OyChicago articles

Life, Love, Lox

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Deerfield native dishes out real world advice for the modern Jewish girl 
06/29/2010

Life, Love, Lox photo

It’s tough out there for a Jewish girl—you work hard, you play hard, you JDate often and you also want to incorporate some Judaism into your busy lifestyle.

Luckily, Carin Davis—a Deerfield native gone LA Jewish chic—has written a handbook to guide you through every step of the way.

In her new book, “Life, Love, Lox: Real-World Advice for the Modern Jewish Girl,” (Running Press) Davis covers all the Jewish basics—everything from Jewish history to holiday recipes to fashion advice— in a fun, sassy format. A self-described “trendy yenta,” Davis’s book is littered with Yiddish slang and her own hilarious tales of JDates gone wrong and hunts for half-price high holiday tickets.

Oy! caught up with this modern Jewess this summer to talk more about the book she describes as “educational, but entertaining.”

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Oy!Chicago: What inspired you to write this book?
Carin Davis: It started with me writing the singles column for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. I would get letters and emails from readers that would say it’s so great to have a fun, fresh voice in the Jewish newspaper and someone who’s young and writes about a Jewish voice that we can relate to. But then they also bombarded me with tons of questions—everything from ‘where do we find half-price high holiday tickets’ to ‘where do hot guys volunteer’ to ‘I’m supposed to make a kugel Friday night and I have no idea how to make one.’  I [also] started hosting all the holidays as well and it came to me that there was this void, a need for a Jewish guide to life but for the JDate generation—women in their 20s and 30s and 40s who are balancing their modern, urban lives and also trying to find their Jewish lives as well.

Who is the “trendy yenta” or modern Jewish girl you are writing for? Is the book specifically geared toward singles?
Definitely [the book] appeals toward singles but it also appeals towards young moms and married women who are suddenly responsible for the first time in their lives. Say their in-laws invite them over for Shabbat dinner. [She] could be married, could be single, could be a Jewlywed, or the mother of a bris. There can be 20 years between when someone pledges AEPhi and has a kid studying for his bar mitzvah or even makes it to the chuppah. So I feel like there’s this generation of women who are trying to find a way to organically and seamlessly bring Judaism into their lives and that’s who the book is for.

The word out there is that Jewish 20 and 30somethings are not affiliating in traditional Jewish ways. What do you say to that? How does your book address that?
I think that it goes both ways. I think there are plenty of Jews in their 20s and 30s and 40s that are affiliating in traditional ways, as more people in that group get involved in the Federation or find a local synagogue that they click with. Then there are also those communities building outside of [the traditional path] whether that’s an indie minyan in someone’s living room or Jewish movie club where girls get together and watch movies with hot Jewish actors once a week. People are finding their own way to create a Jewish life that means something to them. [They are also] finding ways to not have their Jewish life on one side and the rest of their life on the other—they’re finding ways to merge those two together. There are girls who eat gefilte fish and also sushi—you can have both.

What is the biggest challenge for “trendy yentes” today?
That depends on the girl, but I think the biggest challenge is to create a Jewish life that means something to her, so whether that’s finding a congregation she clicks with or finding a Jewish guy she’s going to spend her life with or finding a Jewish group of friends to celebrate a holiday with or volunteer with—it’s just creating that path for herself.

You write about a lot of different nice Jewish boys—how do they feel about being featured in your book?
Well the names have been changed to protect the innocent. And actually one of the columns I wrote one time was about a guy who went on a date with me and kept asking me to write about him in a column. But it’s all done in good spirit so even if the guys recognize themselves they usually send me an email laughing about it.

What advice do you have for Jewish daters out there?
You shouldn’t be looking for the perfect guy, you should be looking for the guy who’s perfect for you, in the same way that you have to recognize that you’re not the perfect girl, you’re just the perfect girl for someone. The other thing is just go for it—accept every invitation. If you’re invited to your co-worker's son's bris, go; if you’re invited to your 89-year-old neighbor’s Shabbat dinner, go. She could have a super hot grandson, you never know.

Davis, who is the vice president of an animation company by day, also shares her adventures in Jewish dating as a singles columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. “Life, Love, Lox” is available at all major bookstores and on Amazon.com.

A beacon of light

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Chicagoans hold Candlelight vigil for Gilad Shalit 
06/25/2010

A beacon of light photo 1

Photo credit: Robert Kusel

The mood in Chicago’s Federal Plaza was bittersweet last night, as more than 500 Chicagoans gathered to show support for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The crowd was somber, noting Shalit’s years in captivity, but also hopeful and prayerful for his safe return to his family.

The candlelight vigil was held on the eve of the fourth anniversary of Shalit’s abduction from Israel by the terrorist group Hamas. On June 25, 2006, Shalit—then a 19-year-old soldier in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—was attacked while guarding a place called Kerem Shalom (Vineyard of Peace), one of half a dozen border crossings that enable commerce between Israel and Gaza. Contrary to international law and all standards of decency, the kidnapped soldier also has been held virtually incommunicado, with no right of visitation by any humanitarian body.

   

“Tonight we gather together with communities around the world—from New York to Rome and from Paris to Jerusalem—in vigil for Gilad Shalit,” said Midge Perlman Shafton, past chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, in the evening’s opening remarks. “Tonight we show the world that this son of Israel and the Jewish people will not be forgotten. Tonight we send a message of solidarity to the Shalit family. Tonight, our candles, representing hope, provide a beacon of light to Gilad Shalit and other soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown.”

Orli Gil, consul general of Israel to the Midwest, asked vigil participants to put themselves in the place of Shalit’s family and loved ones. “Imagine their fears, their hopes, their despair,” she said. “We can imagine it because we all feel for Gilad and the Shalit family. Because he’s ours and we want him back, as we want and need all our boys back, each and every one of them.”

Gil also explained why his freedom is so important to the state of Israel. “We ask for the release of Gilad Shalit because it is the right thing to do. Because his being in a cell does not serve any cause. We will continue our efforts for his release as we will continue to strive for peace with our neighbors,” she said. “We fight for Gilad because he has become a son to all Israelis. You’re here tonight because you feel he became part of your family as well—a member in the family of the Jewish people, of klal yisrael.”

David Greenbaum, president of JUF’s Young Leadership Division, read a statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Diamond, urging those detaining Shalit to grant him the contact with his family and humane living conditions.

David T. Brown, chair of JCRC’s government affairs committee, shared the news that U.S. House Resolution 1359, calling for Shalit’s immediate and unconditional release, had just passed unanimously.

Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein also addressed the gathering. “We come together with the hope that we won’t come together to memorialize and think about this horrible event [again],” he said. “We are calling on people all over the country…to try to get Gilad released so he can come to America and we can all dance with him in this square next year.”

Oren Dekalo, chairman of the Young Leadership of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, shared his personal connection to Shalit before reciting a poem entitled When You’re Home. “I learned some time ago that Gilad Shalit and I have something in common—that is our birthdays, August 28,” Dekalo said. “My wish for Gilad is that for this coming birthday he be able to celebrate his 24th the way I know I’ll be able to celebrate my 29th—in the comfort and in the safely and in the security of his friends and of his loved ones. May this wish be granted.”

The evening concluded with a prayer for the captive led by Rabbi Daniel Sherbill, president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, and with a powerful rendition of Oseh Shalom.

The vigil was attended by community members of all ages. Gabe Axler, who plans to make aliyah this year with his wife, finished his service in the Israeli army just six months before Gilad was captured. “To me, this is very, very personal,” he said. “His story rings very close to my heart.”

Meital Hoffman, a 12-year-old student at Solomon Schechter Day School, in Skokie, attended the vigil with three generations of her family—her grandmother, her mother, and her younger sister all stood by her side. Hoffman, who was born in Jerusalem, understood the importance of gathering in honor of Shalit.

“It’s important for me to be here tonight because it’s a big deal for my family and me about Gilad Shalit and how he was captured,” she said. “It’s nice to express your views on things and not just be sitting at home and watching a movie all night. It’s good to do something and be noticed and make a difference.”

As she stood with her family, she wished Shalit’s family well. “I’m sure it’s very hard,” she said. “I hope that he is freed soon. They really need that for their family.”

The candlelight vigil was sponsored by the Young Leadership Division and Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, The Hillels of Illinois, and Young Leadership of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Embarking on a journey to Israel

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Hundreds from across North America making the move this summer

06/22/2010

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While her friends are going to college orientations and packing up for a year, Jacquie Zaluda is packing for the rest of her life. Her life—18 years so far—has to fit into two suitcases.

In about three weeks Zaluda, a 2010 graduate of the Chicagoland Jewish High School, will board a flight to cross the Atlantic Ocean and start a new life in Israel. After becoming an Israeli citizen, Zaluda will volunteer at a youth village in JUF’s Partnership 2000 sister-city Kiryat Gat and then participate in Mechinat Meitarim-Lechish, a year-long army preparatory program.

“I have wanted to make aliyah for quite a while now,” said Zaluda, who is also an alumna of the Write On For Israel advocacy and education program. “Israel is where I feel most at home. It is where my soul comes alive.”

Embarking on a journey to Israel photo 2

Zaluda was among 120 attendees at a recent party celebrating the latest group of Midwesterners making aliyah. The group gathering in Chicago was a small portion of the overall stream of new olim (immigrants to Israel) who are making the move this summer, said Jackie Hurwitz, aliyah coordinator at the Israel Aliyah Center in Skokie.

Last year, some 3,800 Jews moved to Israel from North America―the most since 1983. People at all stages of life are making aliyah: seniors hoping to retire in Israel after a full life in the United States; recent high school graduates like Zaluda; and young couples seeking to start a family in the Jewish state. The olim come from all across the Jewish religious movements and ideologies.

The economic downturn is another reason for making aliyah, analysts say. Israel’s economy has not suffered as much as the rest of the Western world, and economic opportunities in the high-tech, financial and real-estate sectors abound.

For Zaluda, aliyah makes sense because of a deep love for Israel that has infused the way she sees the world. She first made up her mind while at the Olin-Sang-Ruby Institute summer camp three years ago and sent a letter to her parents “telling them that I am going to move to Israel, I am not going to change my mind, and I need their support.” Her family has been her biggest support system, she said.

 “It’s not easy on anyone in the family,” Zaluda said. “It’s sad and stressful to think that the four of us are now going to be so spread out, but at the same time it instills a sense of pride in my parents and sister. They have never held me back or questioned my decision. They have only supported me and helped me to embark on my journey across the world.”

Comedian Andy Kindler talks dry wall, coffee machines, and Meryl Streep

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06/17/2010

Comedian Andy Kindler photo

Ever had to stop what you’re doing to wish you had a handbook for how to “hack” your way through comedy? Well there’s good news for you! Jewish comedian Andy Kindler wrote for National Lampoon back in the early ‘90s a “Hack’s Handbook” which satirized and exposed tired comedy formulas. Since this publication, Kindler has been gracing the country with his stand up comedy, his own comedy shows, and his guest appearances on shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Wizards of Waverly Place,” to name a few. Oy!Chicago got the chance to talk with this comedy troublemaker before he appears  at the “TBS Presents A ‘Very Funny’ Festival: Just For Laughs Chicago” this weekend.

Oy!Chicago: So, Andy, tell me why you got into comedy.
Andy Kindler: Well I kind of stumbled into it. When I was a younger kid I played classical violin but I got frustrated with that so I switched to guitar. So I always wanted to be a musician but then I got to [Binghampton University] and I got into theater stuff there. I wasn’t a theater major, I was an English Lit major—but one of my theater teachers was moving back to LA so I went to LA right after college. I just drove across country basically, and tried to get my music career going. But then one of my friends said “Oh you’re funny, you should try stand up!” So he kind of convinced me to start, and we began as a duo.

What was the duo called?
Andy and Bill. I was Andy, he was Bill. A duo is hard, though. Especially if you like to adlib. We did ongoing two people sketches. It was really kind of cool because stand up is frightening when you first do it. It kind of makes you nauseous! So it’s nice to have someone there to absorb some of the pain. I did that for like two or three years and then when I first went out on my own it was scary. But I realized I liked that much better. I like being on my own. I work with people good, but it’s nice to do things on your own.

What is your favorite part about being a comedian?
My favorite part is that you really never master [comedy]. You hope to get better at it, but you never completely control it, so it’s exciting! That way I never get tired of it. I can go through stages where I bomb out of a club or it’s some small part of the country where they don’t get me, and it can be depressing at times. But the fact that [comedy is]  always changing and that you can always get better at it is my favorite part.

What has been your riskiest career move so far?
Probably deciding to talk about other comedians, like going after other comedians. For example, I go after Jay Leno in my act, and if I don’t like a movie I go after the people in the movie, things like that. It’s like one of those unwritten rules that comics can do jokes about Lindsey Lohan all day but if you start talking about another comic it’s taboo. So I think talking about other comics and talking about the business in general is tough. I do this speech every year in Montreal at the comedy festival called “The State of the Industry” where I basically say what I think is wrong in comedy and show business. So that would be the risky side.

So tell me some more about your comedic style.
My goal in comedy is to say that I’m the same offstage that I am onstage…except that I’m trying to be funny more onstage. One thing that I do is that I like to talk about what comedy is.  So I will do the joke, then I’ll talk about the joke, and then I’ll talk about me talking about the joke…I actually have a joke about it! I’ll say that before I was in the comedy business I was in the “deconstruction” business. I never built a house, I just commented while other people were doing it. “Dry wall? Looks more like WET wall!” So that’s my style. You can call it deconstruction, maybe, but I’m not always deconstructing because I do say actual jokes. People don’t know it but I have actual jokes. It’s debatable. But they’re jokes!

Now I have to ask, why did you decide to guest star on the Disney Channel show, Wizards of Waverly Place? It seems like a random career move for a stand up comedian.
That was a show that I was asked to do because I know a lot of people who write for it. There was a time period where there weren’t as many sitcoms out there and a lot of really funny comedy writers and creators moved to more kid type shows since there were more opportunities there. A friend of mine who worked on the show, Peter Murietta, requested me. So that was cool, but I didn’t realize what a sensation the show was! Now kids who watch the show are all of a sudden noticing me. It’s a new demographic for me! I told my mom, “Watch the show, but remember that it’s a kids show.” And after I do it she goes “Was…was that a show for KIDS?!” She just couldn’t get the concept.

And how did you land your recurring guest role, “Andy,” on Everybody Loves Raymond?
Raymond was exciting because it was such a hit show, so it was just fun to be able to eat all the food that would be supplied for a hit show. And I love those coffee machines you put the plastic thing in and it makes ONE cup of coffee. Unbelievable! The way I got the role “Andy” was all these writers and comedians meet with me every Sunday at this deli out in LA called Victor’s and we all hang around. I got to know all these writers, so when Raymond got picked up they wrote the role for me. The main thing was I didn’t have to audition. And when I audition, that’s when things can go sour.

Sour in what way?
Well that part was written for me, it was my name, it was easy. But when I go out and audition, it’s rough because I don’t really like auditioning that much. I don’t mind it, but I don’t like it. I’ve noticed that when you go in on these auditions, sometimes you can try and be yourself…they don’t want you to do that. They want you to launch into the role. Me, I like to kibbitz. However, I would like to try to do movies. More serious roles. Not too serious though. I’m not like a wannabe male version of Meryl Streep, I don’t want to do different languages. Though I love doing comedic roles too, so I’ll take anything.

Now you are often thought to have portrayed a character in the World Wrestling Federation, but you claim that it wasn’t you. Can you clear up this whole “Jamison” conflict?
It’s so funny to me because first of all, if I was that guy, I don’t think I would deny it. Why would I deny it? I’m clearly not him, and no one seems to know what the answer is. I can’t seem to get an answer. All I can say is that there is footage of the guy who plays Jamison and there are pictures of him and unless you really believe that all Jews look alike, there’s no way that I’m him. So I would say that this is a theory that is mostly being perpetrated by Christians.

Christians?
Christians. But I always thought that Jamison was really played by someone named Andy Kindler, a different Andy Kindler. But now people are thinking that maybe that name was given to him, I don’t know. It’s something that is a mystery but not one that a huge amount of people are interested in solving. What do you think?

I’ve seen pictures of him and he doesn’t look like you at all!
I know! And I love that on Wikipedia anyone can go on there and start changing information. For a long while I would go on there and my wife would go on there and change it and it would be changed back! The more I deny it, the more they think I am Jamison! It’s just crazy.

And how does being Jewish affect you in the comedy industry?
I think being Jewish is so much a part of who I am. I actually have more of a personal spirituality view, like I don’t go to temple right now but growing up I went to temple and I was bar mitzvah-ed. And I just feel like Jewish people are the funniest out there. It’s not like we’re the only people who are funny, but I used to make the argument that we’re funny even when we’re not trying to be funny. Like once I was driving in the car with my friend Bill, who is also a comedian, and he wasn’t trying to be funny. The Whitney Houston song “How Will I Know” came on the radio and he said “You’ll know, Whitney. You’ll know.” So humor’s built into our DNA because of all the thousands of years of getting oppressed. That’s how we react to it.

Any last comments for the Oy!sters out there?
My message to the Jewish people is “Enough already with the—” no I’m just kidding. “Keep reaching for the stars?” Is that Casey Kasem? You know what the problem with this question is? I’ve always had a weak closer for my act. Not weak, but you know how most people end their acts with a big ZAZOOM? Not me.

How do you end your acts?
I end it with a joke that goes over reasonably well. And then I talk a little too long about it and then I uncomfortably make my way to the exit. Midsentence.

You can catch Kindler at the “TBS Presents A ‘Very Funny’ Festival: Just For Laughs Chicago,” today through Saturday, June 19. Andy will be hosting the ALT COMEDY shows at the VIC Saturday, June 19, at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m. and also participating in the Best of Fest show Friday, June 18, at 11:00 p.m. at the Mayne Stage.

Spanx CEO talks business, work life balance, community—and muffin top fixes

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06/15/2010

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Spanx CEO Laurie Ann Goldman

Oprah swears by her Spanx.

Gwyneth and Tyra love `em too. Madonna wore them on her world tour. And Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda even touts them in the new movie  Sex and the City 2 . “I’ve tricked my body into thinking it’s thinner—Spanx,” the character proudly tells her girlfriends over brunch.

All these celebrities—and millions of other women too—have Jewish Spanx, Inc. CEO Laurie Ann Goldman to thank. In case you’re not in the know, Spanx manufactures footless pantyhose and other body shaping undergarments for women, helping them find solutions to embarrassing fashion faux pas like “VPL” (visible panty line) and “muffin top” (fat spilling over the waistline of skirts and pants). And now, Spanx sells a men’s line, undershirts “with benefits,” according to Goldman. The men’s line is produced in Israel as are some of the other Spanx products. (Who would have thought Spanx could make a nice last-minute Father’s Day gift?!)

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Goldman recently spoke at a JUF Executive and Professional Women’s Network luncheon about how she got into the underwear biz.

Before joining the Atlanta-based Spanx eight years ago, Goldman had spent a decade with The Coca-Cola Company as the leader of its worldwide licensing division. While on extended maternity leave, she discovered Spanx through happenstance. Goldman had been invited to a fancy party and called a girlfriend of hers for some last-minute 911 fashion advice on how to hide the extra baby weight. “Spanx just came out with control top fishnets,” Goldman’s friend told her. “If you’re a little fat from the baby, wear any black dress with these and you’ll look fabulous.”

Goldman raced down to her local department store and discovered they were sold out of the fishnets. “I was aggravated so I asked the store how they were doing on supply side sales management,” she said. It turned out she had complained to Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s ex-boyfriend, who happened to be the CEO of the company at the time. Impressed by her business acumen, he told Goldman that he “really needed a boss” and, soon, she was hired.

After an unforgiving work schedule at Coca-Cola, Goldman wanted to approach her work/life balance at Spanx differently so that she could spend more time with her husband and three sons, now ages 16, 12, and 10. During her job interview back in 2002, “I talked about all the things that I could do for the business,” she said. “But I also talked about carpool schedules and baseball games and how my kids just needed a mom.” Her original contract stated that the “employer recognizes the employee has a responsibility to family and community.”

For Goldman, the Jewish community has always played a central role in her life. Raised in a strong Jewish New Orleans home, Goldman learned from her parents—both past Campaign chairs at their local federation—about Jewish values like education, family, and compassion. Jewish tenets, says Goldman, come into play every day as the CEO of her company. “The focus on common sense, doing the right thing, and being a good person is at the heart of what Jews do,” she said. “That is evident in everything I do work-wise and how we treat our employees, vendors, and customers. It you do the right thing, it will work out.”

And today, things seem to be working out for Goldman. She’s helped grow Spanx from a startup to a global $350 million company, with 100 employees in 23 countries. Changing a woman’s outward appearance transforms how women feel on the inside too, she says. “We have a mission to make people feel better about themselves and their potential. If you solve wardrobe problems for them, then you can change how they feel about themselves and, consequently, what they go out and do,” she said. “We talk about things that nobody’s ever talked about before and we give people permission to laugh at themselves.”

Telling a story in short bursts

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Israeli author, American translator talk about their new collaboration
06/08/2010

Telling a story in short bursts photo

Alex Epstein writes really-really short stories. Most don’t even take up half a page of his newly published quarter-page format book,  Blue Has No South . This collection of his latest work was masterfully translated from Hebrew by Becka Mara McKay.

As Epstein admits, short fiction is “not a common Israeli form,” but he has been working with the concept of “flash fiction” since his early prose attempts of the early 1990s.

The shortness of the stories belies their depth. With titles like “Another Conversation with Death,” “The Last Dreams in the Garden of Eden,” “The Crippled Angel,” and “A Short and Sad Imaginary Guidebook for the Traveler to Prague,” Epstein’s stories are minimalist yet nuanced. When the end result is so short, every word matters, and Epstein plays with his words, coaxing multiple images out of a single phrase.

“For me, it’s always about the writing process,” Epstein said during a recent bilingual Hebrew and English reading of his work. “When I’m writing, anything can inspire me – a sentence or a word or an image will materialize and take hold of my imagination. Everything can find its way into the stories.”

The May 17 reading was part of the “Global Voices” series at the International House at the University of Chicago.

Epstein, who was born in Leningrad in 1971 and immigrated to Israel at the age of 8, is an Israeli author. Yet his subjects are not stereotypically Israeli: no conflict or camels or desert in these stories. His is world literature, and he’s been praised as the heir to Baudelaire, Borges and Kafka.

McKay, the translator, said she struggled to transfer some of the word plays and ultimately had to reach for an Italian word in one of the stories to accurately preserve the pun. Hebrew’s limited variety of words places boundaries on the way an author can play with the language. The more widely endowed English vocabulary can add meanings even to really short fiction.

“Becka understands the importance of every word in a very short story,” Epstein said.

English also opened many doors for Epstein, he said. He has gained an entirely new audience by virtue of having his work translated. Moreover, translations to other languages stem from publishing in English. Epstein said that his work has been translated into Greek, Korean and Hungarian directly from the English incarnations rather than the Hebrew originals.

McKay, who is also a published author, views the collaborative spirit of translation as its biggest benefit.

“When I put something out there [via translation], it’s not just my own,” she said. “It’s part of something bigger than my own writing.”

In addition to Blue Has No South, Epstein is the author of two other collections of short stories and three novels. He is the recipient of the 2003 Israel’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature and a 2007 participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He currently serves as 2010 Schusterman Foundation Visiting Israeli Writer at the University of Denver.

McKay’s translation of Suzane Adams’ Laundry was published in 2008. She is also the author of a book of poems, A Meteorologist in the Promised Land and currently teaches translation and creative writing at Florida Atlantic University.

An interview with Jeffrey Zaslow, WSJ columnist and coauthor of The Last Lecture

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06/01/2010

An interview with Jeffrey Zaslow photo

Chicagoans might remember Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow from his 14 years in the Windy City. As a successor to Ann Landers, Zaslow doled out advice on all sorts of life questions through his column in the Sun-Times. Thousands of people are still making his mother’s chicken soup, he says. Since then, Zaslow has written or co-written three best-selling books, including  The Last Lecture , Highest Duty the story of Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s plane landing on the Hudson and The Girls from Ames, a record of female friendship. His Journal column, “Moving On,” focuses on life transitions.

Oy!Chicago: How do you choose which stories to focus on?
Jeffrey Zaslow: I like to write things that are accessible. I’ve gotten many letters and e-mails saying that they think about themselves when they read it, which is what you want your writing to do. All of my books are about the same thing: love.

What advice would you give budding journalists in a world where newspapers are potentially dying?
I wish I had easy answers. All I can say is that if you want to write, you should. On one hand, it’s hard to get out of school and get a newspaper job like I did. On the other hand, when I was young (I’m 51), you had to get someone to print your stuff. And now Internet sites will run your stuff and it looks great. There are chances to write and be read. You don’t have to wait for somebody with a printing press to print what you’ve written.

How does modern media influence your work?
The Last Lecture [co-written with Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch] was a confluence of all different types of media. First there was this four-minute video online. People e-mailed it to each other by the thousand. Then the whole lecture was put online, and then there was the book. Years ago, if I had written about it, I would have quoted a few lines from it and it would have come and gone in one day.

The Girls from Ames is a story of female friendship. What was it like for you as a male reporter to get to know these women and some deeply personal things about their lives?
I have three daughters, so I was prepared from that perspective. I know women need strong female friends throughout their lives. It keeps them healthier and happier—all the research shows that. I approached the book as very much an outsider. I didn’t assume anything about these women. The Ames girls rolled their eyes at me when I asked a silly question, but in the end, I was like an outsider reporting on this sociological phenomenon of women’s friendship.

Catch Jeffrey Zaslow this Monday June 7 at the Standard Club for  JUF’s Non-Profit and Educators Division dinner .

Also this week, David Gergen, Senior Political Analyst for CNN, will speak June 3 at JUF’s Government Agencies and Lawyers Division dinner at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

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