionate about. As a family, we hope to effect change and make things better for generations to come. As a new mom, that's extremely important to me, and I hope one day my children will be a part of the Freeman Center for Jewish Life.
A: We wanted the ability to fund programs that mean a lot to us personally and those that we think will really benefit Duke students and alumni.
H: Our goal is that the programs we’re supporting will change the lives of the people who participate. In the coming year, we are supporting JFAM, which is a kind of buddy system for Jewish freshmen, the Bar Mitzvah program, and the student-hosted Seders. We plan to grow the number of programs considerably in the near future. Stay tuned!

In the spirit of the upcoming Jewish Life at Duke Bar Mitzvah, what was the theme of your Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
D: Truth be told, I hated my Bat Mitzvah! I had a cheesy carnival theme and my hair was epic. Oh how I wish I had the chance to do it all over again! What a wonderful idea the Freeman Center Bar Mitzvahs are!
A: My Bat Mitzvah theme was "movies." Décor elements included a giant marquee, lots of video cameras, film reels and lots of black and white. The tables were named after my favorite movies and the sign in board looked like old school film.
H: My theme was Heath Bar (not very original). I did have two of my favorite athletes at the time make appearances, Pat Kelly (Yankee Second Baseman) and Rodney Hampton (Giants Running Back).

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Flag of the Week - Argentina

Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Sharing the Southern Cone with its smaller neighbor Chile, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south.

With a mainland area of 1,073,500 square miles, Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

A historical and current middle power and a prominent Latin American and Southern Cone regional power, Argentina is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies and Latin America's third-largest. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, WBG, WTO, Mercosur, UNASUR, CELAC and OEI. Because of its stability, market size and increasing share of the high-tech sector, Argentina is classed by investors as a middle emerging economy with a "very high" rating on the Human Development Index.

The earliest recorded human presence in the area now known as Argentina is dated from the Paleolithic period. The Spanish colonization began in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, which ended with the country's reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. From then on—while massive European immigration waves radically reshaped its cultural and demographic outlook—Argentina enjoyed an historically almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity: by the early 20th century it already ranked as the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world. After 1930, however, and despite remaining among the fifteen richest countries until mid-century, it descended into political instability and suffered periodic economic crisis that sank it back into underdevelopment.​

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