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A different kind of exodus

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A different kind of exodus photo 1

Hanging out at my birthday party with my BFF, Lauren

I wish I could recruit for a new best friend in town.

My closest friend Lauren just moved out of Chicago this winter and returned to her hometown of Miami with her husband and toddling daughter to live near Lauren’s parents. She’s my best friend of 15 years so whoever you are, New Best Friend, you’d have big shoes to fill—literally. Lauren wears a size 11.

I realize my recruitment sounds a bit like Paris Hilton’s MTV reality show called “My New BFF,” in which she auditions people across the world to become her closest pal.

New Best Friend, I promise you this is where the similarities between Paris and me end, and I’ll refrain from using the acronym “BFF” after I finish this column.

But to fill Lauren’s shoes, you’d have to meet high expectations.

Like Lauren, you’d have to be versatile—game for joining me for Cubs games, Oprah shows, Friday night Shabbat services, a range of movies from “Valentine’s Day” to the Michael Jackson documentary, wine tastings, the Art Institute, and, of course, Ghiradelli’s chocolate/ice cream parlor.

You’d laugh at my jokes even when they aren’t funny.

Oh, and when I’m on a blind date, I’d text you from time to time from the bathroom with either a “I like him!” or a “He asked me to pay for his coffee and was mean to the waitress!” Then you’d text back with a loyal and motivating line, either “Yay, can’t wait for the wedding!” or “You’ll write a book about it one day!”

Most of all, like Lauren, you’d just be there for me—and I the same for you.

A different kind of exodus photo 2

Lauren and me…The Graduates.

But even while I’m wishing for a new best friend, I know I’m not alone. After all, Lauren is one of many making an exodus these days.

In fact, Americans are the most mobile people in the world, moving on average every five years so many of us are forced to make new friends, and often. Fittingly, I read this statistic in “Marie Claire” magazine while waiting for a flight at O’Hare to visit loved ones across the country.

American Jews are no exception in this transient society. Recently, I’ve noticed several of my other Jewish friends moving back to their hometowns too after spending their young adult years here in Chicago.

Back when we were 18, it was exciting and a little sad that, for so many of us, growing up meant moving away from our hometowns and families—our nests—to discover who we are as independent adults in big cities like Chicago.

The 2000-2001 Metropolitan Chicago Jewish Population Study reports that some 46,000 Jews, ages 22-35, live in the Chicago area, about half of whom, 23,500, weren’t born in Illinois.

We made a home for ourselves in this city, this large melting pot of 20- and 30-something transients. We were each looking for a more urban experience, a city packed with young people, a thriving Jewish community, a compelling career, and maybe a Jewish mate.

But now, as we settle into the next stages of life, some of us are leaving the big city behind—returning home to raise kids near family, taking better job opportunities, and embarking on suburban life. That’s also both exciting (especially for grandparents) and a little sad too.

Now that I think about it, though, maybe I don’t need to find a new best friend. After all, there’s Skype, there’s e-mail, there’s good old-fashioned phones, and airplanes too.

It’s a fact of life that people move away. But if you’re lucky, your closest friends will stay with you forever—they’ll still be there for you no matter where they live.

Want to make some new friends on Passover? Join Sidney N. Shure Kehilla for the first 1st Night Young Adult Seder on Monday, March 29, 7pm @ Temple Sholom 3480 N. Lake Shore Drive  $25 before March 20, $36 after at  www.shurekehilla.org   Kosher for Passover Dietary Laws observed.  Open to all Jewish backgrounds.

For more info, email  Kehilla@gojcc.org or call 224-974-9090.  Sponsored by Sidney N. Shure Kehilla - Making Jewish Connections in Chicago for those in their 20s & 30s!  Sidney N. Shure Kehilla is a partnership of JCC of Chicago, Anshe Emet, Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel, Temple Sholom of Chicago, Emanuel Congregation, and Or Chadash.

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