This piece was originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of the Hillel College Guide Magazine. Read the full issue and sign up for your FREE copy of the next issue at hillel.org/magazine.
I am, among other things, a rapper, an actor/director, a screenwriter and a photographer/blogger. I grew up in Las Vegas and created my own degree at Brown University — Evolutionary Anthropology.
At Brown, I created and performed a one-woman rap musical about aliens, time travel and DNA. I also wrote my first screenplay, a romantic comedy called “Coffee & Tuna” about a Jewish law student who wears a yarmulke to cover his early bald spot. The story won Brown’s screenplay contest and was made into a movie! Since then, I’ve taken a screenwriting class and have submitted screenplays to the contest every semester.
This year, I directed an immersive play, where instead of sitting and watching, the audience walks around inside the world of the play. It was group devised — the cast and production team created the story as part of the rehearsal process. Creating something with others brings people together.
I love expressing myself through rhyme. Instead of speaking at my high school graduation, I rapped. I’ve performed in venues ranging from Hillel’s Hanukkah Bash to a Southwest airplane, and now, to open mics in New York City. I rap under the name Malka Red, and I’m hoping to incorporate Jewish melodic forms into my songs.
I’m also creator of “Jews of Brown,” a popular Facebook page that celebrates the identities of Jewish students at Brown University through photographs and bits of conversation.
After going on Birthright, I applied to the Engagement Internship program. I was tasked with creating a project that would engage Jewish students in Jewish life on campus. Before creating the project, I was interested in the different, though often similar, ways that my friends and family define their Judaism. The project, inspired by “Humans of New York,” would explore Jewish identity among my peers.
I had no formal skills in photography, so I taught myself how to take portraits of people — how to frame them, how to make people laugh, how to edit.
Since the fall of 2013, new photojournalists joined the team, and together we have interviewed more than 200 Jewish students at Brown — individuals from all class years, men and women, with a range of unique identities and stories.
Hillel supported me in organizing a Jews of Brown gallery. Students featured in the photos and their friends filled Hillel’s social hall to see the photographs.
It has been so gratifying and moving to see the page enriching the lives of those involved — the subjects in the pictures, the viewers of the posts on social media and the photojournalist team.
Because the Engagement Internship was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me, I stayed on another year in an adviser position, helping other students develop their own projects. I am also working with Hillel International to create Jews of the University, which will use the “Jews of Brown” model to depict Jewish students across campuses.
As an artist, I choose to express my Jewish identity in a myriad of ways. Brown/RISD Hillel’s Engagement Internship and “Jews of Brown” have allowed me — and all of the students featured on the page — to reflect upon and strengthen the many ways we express our Jewish identities.
Rebecca Carrol is a 2015 graduate of Brown University.