OyChicago articles

Why Is this generation different than…?

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 How today’s 20- and 30-somethings live their Judaism
11/27/2012

Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation photo

In a Jewish world obsessed with continuity, the millennial generation is an enigma. Age-old norms that defined what it means to be Jewish don't seem to fit. Yet "being Jewish" often is seen as cooler and more accepted than ever.

The public-affairs television show "Sanctuary," which first aired on Nov. 18 on ABC7-Channel 7 and now you can watch it below, examines every angle of this generation. On the program, millennials look closely at themselves and, in the process, reveal a deep commitment to a Judaism rooted in tradition and community, but lived in ways that often challenge 20th century structures and lifestyles.

The show features Oy!Chicago blogger-in-chief, Stefanie Pervos Bregman, editor of the newly published Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation. The book is a collection of revealing, incisive personal essays by a diverse group of young adult Jews from Chicago and around the country.

Bregman will be joined by an array of millennials offering insights into what “living Jewishly” means to them, from the role of ritual and the importance of choice, to the significance of denominations and the transformation of dating in the era of JDate. Guests include Jenna Benn, Rachel Kohl Finegold, Rachel Friedman, Jonny Imerman, Rabbi Jason Miller, Rabbi David Russo, Benjamin D. Singer, Elizabeth Wyner and Alyssa Zeller.

This episode is hosted by Cindy Sher, editor of JUF News.

"Sanctuary" is a joint production of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Board of Rabbis, in cooperation with ABC7-Channel 7.

Around 2,000 attend city-wide Rally for Israel

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11/20/2012

Around 2,000 attend city-wide Rally for Israel photo 1

Photo credit: Robert Kusel

Around 2,000 Chicagoans—and even a few people from out-of-state—gathered at the James R. Thompson Center today to show their solidarity with Israel as it defends its citizens against the terror of Hamas in Gaza.

The Jewish United Fund and JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), in cooperation with the Chicago Board of Rabbis and JUF's Rabbinic Action Committee, sponsored the Rally for Israel, one of many rallies organized in communities around North America this past week. (see photos from the event)

Community members waved Israeli flags and held signs proclaiming "I Stand with Israel," "Israel has the right to defend itself," and "Hamas the Aggressor, Israel the Beacon of Freedom." High school students spontaneously sang, "Am Yisrael Chai" and "Hatikvah," Israel's national anthem, as they waited for the rally to begin. News helicopters hovered overhead as the crowd chanted, "Israel! Israel!"

Cantor Alberto Mizrahi of Anshe Emet Synagogue then opened the rally, singing the National Anthem. David Sherman, JCRC Chairman, welcomed participants (watch a video of Sherman's remarks).

"We have all come together to say with one voice, Am Yisrael Chai—the people of Israel live," Sherman said.

"Let me be clear. Our support and our prayers are focused on Israel. But neither Israel nor we harbor hatred of the Palestinians. The Tribune today described yesterday's rally as 'anti-Israel.' This rally is pro-Israel, not anti-Palestinian."

More than 1,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza in the past few days, he said. "Millions of Israelis—Jews, Muslims and Christians—are now in harm's way.

"At the root of Hamas rockets is hatred and their belief that through terror they can deny the Jewish people a peaceful life in our homeland," Sherman said. "Hatred is the root, but fueling, funding and arming that hatred is Iran…As Israel fights for peace for its citizens, the world dare not lose sight of Iran's march toward a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran threatens the entire world, not just Israel."

Rabbi Sidney Helbraun of Temple Beth-El and co-chair of JUF's Rabbinic Action Committee, talked about his visit to Israel during the second intifada in the early 2000s. Twice during the trip, there were bombings in places he had been. "I felt as though I was being hunted…Everywhere I was going seemed to be blowing up behind me.

"Today, some 4 million Israelis are living with the sound of sirens," Helbraun said. "We pray not for victory, but for peace."

Rev. Chris Harris of Bright Start Church said Jews stood with African Americans during the civil rights movement. "Just as you stood with us…in this challenging time, we will not fail to stand with you as well," he said.


Elected officials express solidarity

Andy Hochberg, Chair of the JUF Government Affairs Committee, acknowledged public officials in attendance: State Sen. Ira Silverstein, State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, State Rep. Robyn Gabel, City Treasurer Stephanie Neely, Ald. Ed Burke, Ald. Debra Silverstein and Ald. Michelle Smith, as well as letters of support from Sen. Mark Kirk, Gov. Pat Quinn, Rep. Bob Dold and Speaker of the Illinois House Michael Madigan. (read their letters)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent in a statement of support that was read at the rally: "There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself," his statement said. 

A number of other officials expressed their solidarity with Israel:

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, said, "We stand with the men, women and children in southern Israel who have 15 seconds to find shelter." (watch her full remarks)

Congressman Mike Quigley said, "We are united by so many things. Israel and the U.S. are the greatest of allies and the greatest of friends." (see his full remarks)

Congressman Bill Foster talked about his visit to Sderot during a JUF mission. "We saw children playing in a playground (that was) a shielded, missile proof bomb shelter.

"Nobody should have to raise their children like that. Today, the message is simple: the U.S. stands with Israel."

Congressman-elect Brad Schneider said, "This situation is unacceptable. Like many of you, I have friends and relatives living in Israel, serving in the IDF and wondering what's next."

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka captured the sentiment of the crowd: "I'm tired of Israel getting rocketed and bombed and picked on," she said. "Let's get it straight. Israel has the right to exist. Israel has the right to defend itself.

"It's my honor to stand with you today," she said.

Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, said, "You have no idea how proud I am currently [of the rally]. Enough is enough. Since we pulled back from Gaza…we have hardly had a day without rockets.

"Our brothers and sisters are not the only ones suffering…Hamas is an organization who is committed officially for the destruction of Israel.

"To this we have one simple answer: we are not going anywhere. We are still willing to extend our hand and try to live in peace with you." (see his full remarks)

Israel has continued to supply Gaza with necessities like food, water and electricity during the conflict, as well as transport sick and injured residents into Israel for treatment.

Two of JUF's top leaders will return from Israel Nov. 21 after traveling there to assess the situation and show Chicago's solidarity with the Israeli people at a time of great threat.

David T. Brown, chairman, and Steven B. Nasatir, president, toured endangered areas of the country and met with key government and civil officials. JUF had immediately advanced $1 million in emergency assistance to its partner agencies in Israel to provide critical humanitarian aid to those impacted most by the ongoing terror attacks.

Rabbi Carl Wolkin, Congregation Beth Shalom, and President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, suggested ways Chicagoans can take action during this time of crisis:

Give to the JUF Israel Terror Relief Fund;

Read and watch all news channels—including those with Israeli perspectives;

Write to family and friends in Israel so they feel supported;

Don't cancel trips to Israel;

Buy products made in Israel;

Pray; and "Stay with it. This crisis will be ongoing. Don't let your support waver," Wolkin said.

For current updates and to contribute to JUF's Israel Terror Relief Fund, visit http://www.juf.org/help_israel


Showing their support

Marissa Steinhofer came from Milwaukee to join her friend, Lauren Sandoval of Chicago, "to express support for Israel."

Joceb Dnamar, Aurora, attended the rally "because I'm Jewish. A friend of mine called me yesterday to tell me about it." His friend, Noussy Nathan, also of Aurora, learned about the rally through email messages. "I've got a lot of family there," he said, noting that his family members are safe in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. "But, it's been pretty scary the last few days."

Laurie K., Highland Park, attended the event "because I strongly support Israel and I think what Hamas is going on the Gaza strip is terrible."

Victoria Kofman, Buffalo Grove, lives in Israel during part of the year and has relatives there. "A bomb came close to their house. They all are OK," she said. "They could see it went through (the neighbor's) roof."

Israel Responds to Gaza Terror

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11/15/2012

Israel Responds to Gaza Terror photo

Emergency medical personnel carrying the body bag of one of three Israelis killed in a rocket attack on their apartment building in Kiryat Malachi, Nov. 15, 2012. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90/JTA)

Chicago’s Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation stands in solidarity with the people of Israel, especially the residents of Southern Israel, who have suffered hundreds of rocket attacks within the past four days, the latest salvo in a decade during which Islamist terrorists have launched some 10,000 missiles and rockets. More than 40 Israeli civilians have been injured, homes and businesses destroyed, and schools closed. Hundreds of thousands have been forced into shelters and safe rooms, terrorized yet again by those committed to the destruction of the Jewish State.

Israel, like any nation, has an obligation to defend its citizens, and is fully justified in taking action to protect innocent lives. We hope and pray for the peace and safety of all peoples in the region, and support all measures to put an end to indiscriminate terror. We want our Israeli brethren to know that, as always, we are there with them, and will determine how best to apply the resources of our JUF/Federation system to provide all forms of support.

One Book, One Community, One More River

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11/13/2012

One Book, One Community, One More River photo 1

Author Mary Glickman was not born in the South, nor to a Jewish family, but her passion, connection, and dedication to both Southern culture and Judaism inspires and informs her writing.

Born on the south shore of Boston, Glickman was always fascinated by faith. Though she attended Catholic school as a child and wanted to become a nun, her attention turned to the Hebrew Bible and she began what would become a lifelong relationship with Jewish culture. She later converted to Judaism.

Glickman's first novel, Home in the Morning, published in 2010, has been optioned for film by Jim Kohlberg, director of The Music Never Stopped (Sundance 2011), and is currently in development. One More River, a finalist for the Jewish Book Award, is her second published book. She is working on her next novel, a continuation of this series which welcomes the reappearance of Aurora Mae, ready for publication next fall.

Mary and her husband Stephen now live in North Carolina with their cat and a horse named King of Harts.

One Book, One Community, One More River photo 2

You've said: "Joseph Campbell said that religion is the poetry that speaks to a man's soul and Judaism was my soul's symphony" How has Judaism impacted your life and your writing?
Recently, scientists have concluded that humans are hard-wired for religious belief which makes a spiritual life an organic need. Campbell's dictum adds a mystical element to the discussion. He seems to say that religion goes deeper than familial training or social environment: it goes to the bone.

I was raised by an observant Irish Catholic mother. Much of my education was under the guidance of the good sisters of that faith. But it never took with me. I felt that innate need for a spiritual life and always, I was drawn to the Tenakh along with the geniuses of Jewish literature. The first time I heard Ashkenazi melodies, I had tears. If that's not the pull of religion on one's soul, I don't know what is. My identity is 100 percent Jewish. It's been so for more than 40 years. How could my identity not influence my work as a writer?

And tell me about your love for the South?
When I first came to live in the South, I was bowled over by the beauty of the Southern landscape, its intense devotion to history and family, its emphasis on civility in social discourse. I found a gorgeous wealth of inventive idiom in Southern speech (catnip to an author!). And I noted an ease of relations between the races I didn't find up North. That was a revelation. My Southern life is a constant learning experience about both its priceless cultural traditions and how a society can struggle to and succeed in conquering the legacy of an ugly past.

What was your inspiration for this book?
I began writing in a Southern voice as a corrective of the Hollywood stereotype of the South as a quaint and unsophisticated place stocked like trout in a pond with race-baiting thugs, bigots in seersucker, and melting belles. The protagonist of One More River, Mickey Moe Levy, was born in my first novel, Home in the Morning, where he had a strong but supporting role. I just wasn't done with him. Knowing the Southern fixation on family trees, I thought a mystery around his father's identity would provide an interesting conflict to hang a plot on. And then the Flood of 1927 came into my purview. As Mickey Moe is part of the Civil Rights Era generation and his father was the right age to experience the Great Flood, it seemed interesting to pair the two revolutionary events that shaped the South in the 20th Century. That one was man-made and the other natural only made them more interesting to pair.

What do you hope your readers will take away?
I hope they'll share a sympathetic view of the South, one more accurate than that the media generally allows. And of course, I hope they're moved and enriched by the experiences of my characters. For me, fiction should be character driven. If the reader bonds with one's characters, the goal has been attained.

Why did you choose to make your characters Jewish in the book?
The Southern Jewish Experience has been underreported in fiction and it was quite different from the Northern one. Jews have prospered in the South since colonial days and with a greater degree of acceptance by the dominant culture than that experienced in the North. Jews have played significant roles in Southern politics, economies, and culture from the 17th century onwards. I wanted to both pay homage to that experience and help bring it to the forefront of American Jewish consciousness.

The book is full of themes of self-discovery, race relations, historical lessons, civil rights, women's rights and so much more, but the overarching theme is love. Is the message that love can conquer all?
I don't know if love conquers all but it survives all. The noblest acts of men and women are committed in its name. You'll notice that not all the great love in One More River is requited. But it endures and commits itself honorably. Something that not every reviewer has noted but something very important to me is One More River's theme of the very powerful form of love called friendship. It's my contention that friendship is as essential to a well-lived life as domestic love. A loving friendship endures in the same way that romantic love endures, sometimes to a greater degree. So I prefer to think of River as a meditation on love, on the many forms of the emotion, and how they play out as a measure of character.

Visit spertus.edu/OneBook for information and reservations.

8 Questions for Mark Lawrence and Jeremy Smith, entrepreneurs, parking problem solvers and all around Chicagoans

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11/06/2012

 8 questions for Mark Lawrence and Jeremy Smith photo

We all know parking in Chicago can be a drag…especially once the snow starts falling. Between street cleanings, parking permits and meter limits, finding a home for our cars is no easy feat. But have no fear, your parking heroes are here!

Chicago MOTs Mark Lawrence and Jeremy Smith make up two-thirds of the SpotHero team.

SpotHero, a rapidly growing startup founded by Smith, Lawrence, and Larry Kiss, was launched to remove the hassle for drivers finding a parking spot. SpotHero allows drivers to compare and reserve spots from the web and their iPhone and helps their parking partners fill their unused inventory by putting drivers in their spots.

Lawrence, the co-founder & CEO, has been an entrepreneur since 2nd grade. Through his career, he quickly realized his passion for innovation, both in technology and in everyday living. This drive ultimately led Mark to the Chicago parking industry, where he found an entire industry ripe for innovation. Prior to his professional experience, Mark graduated with BS in Finance from Bradley University.

Smith, SpotHero’s co-founder & COO graduated from the University of Illinois in 2008. Out of school he worked at Motorola and he eventually ended up becoming roommates with Lawrence. During his short time in Chicago, he amassed $3,500 in parking tickets! That's when SpotHero was born. When he's not out being a SpotHero for Chicago residents, Jeremy loves catching sporting events with friends, checking out new places around the city, and frequenting local dive restaurants.

So whether you love Schmidt from New Girl, have a thing for breakfast at Manny’s or just want to find a damn parking spot, Mark Lawrence and Jeremy Smith are Jews You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
Jeremy: My favorite website is ESPN. I’m constantly traveling and on the go for business and it helps me stay up to date on the latest sports news.
Mark: My favorite website is National Geographic. In my spare time, I love surfing the site to read the latest issue.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
Jeremy: Before a personalized excursion to outer space via a Richard Branson spaceship, I would take a good six months in Thailand to fight Muay Thai.
Mark: If time allowed, I would bike and safari in Africa.

3. If a movie were made about your life, who would play you?
Jeremy: Schmidt from FOX’s New Girl. He is a young professional who is eager to climb the social ladder and become a lady's man, but his heart is in the right place.
Mark: Charlie Day

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? Where would you eat or what would you serve?
Jeremy: Living: Shaquille O'Neal; Dead: Abe Lincoln. We would be eating really unhealthy, juicy burgers at Kumas Corner.
Mark: Living: Heidi Klum; Dead: Alexander the Great. We would be eating Mediterranean food on the beach.

5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
Jeremy: The perfect day would begin with ideal weather – 80 degrees and sunny, no wind or clouds in the sky. It would be a Saturday, and I would wake up to a healthy omelette, and then go out for a long bike ride. The rest of the day would be running into friends and sharing laughs. In the evening, I would be at a big college football game that would of course end in overtime fashion! After that, I would go out and celebrate in style by hitting the dance floor. I’m an amazing dancer.
Mark: My idea of a perfect day would be spending time with my family and friends. They are very important to me and I’m not able to see them as often as I’d like to. Also, trying something new I haven’t done before.

6. What do you love about what you do?
Jeremy: I love my job because I’m getting to face completely new situations and challenges every day. Additionally, I constantly get to interact with highly successful, motivated people whom I continue to learn from. It's more than I could ever ask for!
Mark: Waking up every day with a mission. Solving a problem we all experience or know somebody that does. I work with incredibly amazing people and love the challenge of each day. 

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Jeremy: Starting NFL Quarterback
Mark: Volcanologist. That's a job right? I’d also like to be a professor to help educate our future generation.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? In other words, how do you Jew?
Jeremy: My favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago is having breakfast at Manny’s. There's nothing better! Also, I like giving back to my community by speaking at local colleges and high schools, helping to educate students on business and technology.
Mark: I like celebrating the Jewish holidays, especially Purim.  

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