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The value of young Jewish professionals

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The Samuel A. Goldsmith Award, now in its 24th year, is awarded annually to exceptional young professionals who have shown outstanding performance in their work at a Jewish agency in the Chicago area. This year's award was presented at the 2011 Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago to Becky Adelberg, Executive Director of Chicago's American Zionist Movement, and to Caryn Peretz, for her work as Director of the JUF's Young Leadership Division. (Peretz has since been named an Assistant Vice President and Director of Contributor Account Relations.) See below for an excerpt from Caryn’s acceptance speech.  

The value of young Jewish professionals photo 

Thank you. It is a tremendous honor to receive this award today. It is especially meaningful to me that I am sharing this special day with our revered President Steve Nasatir as he receives the Julius Rosenwald Award. Thank you Steve, for leading this community, and more personally, for your kind words and all of your support. I am privileged to devote my career to an organization that places great value on young Jewish professionals in the community. Mazel Tov to my fellow Jewish communal colleagues Becky Adelberg, Mara Baumgarten and Josh Daitch. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Mara and Josh over the years and I couldn’t have selected more deserving recipients of the Davis, Gidwitz and Glasser Young Leadership Award.

I recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary of graduating from college. My Senior year, after returning from a year abroad at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and living on campus at the University of Wisconsin during the outbreak of the second intifada, I knew all I wanted to do was work in the Jewish community. Concerned friends and family asked me, “is there a future career in the Jewish world?” Indeed there was. My Jewish career began at JUF as a YLD Campaign Associate.

A common question that Jewish communal professionals are asked is “is that your full time job?” After 10 years of working in Chicago’s Jewish community, I can confidently reply that my job is so much more than a “full-time job”, and I don’t just mean the late night hours. I mean that working at JUF has given me a community, a tradition, a life-long passion.

Four years ago I returned to JUF not realizing that as much as I gave to the job, I would get back even more. Winston Churchill said “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. JUF has allowed me to accomplish both at once.

So many of you here today, both lay leaders and professionals, have inspired me to heights I did not know I could reach and I thank you for always motivating me to work harder on behalf of the Jewish community. It has been an exciting and challenging adventure, filled with many special people who I would like to single out for a moment:

Thank you to Audra Berg and Beth Cherner for this nomination.

Audra – your guidance and mentorship has provided me the opportunity to learn and grow at JUF. You have always helped me find meaningful professional experiences and modeled the highest levels of professionalism that I always strive to emulate.

Beth – you have gracefully and successfully led our fundraising efforts through good times and bad. Your leadership and support through the years have meant so much to me.

Thank you to Rachel Sternberg for helping me find my future path in this organization, for being such a strong and positive role model and for being the kind of supervisor who both challenges me to be better and gives me the support and guidance needed to reach those heights. I have already learned so much from you and am truly grateful for the opportunity to work together.

I am a product of my heritage and my family’s history. I credit my grandparents with everything I have done professionally since college. They were always my Jewish role models and figures of strength, courage, and survival. Of the many lessons my grandparents taught me, Zionism by example was one of the most formative and important.

My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor who personified the path of the Jews from darkness to light, from Eastern Europe to the State of Israel, which for him was truly the Promised Land, a refuge and a safe haven when all other doors were closed. He made it to Palestine with the help of the Jewish Agency and fought in the Jewish State’s War of Independence.

Working in this community has allowed me, in a very different way, to carry on my grandparents’ mission and the tradition of securing the Jewish future. I am proud to be wearing my grandpa’s army ribbons today and I know that he would be very proud to see that I have chosen a career building a better and stronger Jewish community.

Thank you to my parents for raising me in a home that emphasized a love of Judaism and Israel. Thank you to all my friends and family that are here today – you are my community and your constant love and support means the world to me.

I am so proud to work for an organization that carries on the tradition of generations that came before of taking care of our community and those in need. This has been the secret of Jewish survival throughout history. Thank you to JUF for creating miracles every day, for building a Jewish community in Chicago that I am proud to be a part of, and most of all, for giving me the opportunity to turn my life’s passion into my full time job.

Ten years ago, I could have only dreamed that I would be standing here having built a career path for myself in the Jewish community. While this award represents the work that I have already done, it is just the beginning of my professional journey, and I look forward to the endless possibilities that lie ahead. There is no place else I would rather be.

It was a simpler time

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It was a simpler time photo 

My son Jonah likes to remind me of my age. He pokes fun at my stories of summer vacations spent running through sprinklers, jumping rope, washing my parent’s cars, and playing hide and seek. He seems entertained when I talk about homework done the old fashioned way, by hand, and when I tell him that I distinctly remember the first time I ate a kiwi. Jonah listens patiently, with an amused smile, and then reminds me that it was A SIMPLER TIME.

I suppose it was a simpler time and I am not sure when the world, childhood, and daily life became less simple and very complicated. I do know that we all need a break.

The Jewish calendar is kind to the Jewish people. Just when you think you cannot possibly take any more—less simple days, along comes a batch of holidays that offer a respite and sanctuary from the chaos of daily life.

Rosh Hashanah and the holidays is such a time. Long peaceful days with family and friends and leisurely meals that remind you of A SIMPLER TIME are the order of the day during the holidays.

To help put me in the mood for the holidays, I turn to Jewish Comfort food. I like to pull out family favorites and reimagine them. This year I am turning to a childhood favorite ingredient when IT WAS A SIMPLER TIME.

For many of us, Concord grapes means either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Kiddush wine. I do not think I ever really thought about eating the inky colored, fragrant fresh table grapes until they started appearing in markets over the last few years. Concord grapes are a dark blue/purple slip-skin (the skin separates easily from the fruit) variety of grape that is highly aromatic. Concord grapes began appearing in grocery stores in recent years but were previously ignored as most consumers prefer seedless grapes.

The grapes are often used to make pies, jellies, juices, and wine. The early Jews who settled in the North East used the abundant, native North American and local grape to make wine, and Kiddush wine as we know it was born. Fermented Concord grapes do not have a pleasing flavor and the resulting wine is described as a “foxy” or musky in flavor. To overcome that flavor the grapes are fermented to produce a sweet and more palatable wine.

Fresh Concord grapes are aromatic, brightly flavored and addicting. The beautiful dark grape is loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids. The grapes also have the same health benefits as drinking red wine, only without the alcohol. These intoxicatingly delicious grapes are only season for a short time each fall, so scoop them up while you can.

Concord Grape Glazed Spatchcocked Turkey  

Ok, the name is funny, but this is serious cooking. Spatchcocking poultry is the process of removing the backbone and sternum of a bird. The bird is then flattened out by pressing on it. The result is a bird that cooks evenly, quickly and without drying out the breast. Stay with me everyone, this is not difficult!

Spatchcocking is easy and takes only a few minutes and either a very sharp knife or really good kitchen shears. While the process is simple and easy, the time saved in cooking is also a big payback. Because the turkey is butterflied, the heat is more evenly distributed and a 12 pound turkey will take about 1 ½ hours to roast versus a whole turkey will take over 3 hours to roast. A whole spatchcocked chicken takes about 30 minutes to roast while a whole chicken takes an hour.

Whole roasted chicken and turkey are a reasonable possibility for dinner on weeknights. No more slaving over the stove waiting for dinner and a moist, luscious dinner is moments away. No more V-racks, beer cans and other contraptions used in an effort to roast the perfect bird. Just you, a bird, and sharp knife.

This year for the chagim, try Spatchcocking and see if you don’t fall in love with a silly word that means serious cooking. Serves 8+

For the turkey  

1 12-pound turkey
3 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, rough chopped
2 large carrots, rough chopped
3 celery ribs, rough chopped
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 450

Place the turkey breast side down on a sturdy cutting board. I like to put a couple of paper towels under the turkey so it does not slide while I am cutting it.

Cut along either side of the backbone from the neck to the tail. Remove the back bone and spread open the turkey. Cut a small slit in the cartilage along the breast bone. With both hands, crack open the turkey by opening it like a book.

This will reveal the keel bone, (cartilage that runs in the middle of the breast.) Pull up on the keel bone to remove it. The turkey is now ready to cook. This whole procedure is very simple, only involves cutting one bone and should only take a couple of minutes.

1. Place the chopped vegetables in a large roasting pan. Season the turkey on both sides with salt and pepper. Rub the bird with olive oil and the chopped herbs.

2. Place the turkey on the vegetables, breast side up. (The vegetables will keep the turkey from sitting in its juices and getting soggy. The vegetables also scent the turkey drippings)

3. Roast the turkey for 20 minutes, lower the heat to 325 and continue roasting, brushing with pan juices occasionally for 1 hour.

4. Brush the turkey with the concord Grape Glaze and continue roasting for another 15 minutes, brushing with the glaze 2 more times.

5. Remove the turkey and tent with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before cutting.

6. Discard the vegetables and reserve the turkey drippings. Skim off the fat and set aside.

7. Serve the turkey with Concord grape glaze and butternut squash mash and sautéed kale.

Concord Grape Glaze  

The smell of fresh Concord Grapes is intoxicating. It is similar to an orchard of fragrant blossoms. The flavor of fresh Concord grapes is fresh, crisp and clean with a balanced sweetness. Fresh Concord grapes are a world apart from their canned, jellied and jarred counterparts. The processed grapes are cloyingly sweet with none of bright freshness so much a part of the fresh grapes. This Concord grape glaze is an aigre doux (sweet and sour) sauce with aromatic attitude. Sweet, sour and so fragrant, it is sure to become a family favorite. The sauce can be made up to 2 days before serving and complements the flavor of turkey. The glaze is amazing on duck and chicken as well.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red chili flakes (optional)
5 cups fresh Concord grapes
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
½ cup reserved turkey drippings or chicken stock
Salt and pepper

1. Place a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, shallots and garlic and sweat the vegetables until they are soft and very fragrant (about 3 minutes).

2. Add the crushed red chilies if using and the remaining ingredients. Turn down the heat and cook the mixture until the grapes burst open and begin to thicken the glaze.

3. Remove from the heat and pass the glaze through a mesh strainer.

4. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Sauteed Kale  

Olive oil
3 shallots, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced very thinly
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
6 tightly packed cups of Kale, cut into ½ inch wide strips 
¼ cup white wine
¼ water
½ cup golden raisins
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil for garnish

1. Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to cook until they are very soft and fragrant but not browned (about 10 minutes).

2. Add the Kale. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the white wine, water and raisins. Place a lid on the pan and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is very soft and limp about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Place the kale on a serving platter or bowl and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve the kale with fish, chicken, veal or toss with pasta.

Concord Grape Sorbet  

Concord grape sorbet is deep, gorgeous purple and bright and incredibly fresh tasting. I make a lot of sorbets and have been making them for years and this one is a favorite. It smells like childhood, only better!

Grab the fresh Concord grapes when they come into season this fall and serve this aromatic and rich sorbet at your holiday meals.

Yields 1 quart

2 pounds fresh Concord grapes
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon honey

1. Place the grapes, water and sugar in a non-reactive saucepan. Simmer the grapes until they start to fall apart (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from the heat before they gel-this happens quickly!
Strain the grape mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids. You should have 3 cups of grape juice.

2. Whisk in the remaining ingredients and chill the mixture at least 4 hours or overnight.

3. Process the grape juice in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instruction.

Laura Frankel will be teaching a Latke Palooza Chanukah cooking class this winter. Stay tuned for details on this and other cooking events. 

Answering the question, “How was it?”

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Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 1x 

One of the most difficult questions to answer is one of the simplest: How was it?

How was school? How was your date? How was your trip? How was the movie?

“It was great!” “It was ok.” “It was awesome” “I liked it.”

Those answers don’t tell you much, but everyone uses them!

The difficulty in articulating one’s feelings about an experience is the norm from age six to 60. This also holds true for an Israel trip. Whether it be a high school trip, Taglit-Birthright Israel, MASA, a JUF Mission or a family experience, it is hard for everyone when they get home to tell others, “Why was it so great?”

In thinking about answering this question, I thought it might be helpful to read the blogs that participants wrote while on a Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trip. While truthfully, the blogs were a vehicle to keep parents and family informed of the trip-goers’ happenings, they have become one of the best insights into how an individual actually feels about his or her experiences on the trip.

Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 2 

Below I have included excerpts from 10 blog posts (in no particular order) from our Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trips with links to the full article. In my mind, these excerpts provide the most articulate answers to the question, “How was it?”

1. There is a pocket in the pit of your stomach you may not know you have. It lies somewhere off the large intestine, a small cavern in which remnants of last night’s dinner tie knots with nerves. This is the spot you feel first when you wake up at 3:30 in the morning. This is the pocket that tightens when you try to force cake down your throat when you know you’re not hungry. It is covered with a flap. If Jerusalem is the heart of Israel, then Masada is this pocket in the pit of your stomach. 

2. Early this morning we ate breakfast together and took the bus to the Jilaboon hiking trail where we scrambled over rocks and lent a hand to one another to cross the many streams we encountered. Our goal: the Devora waterfall and pool was worth the wait. It was delectably refreshing to dive into the icy water and splash around under the waterfall. Israeli families and groups of friends were also at the pool and swam around us inquiring where we were from and wishing us a good visit to Israel. Iftak (Israeli tour educator) called us out of the water for at least ten minutes before we got out. Then we all trekked back up the steep trail to our bus.
Day One of the Bus 145 Experience 

Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 3 

3. After a quick breakfast we hopped on bus 144 and headed to that brilliant body of water we’d been ogling from the bus…The Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water on earth and also the lowest point below sea level. Upon plunging into the water, we were delighted to discover that all the rumors we’ve heard are true. You can float with no effort and even do synchronized swimming moves on the surface of the water with ease. We all took advantage of the excellent exfoliation options at the sea by slathering up in some bona fide Dead Sea mud, baking in the sun and hopping in the water and rinsing off to reveal the softest, smoothest skin we’ve ever had.
Masada at Sunrise 

4. We spent the next few hours exploring the Old City inching our way closer to the Western Wall. Once there, we each had a very personal reaction to being so close to this historical monument that we’ve all heard and been taught so much about. For many of us, it truly hit that we were really here. We are beginning to feel that intangible feeling that all those who’ve been to Israel express. Next, we went to Machne Yehuda, Jerusalem’s largest market. We knocked elbows with locals buying supplies for Shabbat. Smells of spices filled the air as merchants called out to potential clients. We, too, left the market to prepare for Shabbat. Many of us went to Shabbat services which was a unique experience. We will all relish these incredible experiences connecting to our Jewish faith and identity.
History in Tel Aviv and Shabbas in Jerusalem! 

Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 4 

5. In this cemetery boys and girls are no longer soldiers. Sons, daughters, athletes, future activists scholars and professionals, friends and loved ones lie within sandy stone caskets, plants and flowers blanket each grave, perhaps a photo of a smiling young man or woman. Whether or not we let these ten days in, Birthright will shake us up. Har Herzl was that moment for me.
Bus 140 -- Har Herzel and a visit to the Shuk! 

6. This trip far exceeded my expectations. I was convinced that Israel would be a desert where everyone rode camels and dressed like Moses. But it is not. Israel is a nation of contradictions and an incredibly diverse population. And it is in the Jewish homeland that I have experienced so many differences, places, sights, smells, tastes and sounds. I have made an amazing group of friends and I cannot and will not forget the memories I have made nor the feeling I get when I think about Israel. This has been the most meaningful and invaluable experience in terms of my Judaism, my college experience, and my life.
Bus 140 -- Har Herzel and a visit to the Shuk! 

Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 5 

7. It was interesting to see how Israelis learn about their own culture starting at such a young age, and the pride they have for their country. After this long day, we headed back to the Kibbutz for a long shower and dinner. We also had some more group activities and finally know everyone’s name! Israel so far is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen and we can’t wait to make a deeper connection with the country as the trip continues.
Days 1 and 2: The Beginning to an Incredible Journey 

8. We are excited to have most of our community back together to continue our journey together back home in Chicago, exploring and developing our Jewish identities and connections to Israel and one another. 
That's it! 

Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 6 

9. Although this program (a community center in Kiryat Gat, Chicago’s Partnership City) has grown tremendously in the last eleven years, it still needs constant support and help. It is going to be my goal upon my return to the Chicago area to get involved to do my part in supporting this amazing program. Although this day was the hardest one emotionally for all of us on bus 153, it helped us understand where we can from, what we’ve been through, and what we can do in the future to impact young Jewish lives. 
Sunday: Yad Vashem and Kiryat Gat 

10. It didn't really matter that I wasn't that religious, all that mattered was me, my note, and the wall. I found a spot, put it in, and backed up slowly. After, I felt a kind of peace that only comes from a very spiritual experience. Jerusalem was absolutely beautiful and I know one day I will go back to the old city. 
First Impressions of Jerusalem 

Answering the question, “How was it?” photo 7 

Do you know someone who is eligible for a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip? Tell them to register on Sept. 14 at www.israelwithisraelis.com. For the best chance of getting on a trip, registrants must apply and submit a $250 refundable deposit on the first day of registration. 

‘Glad to represent’

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‘Glad to represent’ photo 1 

Abe Dube 

We’ve all heard the stereotype that Jews just aren’t that good at sports—particularly a sport like football, where size and aggression matter. But two Jewish players—Gabe Carimi and Adam Podlesh—have joined the Chicago Bears this season and three Jewish college students from Chicago’s North Shore will be playing on Ivy League football teams this year. Take that, stereotype!

Abe Dube, a freshman at Brown University, is a recent graduate of Evanston Township High School and a Solomon Schechter alum. Growing up, he always played baseball and throughout high school, the football coach kept asking him to play for him—at 6 foot 5, 270 pounds, it was no wonder why. So in the summer before his sophomore year Abe gave football a try. He spent his junior year on the bench but played offensive linebacker his senior year and made academic all state. He called it “the best year of his life.”

He couldn’t wait to get to Providence and get into college life.

“I [get to play] Division 1 football and I’m also going to get a great education,” he said.

While his Jewish identity doesn’t much play into his attitude on the field, he said it has taught him a thing or two about how to be a good teammate.

“Judaism taught me to be tight knit with the people around [me],” Dube said. “I think of everyone on my football team as my brothers.”

‘Glad to represent’ photo 2 

Jordan Reisner 

Jordan Reisner, who will be returning to Brown University as a sophomore this year and graduated from Highland Park High School in 2010, also did not start playing football until his sophomore year. At first his father did not want him to play, but after he returned home from overnight camp one summer still driven to play, his father let him give it a shot. Now he plays running back on a team of 106 players, where only six are Jewish—a big difference coming from Highland Park where he never felt in the minority as a Jewish player.

“I’ve never felt any athletic adversity because I was Jewish,” Jordan said. “Everyone is really accepting of one another [at Brown].”

“Obviously any kid’s dream is to play in the NFL—it’s definitely in my future vision,” Jordan said. But long term, he wants to be involved in business.

‘Glad to represent’ photo 3 

Cole Stern 

Jordan’s high school teammate, Cole Stern, also of Highland Park, will be playing receiver this year for the University of Pennsylvania. As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Cole has a strong Jewish identity—he became a bar mitzvah in Israel and played basketball in the Maccabi Games in Israel.

Having always been a strong basketball player, when he got to high school, Cole decided to try football. A week into the season his freshman year, he made the varsity team and for four years played varsity football, basketball and track.

It was during his junior year that he first started getting contacted by schools to play football and he knew U Penn was the right place for him as soon as he set foot on campus.

“When you tell people you’re Jewish they’re kind of of shocked because of that stereotype,” Cole said. “Being a Jewish athlete—I think it’s awesome.”

Cole, Jordan and Abe all think it’s great that three guys from the North Shore are now playing on Ivy League football teams.

“It shows that we have more in mind than just football,” Cole said. “We’re able to play the sport we love and at the same time get a top notch education.”

Jordan says all three players are well-deserving of the positions they are in. “It goes without saying that we’ve put in just as much effort off the field as we have on,” he said. “I’m glad to represent.”

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