OyChicago articles

18 Things You Should Do Before Rosh Hashanah

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08/26/2014

Chai List photo

Not that we have anything against highs in the mid-70s, but as the calendar inches closer and closer to September (seriously, WHAT??), it’s kinda hard to believe that was it for summer this year. It’s been a joy pretending to live in northern California, but it’s time to face the truth, Oy!sters: fall and 5775 are fast-approaching, and with them sweaters, boots, and (even) cooler temps. We can practically taste the pumpkin spice lattes already.

That said, there are still a few weeks left to stock up on fresh air before you pack your bags for the suburbs or buy your plane ticket home for Rosh Hashanah and settle onto the couch for hibernation. 

Chicago tradition dictates the aggressive enjoyment of nice weather until the LAST DAMN DAY WE CAN, right? With that in mind, from our rooftop barstool to yours, here are Oy!Chicago’s top picks for sending 5774 off with a bang:

 

1. Go to the beach.

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Remember the photos people took along the lake during the polar vortex? That should be all the motivation you need to enjoy the sand before it becomes that other four-letter “s”-word … no, no,  the other four-letter “s”-word, but point well taken.

 

2. Walk, jog or bike along the lake

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It sure makes a lovely backdrop for selfies! Plus, that cool lake breeze is nice now, but by October … forget it.

 

3. Take advantage of free gym promotions

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You’ve gotta stay svelte to fit in that High Holiday suit or modest post-Labor Day dress, and end-of-season promotions make it easy to get a jump on (Jewish) New Year’s Resolutions without breaking the bank.

 

4. Get your festival fix

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Even in September, there are still festivals for the rest of y’alls. And we all know there’s no such thing as too many craft beers and meats on a stick. There’s the Windy City Wine Festival downtown, Logan Square Beer Festival, Riot Fest in Humboldt Park and more.

 

5. Explore a neighborhood you don’t go to often

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It’s so much easier to get out and about when the temps aren’t sub-zero. Enjoy Chicago before your brain convinces you the city limits are the walls of your living room.

 

6. Get your grill on

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Nothing keeps summer cooking like tan lines and grill lines.

 

7. Visit Hot Doug’s for a last hurrah

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Pairs well with No. 6. (Memorial tattoos optional.) Hot dog doomsday is Oct. 4.

 

8. Finally learn how to make that classic family recipe

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Now is finally the time to take your rightful place as heir to the family (matzo ball, gefilte fish, brisket, bundt cake, etc.) recipe. Your matriarch or patriarch will be kvelling when you’ve perfected their dish in time for Rosh Hashanah dinner.

 

9. Be a tourist in your own city

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We always tell our friends summer is the best time to visit. Take your own advice and remind yourself what you love about our city! Take a ride on the Navy Pier Ferris wheel or a cruise down the Chicago River.

 

10. Volunteer

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It’s never too early to get those brownie points for the Book of Life considerations. Help out at a community garden while the ground isn’t frozen stiff, or serve a meal at a shelter. Check out a full list of fall mitzvah opportunities.

 

11. Clean out your wardrobe and donate some clothes

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As you prepare for your annual purging of sin, why not purge your wardrobe of stuff you no longer need? Check out these resale shops for some ideas for where to take your old clothes.

 

12. Reach out to friends you haven’t talked to in awhile

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Some friendships get lost in the busy buzz of summertime. Before you reconnect with your soul during the holidays, reconnect with the people in your life (especially if you have someone to apologize to or forgive, because that would be very timely).

 

13. Make some new friends

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If No. 12 fails, then it’s time to make new friends! There are so many ways to meet people in the city and this is the perfect time of year for making new connections. If you want to add to your Jewish circle, definitely think about joining a JUF LEADS group which starts right before Rosh Hashanah (very convenient for inquiring Jewish mothers and grandmothers).

 

14. Go on a road-trip

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Doesn’t summer just make you wanna roll the windows down, turn the radio up, and cru-uuuuise…? (No? Just me, Florida Georgia and Nelly? Really?) Anyway, this is a great time to check in on the old alma mater or check out somewhere else that will be impossible to traverse in the winter.

 

15. Check out a Friday night service or community minyan

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You don’t have to wait until the high holidays!

 

16. Take advantage of one of the endless free activities in MillenniumPark

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Movies, music, yoga, Zumba, summerdance … it’s straight up better than YouTube over there.

 

17. Catch the fireworks at Navy Pier

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Because every New Year should be rung in with Fireworks.

 

18. Go apple picking

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For that trendy “farm to table” Rosh Hashanah touch.

 

8 Questions for Meg Grunewald: Improv veteran, sketch comedian, master of characters

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08/19/2014

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For Meg Grunewald, comedy has many faces. And wigs. And voices.

The Chicago-raised comedian and veteran of Chicago’s improv and sketch comedy scene says she has always loved impressions and creating characters, a specialty she has chosen to highlight for the entire month of August in a “character a day” project.

Grunewald has trained at Second City conservatory, iO and the Annoyance Theater, and can most often be found playing weekends at ComedySportz. She also helped found the all-female sketch group Just the Tip, which last appeared at The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival in January.

Follow megalopolis18 on Instagram to see all her pictures from the character project and check her out on Vine for the six-second video clips. When you’re finished you’ll definitely agree that Meg Grunewald is a seriously funny Jew You Should Know!

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1. What is your earliest memory of a time when it was clear you were destined for comedy?
My earliest memory regarding comedy would be when I would mimic characters from Saturday Night Live. When I would do my impressions, I would make people laugh and that was a great feeling. I loved being able to entertain and brighten someone's day with a laugh.

2. What inspired your “character a day” project?
I was buying wigs for another project and bought a couple more just for fun. When I got home, I started putting these wigs on and playing around with characters. I have always loved to dress up and become someone else; build a story about them and walk in their world. I have accumulated about 20 wigs from various past sketch shows and thought it would be fun to play with them and create an original character for every day of August. I have also done Vine videos for each character to have them come to life for six seconds.

3. Got a good Jewish joke for us or a favorite Jew-ish character to play?
I always love to play old Jewish women and men. The Boca Raton, Florida types.

4. What does it take to make it in this crowded Chicago improv/comedy scene?
Drive. Confidence. Humility. Playfulness. Positive outlook. Manners.  

5. As an ‘80s and ‘90s child did Robin Williams inspire you in any way? How would you describe his comedic legacy?
I used to watch Mrs. Doubtfire until I could quote it. The part in the movie when they are going through the different possible looks for his character was always my favorite. I guess my character-a-day was subconsciously influenced by that scene. It is fun knowing there’s a movie that has had such a lasting impact on me. Robin Williams was a one of a kind comedian. From voices to vulnerabilities, he was able to commit to it all. And he kept you always on your toes and engaged and that's a very special skill.

6. What do you love most about what you do?
I love that I get to help those around me relax and breathe a little with humor. Also... when you get a whole group's focus and attention because you're being funny, that's a pretty great feeling.

7. In an alternate universe where you couldn’t do comedy, what would you do?
I think I would be a detective or something involving the solving of crimes. I love crime shows and information about prisons and the prison culture.  

8. How do you Jew in Chicago?
During the high holidays, I attend Miskan with my mother. My family also celebrates some holidays at home. I am looking to figure out ways to "Jew" more in the next year.  

If I knew then what I know now

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08/12/2014

Oy!Chicago asked Chicagoans to tell us the biggest piece of advice they'd give (if they could) to their younger selves-back at the time of their bar or bat mitzvahs. Here's what they told themselves!

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It's ok to not have all the answers. Sometimes it seems like we need to have life figured out when we're still kids. What classes do you want to take in high school? Better decide now so you can be ready for the right college program, and get a good internship, and get your dream job. And what extra-curricular activities will you do? You want to be well-rounded. To my 12-year-old self, I'd say, it's ok to not have the answers. In fact, it might be better. Give yourself the room to try things. Give yourself the room to make mistakes. That's how we learn and discover what works for us and what doesn't.
-Aleeza Lubin, Chicago

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Wear your retainer.
-Caroline Musin Berkowitz, Chicago

I would tell her to recognize the value of what we have and the value of our religious beliefs and be able to appreciate them on behalf of someone who might not have those same freedoms. I'm 100 percent sure I didn't fully appreciate that at 13. 
-Dawn Smith, Chicago 

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Don't be afraid to ask for help. Even now in high school, people want to get to know you and those people are the ones that will push you forward and give you the opportunity to succeed. Also, celebrate mildly--that is, don't dance so hard at your own bar mitzvah party that you have to change your shirt halfway through the night.
-Josh Kahn, Chicago (JUF News summer intern and rising high school senior)

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If there was one thing that I would tell my 13-year-old self, it would be a quote that was said to me when I was a little boy at White Sox Summer Baseball Camp and stuck with me forever, yet often times would forget its meaning. It was easy to remember because it was comprised of ten two-letter words, but it packed quite the philosophical punch: "If it is to be, it is up to me." Hearing that would help boost my own self confidence and motivation to succeed and reach any goals I wanted to set for myself, in any and all aspects of my life and not just sports. It was this quote that made me realize how much sports can teach you about life and it is through sports that I learned some of the most valuable experiential life lessons.
-Ari Moffic Silver, Chicago

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My advice to my 12-year-old self would be: "You will never please everybody, so stop trying.  Laugh instead of cry, especially at yourself.  Mean girls don't always grow up and grow out of it.  Sometimes mean girls are just mean.  Find friends who love you regardless of your size, shape, color of your hair or clothes you wear.  Cherish them.  Good friends, ones who don't love you one day and ignore you the next, are hard to find and hard to keep.  Make the effort.  Boys are stupid.  Love them anyway.  But love yourself more.  Be proud of your accomplishments, even if they are embarrassing.  Take risks. Sometimes it's okay to not be the best, and not care.  Life is not a competition.  You were unique and wonderful and cute when you were little, you are unique and wonderful and beautiful now-and you are only getting started."
-Sandy Rockind, Chicago

Have a simple, haymish bar mitzvah. It means more to really understand what you're doing than to offer party favors and videos.
-Jonathan Edelman, Chicago

Only pursue what you love to do in life.  Money isn't worth chasing as it's a road to nowhere.
-Harold Gerber, Chicago 

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To her I would say: First, do whatever you can to try to accept yourself and your family since you all have many, many years together ahead. Second: Some people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about while other people have really helpful and important things to say; listen selectively. Third: Watch less TV, read more books, listen—really listen—to music, make more art, look out the window, lie under a huge tree, and if you want to play more kickball with the neighborhood kids—it's still fine—you aren't that old.
-Joyce Heyman, Chicago

Double Chai Check-In: Matt Rissien raps and responds to Jewish crisis

 Permanent link
08/05/2014

Double Chai Check-In: Matt Rissien photo 1

Let Them Go/Let Us Go Passover "Frozen" Parody (Let It Go)

Matt Rissien’s dedication to the Jewish community, especially to younger generations, has only grown since being named one of Chicago’s Jewish 36 Under 36 in 2013. He has continued to find new ways to engage Jewish youth as director of youth activities at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook, including revamping the congregation’s youth lounge.

Rissien’s approach to working with young adults was especially impacted by a recent experience that hit close to home. A Kansas native, Rissien was visiting home around the time when a gunman shot and killed three people at a Jewish Community Center and a senior living facility in Kansas City. He made it a point to take part in the community’s response.

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“Westboro-Baptist church was protesting the funerals, so we countered their protest by forming a wall of people with messages of love. The group as a whole went for about 6 blocks, it was an amazing experience.”

After this experience, Rissien saw working with teens in a whole new light.

“No matter how young you are, you can always make a difference,” he said.

That wasn’t the only time Rissien took part in a community response to crisis in the last year. He also volunteered with JUF’s Tikkun Olam Volunteer network (TOV) to help those Washington, Illinois whose lives were torn apart by a tornado last November.

“Ever since 36 Under 36, I’ve wanted to get more involved with JUF,” Rissien said.

Rissien wrote about his experience in Washington and the home he helped rebuild in a blog post for Oy!Chicago.

In addition to volunteering, Rissien has gotten involved in Chicago’s Jewish community through the AEPi Alumni Association. He helped plan the Centennial Dinner and also plays on the softball team on a weekly basis.

But Rissien will tell you that his biggest accomplishment since becoming a 2013 Double Chai honoree was getting engaged to girlfriend Brittany Silberman. His proposal was truly an achievement in itself.

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Rissien’s creative proposal should come as no surprise to those who have seen his music videos. His original Hanukkah Rap has received nearly 40,000 views on YouTube, while his Passover “Frozen” Parody received 2,000 more than that. And there will be more to come, Rissien says.

Last but not least, since last fall, Rissien has continued developing his passion for Judaism by working on his Masters of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies at the Spertus Institute.

“I have learned a lot not only from other Jewish professionals, but also from working one-on-one with a mentor,” he said. ”It has given me a lot of knowledge to use in my everyday Jewish professional job.”

Meet many past and present Double Chai in the Chi honorees at this Thursday’s WYLD in Paris party. Register fast before the event sells out! 

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