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8 Questions for Jeremy Weisz, Newlywed, Italian Food Lover, Back Guy

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03/03/2009

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Jeremy Weisz has got your back

Every day, Dr. Jeremy Weisz collects quotes and keeps track of his favorites. The latest one at the bottom of all his emails reads: "Excellence can be attained if you Care more than others think is wise, Risk more than others think is safe, Dream more than others think is practical, and Expect more than others think is possible." (Author Unknown)

A Deerfield native, Jeremy now lives in the city and is having a great year. At his wedding last fall, he and his wife performed a swing dance for their first song—complete with costume changes—then honeymooned in the Dominican Republic. Just last month he moved his chiropractic office to a brand new, custom designed space in Roscoe Village. He’s now looking forward to the May re-opening of Mario’s Italian Ice near UIC; a place he has raved about for years.

So whether you love Mario’s Italian ice, go swing dancing, collect quotes, or need a good chiropractor, Dr. Jeremy Weisz is a Jew you should know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
Of course one of my favorite websites is my own: www.drweisz.com. It really gives people a glimpse into what we do and what we are about, especially the "Mission and Values” page where I really took a lot of time to think through what we are all about. We take a lot of pride in it.

The other website I like is JDate as that is where I met my wife so I gotta love it!

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
I would travel to Italy in the Tuscan region as it is such a relaxing, laid back place. The food is grown fresh, I love Italian food and it is such a joyful and serene place to be.

I would also go to Australia because I have never been there and my wife really wants to go; of course she is the boss. I have heard the weather is nice and the people are friendly.

3. If a movie were made about your life, who would play you?
Probably Ben Afleck, or if it were a comedy, Ben Stiller.

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?
I would have a meal with Victor Frankel as I love his book,  Man's Search for Meaning  and would love to chat about anything and everything with him. I would also invite Thomas Edison, one of the greatest innovators and inventors ever, as it is amazing what he has done. I would pick his brain about anything and everything. I think I would serve a huge pot of chicken soup, delicious beef brisket, several Italian dishes and lots of desserts to keep us chatting through the night.

5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
Tough question. If it were within the realm of my normal day or a fantasy day? For normal day...have a delicious breakfast with eggs and pancakes with my wife and then go on a long walk and possibly some biking or sports in the middle of the day. Go to a Cubs game with a bunch of friends and family then go out to a nice dinner with everyone and come back to the apartment and just have dessert and wine with my wife and relax by the fireplace.

6. What do you love about what you do?
I work in an amazing environment surrounded by relaxing music, ocean sounds, and friendly faces. We are really privileged to be able to help people everyday. People come in with low back pain, neck pain, headaches and all sorts of aches and pains and we are really able to help people decrease pain which really helps their quality of life. We help people with Chiropractic care for spinal alignment and Massage therapists who help relax tight muscles for patients. It is rewarding to see people come in with a frown and leave with more of a smile on their face.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Growing up I always wanted to play baseball for the Cubs ...so I would be the bullpen catcher for the Cubs.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? In other words, how do you Jew?
I love going to the Friday night service before Martin Luther King Day where they have the Gospel Choir come in and perform throughout the entire service. It is an amazing experience; I go every year.

From Hyde Park to the Farm and Back Again

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One Sephardic Jew’s story 
03/04/2009

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Aaron Nunez-Gross is a Jewish Mexican-American man; he’s a city boy, yet was raised in the country too. He’s a about to graduate college, still finding his way in the world, but he’s also a guardian to his 17-year-old younger brother and a role model to other young people. He dances Flamenco and listens to Sephardic music; and he’s passionate about so much—about science, theology, politics, and peace in Israel.

As we sit down at a Hyde Park Greek diner on a cold February morning, the gregarious Nunez-Gross, 24, banters with the waitress in Spanish like they’re old friends. He’s been frequenting the diner for many years—as long as he’s lived in the neighborhood. He orders scrambled eggs, skirt steak and hash browns—his usual—and then begins to share with me his unique Jewish story.

Nunez-Gross was born in Mexico City in the mid-1980s and then came with his family to the States at the age of three. His father, a neuro-anesthesiologist, and his mother, a neurobiologist, previously had been on sabbatical from Duke University in Mexico, where his dad was born and raised. His father believes his family dates back to the Marranos, Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity to escape persecution, but practiced their Judaism in secret. Nunez-Gross’s family settled in Hyde Park, after his father was offered a position as a medical resident at the University of Chicago.

Though his family wasn’t traditionally observant—his mother served her kids BLTs in bed on their birthdays growing up—Nunez-Gross had a formal Jewish upbringing, including celebrating his bar mitzvah, lighting candles with his family on Friday nights, and attending Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School on Chicago’s South Side. Post-eighth-grade graduation, Nunez-Gross spent the summer in Mexico with his grandmother and his half brother and half sister (from his father’s first marriage). He came home to Hyde Park at the end of summer, ready to start high school.

But his parents threw a monkey-wrench into his plan. “Guess what?” his folks sprang on their son. “We bought a dairy farm in Indiana.”

“I was furious,” says Nunez-Gross. “I had school and friends and my classes all picked out at the Chicago Lab School.” Yet his parents insisted. After all, they weren’t fans of city living even though they had spent many years in Hyde Park. They were country people—his father had grown up on the Mexican countryside in the southern town of Oaxaca, while his mother was raised on the countryside of England. Growing up, Nunez-Gross recalls his mother often criticizing Chicago and city life, which was a big part of why she wanted to relocate. “I remember once going with my mom downtown. She was carrying my younger brother (a baby at the time) and running to the car when she tripped and fell,” he says. “No one helped her up.”

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Aaron visiting an elementary school in Israel, where the kids were studying the seasons, specifically winter in America vs. Israel. He taught them the song “Singin’ in the Rain” with full choreography.

So they were off to live life on the farm in the small town of Knox, Ind. “It was culture shock to say the least,” recalls Nunez-Gross. “You look at the Hyde Park community, a completely culturally heterogeneous area with, on average, a high level of education. I went from going to Akiba-Schechter in Chicago to a public high school out in burning brimstone fundamentalist Protestant USA. It was very, very strange.” On top of the culture shock, as soon as they moved to the farm, his mother cut the cords to the television. So, instead of watching TV, he would spend hours memorizing Shakespeare.

As a Jewish Mexican-American teen, Nunez-Gross realized he had little in common with the people in town. For the most part, he said, the people in town were “well-intentioned,” even if many were ignorant, and he managed to make friends there. But even among his friends, he experienced both anti-Semitism and racism. He and some other guys would be hanging out, playing video games when someone would call an African-American person a derogatory name.

There was one time when he was checking out books at the library when he noticed a girl staring at his head, clad in a baseball cap. “Can I see them?” she asked him. “See what?” he wondered. Then it struck him—she wanted to see his horns.

“When it hits that kind of level, you don’t get angry or offended,” he explains. “You don’t want to reciprocate by being patronizing. All you can do is joke.” So he took off his cap and let her touch his head and told her he would answer any of her other questions.

Nunez-Gross spent his high-school years on the farm, where he learned agrarian tasks such as milking cows and birthing calves and lambs. Although he considered himself an atheist at that point in life, he still felt a spiritual connection to the farm. “When you watch the spring lambs jump up and down in the field and everything is alive,” he says, “you can’t help but feel something in your heart, even the most obnoxious of atheists.”

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Aaron at the top of Masada

He grew to appreciate his life on the farm in a way he couldn’t back in Chicago. “It really was probably one of the best decisions my parents could have made, because I had been a problem kid in the city, getting into trouble,” he says. “The beautiful thing about going to Indiana was, I was representing two minorities on my shoulders. I wasn’t just one of many, where I could do what I wanted and no one would judge me. I was now the Jewish boy in the country, the Hispanic boy. That forced me to get my [life] together.”

Even though he grew to like life in Indiana, he yearned to return to Hyde Park, so he applied and was accepted at the University of Chicago. He had a hard time keeping up with the rigorous academics of the university at first, but his studies improved and he developed an interest in politics and interned for former U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, now President Obama’s chief of staff.

Later in college, Nunez-Gross regained his sense of faith that he had lost on the farm. He was an atheist in high school partly because of his experience with anti-Semitism, partly because he was the son of two scientists who had an “obligation to rationalism,” and partly because he was a teenager who thought he knew all the answers.

Then, one day, while sitting in an astrophysics class called “Evolution of the Solar System,” his professor was lecturing on black holes. The concept of black holes sounded oddly familiar to what Nunez-Gross had read about the creation of the world in the Zohar (considered the most important work of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism) about “a single infinitesimal point of immense density and energy which could not be seen.” He concluded that perhaps science and religion didn’t contradict each other. From that point on, he felt that he had the obligation to explore Judaism and theology in general. Eventually, he switched his major to Jewish Studies and last winter, he traveled to Israel for the first time on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip.

This month, Nunez-Gross will graduate from the University of Chicago and take a job at the university’s Newberger Hillel, where he will act as an assistant to the director of engagement. He will also lead an Alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans over spring break, and he will work with students traveling on Birthright Israel programs. He ultimately would like to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). “I am a ferocious Zionist and love Israel with all my heart. I cannot wait to get my life and some money together and make aliyah,” says Nunez-Gross. “I would love to work on the peace process. Much needs to be done in terms of diplomacy between theological figures. There needs to be increased dialogue between imams and rabbis.” In addition to the peace process, he worries what the legacy of the Holocaust will be in a decade, when most of the survivor generation has perished.

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Aaron at a waterfall in a national park near Be’er Sheva, Israel

Last year, he became guardian to his 17-year-old brother. During the presidential election, his family’s Indiana farm town had been fraught with heightened racism, spurring his brother to leave Indiana and move in with his older brother in Chicago. Nunez-Gross is trying to improve his Spanish and his brother is working on his Hebrew, so the two siblings often communicate with one another in the language they need practice in, which “comes out like some freakish form of what was once Ladino.”

Nunez-Gross looks back life on the farm with gratitude and says it helped make him the best person—and Jew—he could be. “Being thrust into that [dual]-minority position,” he recalls, “forced me to get my act together and start taking responsibility for who I am and where I come from.”

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