OyChicago articles

18 Ways to Make Someone Your New Jewish Best Friend

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03/25/2014

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Are you a Meredith Grey seeking a Cristina Yang? A Nick Miller seeking a Schmidt? A Will seeking a Grace?

We know how it is. Though we already taught you how to meet young Jewish adults in Chicago, we get that when you’re new in a city, sometimes meeting new people is just the first of many hurdles in finding your friend soulmate. The real trick is nurturing a select few fledgling acquaintance-ships into something more than empty offers of “let’s totally do lunch sometime.” (After all, who hasn’t friended someone from your smartphone at a bar night, just to find yourself scrolling past their latest witty status update month later and trying to remember who in the world they are and how you know them?)

But never fear, lonesome Oy!sters. We’ve got 18 tips on how to actually turn that friendly potential pal you totally bonded with at a happy hour into a real-life J-bestie for life!

DISCLAIMER: Okay, hopefully this is obvious, but since we don’t REALLY know you, we’re just gonna come out and say it… Use these ideas in moderation. Don’t be a stalker. That’s not a good way to make friends. (Trust us.)

 

1. Be a good listener – and follow up!

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If your new friend-crush mentions something like a job interview or hot date coming up next Tuesday, follow up with a text or Facebook message asking how it went on Wednesday or Thursday (not Tuesday! See disclaimer!). You don’t have to be weird about it – just a simple “Hey, nice seeing you the other night! How did that interview go??” will let the person know you are paying attention and care about what’s going on with them (in a casual yet sincere way).

 

2. It’s called Shabbat. Make plans.

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Shabbat is a beautiful thing for budding Jewish friendship. It is your built-in excuse to do things with Jewish friends without it being “too soon.” There are plenty of young adult Shabbat gatherings you can go to together. Remember, the friends who Shabbat together ... have a lot (of fun! …) together.

 

3. Or have them over for Shabbat.

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No, we’re not talking an intimate Shabbat for two. Invite people over on a Friday night and include your new friend on the list. You get to know them in a more personal setting this way without it being obvious you’re friend-crushing on them. With Birthright NEXT Shabbat, it also can be free! Nobody wants to be alone on a Friday night … okay, some people do, but they at least want to know they had the option of being social and are merely choosing to spend Friday night on the couch.

 

4. Ask them to be your wing-Jew to the next Jewish social event.

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If you met your Jewish friend-crush at a social event, well, there are plenty more where those came from! Forward your most recent YLD email invite and see if they want to come.

 

5. Work your Jewish geography.

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Fact: Jews like being connected to things. Whether it’s for a job, getting involved in the community, etc., going out of your way to connect someone is a huge testament to caliber of your potential Jewish best friend-ness. You never know what might come out of one helpful connection.

 

6. Bond over food.

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Jews have been strengthening connections between people over food for thousands of years – there’s no stopping it now. Even if you’re not a “total foodie,” you can find something food-related in common with your would-be Jewish best friend. Try a new place together that specializes in your mutual favorite foods (cupcakes), explore a new brew pub, or if you or your friend has always wanted to learn how to bake, say, challah (or cupcakes), use that as an opportunity to get together.

 

7. Share the BOGO love.

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What’s the only thing better than food? Free food. Got a sweet buy-one-get-one-free coupon somewhere? Or a Groupon that you need help using up? Invite your wannabe buddy to cash in on the freebie. This, of course, has nothing to do with enticing them with free things, and everything to do with good excuses to invite someone out at no cost to them. Plus, it involves food.

 

8. Be exercise buddies!

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If you’ve gone too hard on numbers 6 and 7, you have both probably commiserated over your inability to lose any weight this winter or get off your butt and go the gym. So be each other’s motivation! Check out a class together, offer to be a spotter, or if you’re really dedicated, you can even offer to track each other on fitness apps if you both have the same gadgets. Nothing is as motivating as peer pressure – or agreeing to get drinks afterward.

 

9. Not so much into the exercise? Try a different kind of class.

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See if your future JBF wants to join you for a Whole Foods cooking demo, lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music, or dare we even say a Torah study or Talmud class? Try signing up together for something on Dabble.

 

10. Offer them a ride.

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If you and your new acquaintance met at a social event or gathering, helping them get home is a mensch-y thing to do. If you drove (and are safe to drive), it’s an easy win, or buying a cab will also buy you some extra time to chat. Plus, it’s a kindness they won’t soon forget. Also, offer to do the same to get to future events together.

 

11. Make watching TV social.

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We know. You would so make plans tonight but your DVR is getting full and your TV doesn’t care if your hair looks nice, or you aren’t wearing pants. But if your prospective best bud likes one of your favorite shows (or sports teams), suggest a get-together to watch, or host a viewing party. Best friends always validate each other’s obsessions. Extra points if the show is Friends

 

12. Repair the world together.

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You’ve already eaten lunch or froyo together, but your souls could use some feeding too. Discover what your new buddy is passionate about (see #1) and find a volunteer opportunity. There are so many ways to tikkun olam—and who knows? You guys might even make more new friends in the process.

 

13. Invite them for the Jewish holidays.

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What are you doing for Passover? If you’re visiting family in the suburbs and you have a new-to-Chicago friend, find out if they can join (well, if your family isn’t too dysfunctional, that is – use your discretion). Both new in town? Find a community event to attend together. Their mother would rather they be with you, a Jewish stranger, than not have anywhere to go for the holidays.

 

14. Rescue them from work.

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If at least one of you works a 9-to-5, the other can save them! In-person social lunch breaks are infinitely better than ones spent hunched over a desk reading BuzzFeed, or even a quick 15-min stroll together is better than being alone and sedentary. These can be planned or completely spontaneous, which makes them good for friendships new and old.

 

15. Be a good social media friend.

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Our disclaimer in mind, don’t leave your new friend hanging when they post an artsy food pic or a cool article link. Give it some love – Like! Retweet! Comment! Social media sharing is caring, folks.

 

16. Speaking of sharing …

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Remember how awesome it was when you were a kid and someone brought something cool to school and they shared it with you? Or better yet, let you borrow it? Well, it still feels awesome as an adult. Whether it’s gum, a bottle of a mutually adored wine or liquor, or something they can use to host Shabbat, giving something of yourself signals you are dependable and thoughtful. Last we checked that’s good friend material.

 

17. Bring them matzoh ball soup when they’re sick.

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This is an advanced-level friend-wooing technique, probably once you’ve hung out a few times, but what says friendship more than getting a giant Tupperware full of soup from The Bagel? Nothing, you guys. Nothing.

 

18. Seriously – just text them.

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We know you won’t call them, but don’t be nervous about reaching out to people. Chances are they’ll be thrilled to hear from you and just excited about cultivating a new friendship as you are, especially in a big city.

IDF veteran speaks to Chicago Jewish community about empowering people with disabilities

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03/11/2014

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Tzipi Zipper

Tzipi Zipper is one of the most able people you'll ever meet—despite the fact that she sits in a wheel chair.

She traveled to Chicago in the late winter to speak at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Jewish Child and Family Services, and the UIC Levine Hillel.

Zipper's story starts off in Colorado. Growing up in a Zionistic household in Denver, she always dreamed of moving to Israel. At 15—only two weeks after discovering a Jewish Agency for Israel program that helps young people relocate to Israel without their families—she found herself landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

Her senior year of high school, just like most other 18-year-old Israelis, Zipper was ready—and proud—to join the Israel Defense Forces. Typically, Israeli men serve for three years in the IDF, while women serve for two, but not Zipper. An athlete all her life, she wanted to serve for three years in a more rigorous role.

So after passing a series of strenuous physical and psychological tests, Zipper joined a combat unit; her rank was Staff Sergeant. She was inducted into the nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare unit in the Combat Engineers Corps, where she served in hot spots like Bethlehem, Jericho, the Egyptian border, and the Gaza Strip. By the conclusion of her service, she'd risen to the position of Master Sergeant.

After discharge, Zipper found work in security. She is the first woman ever to pass the security course in a high-profile heavily armed security. She was stationed in check points along with military, police, and Mossad agents along the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Then, eight months later, her life changed forever. She was manning a checkpoint one night when she was struck by a car in a routine traffic accident. Her injuries appeared minor at first, a sprain to her left knee and a partially torn ligament. But her pain grew more severe.

She was eventually diagnosed with a rare progressive neurological disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, also called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a condition triggered by injury or trauma. "The number one symptom is relentless pain 24/7," she said. The pain was spreading from her left knee to both of her legs, and there was no known cure.

Three months later, Zipper found herself stricken to a wheelchair. At first, she felt sorry for herself. "After my accident, I felt like I lost everything. I lost my home, my career, my furniture, I lost my independence, and sometimes I felt like I lost my pride," she said. "I was lost, I was broken, and I was alone."

She realized something had to give; she had to regain control of her life. "I was tired of being unhappy, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself, I was tired of hating the world because of my bad luck," she said. "…I had no choice but to fight for control of my life back. I wouldn't let my condition define who I am. I decided I would try to conquer my disability."

At the same time, Zipper had been contemplating buying a power wheelchair because she'd developed carpal tunnel syndrome after manually wheeling herself around Israel constantly, where wheelchair accessibility is limited. One day, she noticed two people out in her Tel Aviv neighborhood in power wheelchairs, and they all got to talking.

She told them of her quest to empower herself. "If I couldn't fight as a soldier the way I used to, I can fight in another way, using my words, using my mind, instead of my physical ability," she said.

That's when they told her about the Center for Independent Living (CIL). The Center, created by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC—an overseas arm of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago—is a multi-functional center for people with disabilities.

What's unique is people with disabilities run the center too. Similar to a North American model, CIL offers peer counseling, social activities, legal assistance, and a support network. The Center is funded through the JDC, the Israeli government, and the Ruderman Family Foundation. There are 1,000 Centers located throughout North America, and six in Israel.

CIL was the perfect fit for Zipper. She has volunteered at the Tel Aviv branch of the center for two years to date.

Zipper helps people at the center live independent lives as contributing members of society—despite their disabilities. "Nothing can define you but yourself-no condition, handicap, or disorder," she said. "I'm only limited if I choose to be."

Franco-philes

 Permanent link
03/07/2014

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James Franco went back to school recently, a place he seems quite comfortable these days.

Northwestern University's A&O Productions and NU Hillel brought Franco to speak on Saturday night, March 1, at the university's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.

Jeffrey Sconce, Northwestern Professor of Radio Television Video and Film, moderated a discussion with the actor in front of an audience that sold out 90 minutes after the star's appearance was announced just two days before the event.

Franco, who is Jewish on his mother's side, has been spending a lot of time in Chicago this winter rehearsing for Northwestern professor and Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro's Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men," which hits the New York stage in April.

Franco has enjoyed a wide-ranging film career, from blockbusters to indie films. He starred in movies like the Spiderman trilogy, Milk, Pineapple Express, Spring Breakers, This is the End, and 127 Hours, for which he won an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Aron Ralston, the real-life mountain climber who amputated his own arm. On the small screen, Franco played a lead role on the short-lived, cult TV show Freaks and Geeks, as well as on the soap opera General Hospital.

He's something of a renaissance man—actor, director, author, painter, teacher, and student. In fact, he seems to be a perpetual student these days.

After dropping out of UCLA the first time around to pursue acting, the Palo Alto native returned to the university as an adult eight years ago, in the middle of his red hot film career. An English major, Franco was granted permission to take as many as 62 course credits per quarter compared with the normal limit of 19. He later earned his MFA from Columbia University and is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Yale University.

"The university was the place I thrived and being there, I was among other people who were passionate about what I was passionate," Franco told the Northwestern students.

Friends say he always has his nose in a book. Even on the movie set, when he's not shooting scenes, you can find him reading Ulysses in the corner of the room, as friend and colleague, filmmaker Judd Apatow, has put it.

Franco been known to throw himself into his roles method acting-style. He told the crowd that when he filmed the television biopic on James Dean, he barely spoke to anyone for months. He even told his girlfriend at the time that he could only talk to her for an hour a week.

When asked his biggest piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers, Franco told the students that technology has made everyone their own one-man/woman film crew. "If you want to go get into film or TV, there is no reason you shouldn't be out there making your own things [films], while pursuing other things," he said.

At the end of the talk, a brazen student in the crowd asked Franco if he would join him for a "selfie," but Franco told him he'd do him one better: The actor pulled out his own phone and posed with the room full of students—himself included.

8 Questions for Kim Bloomberg: jewelry designer, teacher, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors

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03/04/2014

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For Chicago teacher and mother of two Kim (Prywes) Bloomberg, making jewelry isn’t merely a passion or hobby, but a part of continuing her family’s legacy.

To Kim’s grandmother, who sparked her interest in trinkets and treasures, jewelry was more valuable than money. In her mind, it could not so easily be taken away. As a Holocaust survivor, she had good reason to feel this way. Her family hid all its valuable jewelry in the baseboards and chandeliers of their apartment in Poland at the onset of the war. After they survived Auschwitz, Kim’s grandfather, who stayed alive blending in and working on a Christian family’s farm, helped them retrieve the items. He held the apartment’s post-war tenants at gunpoint (after they refused them entry, of course) while the women collected their things. Kim’s grandparents were married soon after and eventually used some of the jewelry to flea Poland and secure passage to America. Once there, the jewelry helped them come up with cash to rent an apartment in the Bronx.

Now, Bloomberg makes her own jewelry through Kim Bloomberg Designs, and her style emphasizes timelessness – jewelry that can be passed through the generations.

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A New York native, Bloomberg attended the University of Illinois where she studied art, specifically glassblowing. However, she changed directions a couple times, pursuing advertising in Chicago after graduation (where she met her husband) and having the epiphany to become a teacher. Her creative energy and love of jewelry and art, however, followed her, including big moves to Atlanta and then back to New York before deciding to raise her family in Chicago. She teaches art enrichments at schools in Deerfield and Highland Park and classes at the Glencoe Public Library.

Whether you love jewelry or Jewry, both, or appreciate a fascinating story, Kim Bloomberg is a Jew You Should Know.

1. How did you first discover your passion for art and jewelry?
I’ve been passionate about art for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to spend hours showing me her jewelry collection and I loved trying it on. My father (her son) is also a jewelry lover and always bought my mom one-of-a-kind pieces to celebrate milestones. As a child, being creative was something for which I received encouragement and recognition. My father always prioritized taking art classes, attending ceramics and sculpture classes weekly at night after work. Sometimes he would bring me along and let me play with clay and make sculptures. Now he brings my 7-year-old son to the same classes. When I was 11, I began making worry doll barrettes for a local boutique. The owner sold out of every barrette I brought him and continuously placed orders until they went out of style. It ignited an entrepreneurial spirit in me, which continued until I officially went into business in 2001.

2. Describe the concept behind your jewelry designs. What has influenced your style and approach?
Each piece is artfully balanced using the highest quality stones and craftsmanship. Quality is very important to me; I hand-pick each and every gemstone and only use the finest materials. All of my pieces are inspired by nature, yet they all have a timeless, feminine style. My collection is always evolving, yet it is important to me to keep my style consistent. I attempt to create jewelry that can be passed on from generation to generation.

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3. Why did you switch from pursuing art and advertising to becoming a teacher?
Well, I loved the energy and the excitement of advertising. Socially, it was a great thing for me to be doing right after college. I would sometimes work overnight shifts on big accounts and work on new business pitches. It was fun to be a part of a team. But I wasn’t passionate about it. One night I came home from work and the news of Columbine was all over the TV. I stood glued to the news throughout the night and the next morning I decided I needed to pursue a teaching degree. I felt like it would be a perfect way to blend my creativity and my desire to work in a social environment. I make it my point to reach out to those students who try to remain invisible.

4. How has inheriting your family story shaped you in general and as a Jewish woman?
My family story probably has the biggest influence on my life as a Jewish woman. I always felt that whatever I was going through in my life couldn’t have been as bad as what my family went through during World War II. I internalized it a lot as a kid and still think about it so much today. I recognize my grandparents’ and parents’ struggles as a sacrifice they made to give me the things they didn’t have. I have learned that Jewish traditions are to be treasured. From generation to generation is a very meaningful Jewish phrase for me, to remember our history and teach it to my children.

5. If you had to design any kind of Judaica, what would you make?
I guess it would have to be heirloom quality jewelry for milestones and celebrations. I love the idea of designing a tiny mezuzah pendant that opens up with a viewing area to see and read the scroll. I love tiny, miniature treasures like that.

6. What do you love most about combining art and teaching?
I feel like I get to have the best of both worlds. I love the solitude of making my jewelry and draw a lot of energy from that creative time. I am also a very social person and I love seeing kids and adults tapping into their creative spirit.

7. In an alternate universe where you couldn’t teach or make jewelry, what would you do?
I would definitely be a rock star. Unfortunately, I can’t carry a tune and don’t know how to play any instruments. According to my husband, I am tone deaf.

8. What’s your favorite Jewish thing to do (or how do you Jew?) in Chicago?
Well, I am a native New Yorker so I am still discovering what the Second City has to offer. I’d like to say that eating bagels is what I do, but unfortunately, I have yet to find a bagel that matches the ones I find on the East Coast. I know I will get a lot of flak for this response, but hey, we all know it’s the truth. So, the best Jewish thing I do is to continue carrying on the traditions of my past by hosting holidays, teaching my children customs and eating Shabbat dinners together with my family.

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