Student perspectives

Pink Shabbat Speech


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 All throughout October we hear phrases like “Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Awareness” But why is it so important for you to support breast cancer awareness and research? The first thing I want everyone to do is to imagine this:

Imagine a beautiful 32-year old woman, with bouncy brown hair, bright blue green eyes, and a strong, fit body. This woman you are imagining was the highest ranked female black belt in the world in the Israeli self-defense system, Krav Maga. Although she was one of the toughest fighters, she was the most loving, sweet, creative, fun and, gentle person and I was lucky enough to call her my mom. At age 32, my mother Marni, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now picture this: In the months to follow, that beautiful woman with bouncy brown hair quickly transformed into a beautiful woman with no hair. Her strong, fit body was soon fragile and weak from chemo and radiation– sometimes too weak to drive down the block or even to walk into my room to tuck me into bed. Her strength that was once so blatantly visible in her physical appearance, was no longer seen; however, it began to resonate through her courage, persistence, and dedication to beat the disease that she was battling. The woman who you first imagined taught others how to defend themselves, yet she found herself at age 32 in the greatest battle of her life. Four years and two rounds of breast cancer later, my mother passed away. I was 9.

My mother living her life while she was sick was a blessing because she lived her life, not her disease. She went to every school play, every soccer game, and every dance recital she was well enough to go to. So while my childhood was not the norm, it was happy and full and I was lucky to have my mother in my life for the 9 years I did. To put it simply, losing my mother has defined me. As a 9 year old, I had no idea how much my mom’s disease would impact the rest of my life. As much as my mom shaped who I was, her absence has shaped me just as much. Losing my mother has made me strong. Losing my mother has made me independent. Losing my mother has made me dedicated to find a cure for the disease that took her life. Every year my family and I have organized the Stop Cancer Marni Fund 5k run walk. Through the walk and Krav Maga seminars, we have raised over one million dollars to fund breast cancer research at USC, UCLA, and City of Hope cancer research centers. My mom’s wish was for doctors to learn from her case to help other mothers, sisters, and daughters.

            So, this is why I fight against breast cancer, but why should you? Each year 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. 8-10% of Ashkenazi Jews carry the BRCA gene, the genetic mutation that greatly increases your risk of having breast cancer. Many of the women in this room tonight are Ashkenazi Jews. Many of your best friends, sorority sisters, myself included, are at risk for developing Breast Cancer. This fact is not meant to scare you, but to empower you. Being aware and knowing the risks of the future is a powerful concept. There are a lot of important causes in the world, but this disease disproportionately affects Jewish women. As Jews, we need to recognize this fact to protect the women in our lives. I hope tonight motivates all of you to join the fight against breast cancer, not only during the month of October, but in whatever ways you can throughout the year.

By attending Pink Shabbat you are raising awareness. By making donations or becoming involved in an organization, you are taking action. Whether you are getting involved in small or large ways, you are making a difference.

 -Brooke Levine




Pink Shabbat 2016







Breast cancer. Two words when put together bring up memories of pain, strength, and courage.

Twenty days before my 4th birthday, my biological mom, Kathy, passed away from breast cancer. Kathy was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer at the age of thirty. Only ten years older than I am today. She fought for two long hard years, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

After Kathy’s diagnosis, my dad found out that Kathy’s side of the family had a history of breast and ovarian cancer. Not only was every single female diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, but none of them had survived their fight. One of the youngest people to be diagnosed was at the age of 25. What can cause such a dominant gene to take the life of so many? The BRCA 1 mutation gene had been passed down for many generations and finally being discovered in Kathy.

         BRCA 1 mutation gene otherwise known as BRCA is the gene that leads to a higher risk in breast and ovarian cancer. Women in the general population have an 8% chance of developing breast cancer in their life. Woman who have the BRCA 1 mutation gene have a 55-65% of having cancer. So how is it that every single female on Kathy’s side had developed cancer? It must have been a really powerful gene.

         If only one of your parents has the BRCA 1 mutation gene it doesn’t mean that you will 100% have the gene. Getting the BRCA 1 mutation gene is just a 50/50 chance; just a flip of a coin can decide your fate.

         The BRCA gene was passed from my grandfather to all 3 of his children. So not only females, but also males can be carriers of the gene. However, after Kathy’s diagnosis, my aunt was able to have a double mastectomy that saved her life.

         Even though I never got to know Kathy the way I wish I had (since I was only 4) I know that she is looking over me and has provided me the skills I need to be strong, brave, and courageous; and I will always be grateful for that. 


 -Reagan Bazarsky


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It feels good to live up to our values and do what is right. But what should we do if the people around us aren't? Should we get involved and try to influence them or change them? In this week's Torah portion Noah faced this very dilemma. God informed him that he was about to bring a huge flood to destroy the world that had become very corrupted and evil. God told Noah, who was literally the only good and honest man left in the world that only he and his family would survive to start the world all over. Although Noah was sad and hoped that everyone else would change their ways and also be saved, he made the mistake of not doing enough to influence them to change. We learn from here that it’s not only important to be good on our own, but it is also important to try to influence others to do what is right and have good values.

As well all know, there is no room for evil or hate in this world - we have enough of that already. This world is turning into a scary place, and the only thing we can do individually is try to make it better. If you see someone doing something not right, then tell them. Help not only yourself become a better person, but also others. By not only changing yourself to become a better person, but by also influencing others, you can save humanity as Noah could have done. Be a virtuous person, influence others to be good people, stand up for what’s honest and right, and you can make a change.

 -Noa Barazani 



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