The Thin Jew Line – What is an Eruv Exactly?

What is an eruv?  It’s a part of Jewish law that even many Jews do not understand.  A little over a month ago, Jon Stewart did a clip about them that is hilarious!  Definitely worth watching and sharing.  I saw this during Passover, but didn’t have a chance to share it until now.  Take a look:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wyatt Cenac breaks God’s rules without causing controversy by wearing an eruv hat. Airdate – 03/23/11

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Stop For A Minute… And Think

I really, really like this song and I think you will too:

Twitter Solves Customer Service Ridiculousness

I’ve heard stories about how Twitter can be used to address customer service complaints, but had never experienced it first hand until last week (I know this post is a bit late to the show, but it’s been very busy around here).  Here’s a synopsis of what happened:

On March 13, I ordered a Visa reward card from U.S. bank to use credit card reward points.  After a month, I had not received it.  I called U.S. Bank customer service to find out about the status of my card.  I ended up getting transferred five times and spent 40 minutes on the phone – just to reach the person I needed to ask the question to because apparently no one knew and no one knew how to transfer me directly!  I told the same story to every person.  In the process, I got transferred once to someone trying to sell me something and had several of my waiting transfer calls dropped.

When I finally got to the correct person, they said they would resend my card.  I would receive it in 7-10 days and they would even waive the $15 fee since I had not lost the card.  Needless to say, I was not happy.  I vented on Twitter using the hash tags “usbank” and “horribleservice”.  The next day, @AskUSBank was following me and had replied to my post asking me to direct message them my contact information so they could get in touch with me about my problem.

I replied to U.S. Bank via direct message and later that day got a call from someone at U.S. Bank who wanted to look into my situation.  It’s a good thing he did because he said he could not find any record of what I had been told.  He wanted to research the issue and call me back.  He called back within two hours and said that my original card had been returned (still don’t know why – and still don’t know why I was never contacted).  He said he would have the card resent and if I did not have it within four mail days, to call him directly.  I got the card two days early.

Overall, there are clearly some major customer service and operational gaps in this process.  I am, however, happy that Twitter helped solve my problem and that Ryan (the person I spoke with) took the initiative to be proactive about what should have never been an issue for me.

Cold War in the Middle East?

The Wall Street Journal had a really interesting article in this weekend’s paper.  Titled “The New Cold War,” the article details a new (to me, at least) comprehensive perspective for what it happening in the Middle East.  The article is summarized as:

There has long been bad blood between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but popular protests across the Middle East now threaten to turn the rivalry into a tense and dangerous regional divide.

You should definitely give the article a read.

Student Employee of the Year Press Release

The Office of Student Employment sent out this press release about the award I received.  It is way too kind, but people tell me I should share it so here you go:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 14, 2011                                                                                      

Contact: Marlena Hartz, 303.871.6795

DU’S JOEL PORTMAN NAMED 2011 STUDENT EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR

His resume rivals some professionals twice his age.

By June, the 23-year-old will have earned a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a master’s degree in Business Administration. Somehow, he found time last quarter to work 20 hours a week, complete a full load of courses, and launch and maintain an entire social media network for a national diversity training company. He helped nearly double participation in a University of Denver diversity retreat in less than two years. If you don’t know his name, you should. Meet Joel Portman, the 2011 DU Student Employee of the Year.

University of Denver Director of Financial Aid Chris George announced the winner of the annual title Wednesday at the Ice Cream Social Awards Ceremony in the Gottesfeld Room of the Ritchie Center. The Math Department Team – comprised of Sarah Caulkins, Nikki Chen, Grace Horwath, Juan Valles and Molly Webber – was named Student Team of the Year.

For the last two years, Portman has built a foundation of practical knowledge in diversity issues as a program coordinator at the Center for Multicultural Excellence at DU. Prior to joining the staff, the St. Louis native volunteered his time at the center.

“Joel is mature, wise, and professional beyond his years,” according to his supervisors, Johanna Leyba,  the Assistant Provost for Inclusive Excellence, and Thomas Walker, Program Director of Intergroup Relations  & LGBTIQ. “Many people on and beyond the campus have assumed he was a full-time, veteran staff member based on how he carries himself and represents the university.”

When the Center for Multicultural Excellence lost an assistant director last spring, it was Portman who filled the gap, ensuring the center’s major projects – the Diversity Summit, Voices of Discovery Intergroup Dialogue Program and Diversity and Unity Retreat – had proper administrative support.

His employment has been an integral part of his learning experience at DU. “I’m able to bring a different perspective to the table (in class),” he says. Even better in his eyes: “The work I’m doing here impacts the entire campus.”

Plus, “CME is more like a family than an office,” Portman says. While CME staff keeps work fun, they confront serious social justice issues, often involving issues of identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation and privilege. One of their goals is to create a more welcoming campus. Joel wants to extend that mission to the larger, business world.

The Eagle Scout and former Hillel staffer says he feels obligated to use his privileges – as an educated, white male – to shape a more equitable world.

“My theory is there is a lot of potential in this world,” Portman says. “I’ll do whatever I can do to make sure everyone has an equal part at the table.”

More information about Portman, the Math Department Team and Student Employment Appreciation Week can be found athttp://www.dustudentemployment.blogspot.com/ or http://www.du.edu/studentemployment/seaw.html.

Student Employee of the Year Award

Today I received the University of Denver’s Student Employee of the Year Award for 2010-2011!  It was definitely a surprise when I found out that I had been selected and I appreciate Johanna and Thomas for nominating me! and the Office of Student Employment for supporting and selecting me for this award  The Director of Financial Aid said that there are 2500 students working on or off campus so I know I was up against some great, well qualified people.  I know some of the other nominees personally  and I hope that they receive the recognition that they certainly deserve.

It is important that I recognize everyone who has helped or supported me in the various roles I have had while also being a student at DU.  I want to especially that Rachel, Mia, Thomas, and Johanna for being amazing supervisors!

 

Picture of Johanna, me, and Thomas after my Student Employee of the Year nomination

 

 

Today’s Horoscope

I know, I know – horoscopes aren’t real.  I don’t actually put much stock in them (if at all).  Nevertheless, my horoscope (Sagittarius) does show up on my iGoogle homepage.  And today’s horoscope is incredibly accurate/a good call to action:

This may be a back-to-work day, but you still want to have your share of fun. Unfortunately, previous obligations will force you to reconsider your plans. You may not be very happy when you realize that a social event must go on without your attendance. Although you may be tempted, blaming others is not a sensible strategy to get what you want. This situation is a test of your maturity, so accept the current circumstances and rise to the challenge.

Passover Videos

Passover begins a week from tomorrow night!  So soon – and there is still shopping and cleaning to do 🙂  In the meantime (or as a distraction), check out some of these videos that have been put together this year to celebrate Passover.  Some are pretty funny.

This Week’s Schedule

Just saying, this coming week will be crazy.  Here is my schedule for the week.  You should note that other things will be added as the week progresses and that more happens later in the evening than the calendar shows…

‘Til The Morning We Dream So Long

I have a new song stuck in my head.  And I like it a lot – but, more on that later.  I’m about to begin week four (of ten) of Spring Quarter.  I knew this quarter was going to fly by, but wow!  I have no idea where the time is going!  I feel like it should be week one still – my classes still seem to be starting up and wham!  The work hits.  I am researching for several projects right now, doing a case competition, planning an awesome Diversity Summit, looking/interviewing for jobs, and trying to make the most of my time here with my Denver friends.

Yesterday was interesting.  I had conversation throughout the day that made me want to go back home post-graduation to rejoin friends and family there.  Then I attended Shabbat 200, the University of Denver’s largest Jewish event.  Chabad plans it every year and we had a great turnout.  I spent time with great people (Jewish and not Jewish) at the event and afterward that caused me to reexamine my convictions from earlier in the day.  I know these major decisions should not be based on chance encounters or single events, but I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people wherever I have lived.

No decisions yet.  Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to make some decisions on my post-graduation future very soon.  I am ready to end the uncertainty.  Regardless of what happens, I know that I will have to work hard to maintain relationships.  But they are relationships worth maintaining and that really is the point.

Lupe Fiasco has an incredibly catchy song right now: “The Show Goes On.”  It’s a great song and actually has a pretty good message.  It is also rather relevant in that it causes one to evaluate the reasons why we act the way we do.  It is definitely worth checking out (note that the language in the video and lyrics below is explicit):

LA-SER

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

[Lupe Fiasco Verse 1]
Have you ever had the feeling that you was being had
Don’t that sh-t make you mad
They treat you like a slave, with chains all on your soul,
And put whips up on your back,
They be lying through they teeth
Hope you slip up off your path
I don’t switch up I just laugh
Put my kicks up on they desk
Unaffected by they threats than get busy on they ass
See that’s how that Chi-Town made me
That’s how my daddy raised me
That glittering may not be gold, don’t let no body play me
If you are my homeboy, you never have to pay me
Go on and put your hands up, when times are hard you stand up
L-U-P the man, cause a brand that the fans trust
So even if they ban us they’ll never slow my plans up!

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

[Lupe Fiasco Verse 2]
One in the air for the people that ain’t here
Two in the air for the father that’s there
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto
Four for the kids who don’t wanna be there

None for the n-ggas trying to hold them back
Five in the air for the teacher not scared to tell those kids thats living in the ghetto that the n-ggas holdin back that the World is theirs!
Yeah yeah, the World is yours, I was once that little boy
Terrified of the World
Now I’m on a World tour
I will give up everything, even start a world war
For these ghettos girls and boys im rapping round’ the World for!
Africa to New York, Haiti then I detour, Oakland out to Auckland
Gaza Strip to Detroit, say hip-hop only destroy
Tell em’ look at me, boy!
I hope your son don’t have a gun and that would be a D-boy

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

[Lupe Fiasco Verse 3]
So no matter what you been through
No matter what you into
No matter what you see when you look outside your window
Brown grass or green grass
Picket fence or barbed wire
Never ever put them down
You just lift your arms higher
Raise em till’ your arms tired
Let em’ know you’re their
That you struggling and survivin’ that you gonna persevere
Yeah, ain’t no body leavin, no body goin’ home
Even if they turn the lights out the show is goin’ on!

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!