OyChicago articles

YLD’s Big Event to feature an evening with stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman Nov. 6

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10/26/2010

Sarah Silverman photo

Okay, you’ve got to be a bit curious to hear what shocking things—and you know they’ll be shocking—will come out of comedian Sarah Silverman’s mouth at JUF’s Young Leadership Division’s (YLD) third annual Big Event Nov. 6.

Silverman, usually clad in her trademark hoodie/sweat pants combo, is no stranger to controversy. A stand-up comedian, writer, and film and TV star, Silverman wears her identity as a Jewish woman on her sleeve. Her social commentary-brand of humor never shies away from mocking her fellow members of the tribe and hitting taboo subjects like religion (her own and others too), bigotry, racism, sexism, and other touchy “isms” in her act.

YLD’s third annual Big Event, on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 8pm, will feature an evening of stand-up comedy with Silverman. The event, to be held at the Sheraton Chicago, will include dessert reception, open bar, after party, and late night snacks.

Last year, YLD’s Big Event, which featured “Saturday Night Live” star Andy Samberg, drew more than 1,000 people, making it the single largest YLD event in history. This time around, YLD hopes to draw an even larger crowd—both to entertain and to spread the word about the important work of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

“We’re excited to spend an evening with so many of our YLD supporters,” said Justin Brown, YLD’s 2011 Campaign vice president. “We hope to break last year’s attendance and we’re excited to introduce new people to YLD as well. People are really excited about Silverman’s unique brand of stand-up comedy. We’re getting really good buzz about it.”

Among Silverman’s credits are the 2005 feature film of her one woman show “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic” and the Comedy Central show “The Sarah Silverman Program.”

The show, which ran from 2007-2010, chronicled the adventures of a fictionalized version of Silverman, her sister Laura (played by her real sister), and their friends. Silverman also appeared on such shows as “Saturday Night Live,” “Seinfeld,” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Silverman’s comedy got political during the 2008 presidential campaign. The comedian teamed up on a hilarious grassroots project called “The Great Schlep,” to urge Jewish grandchildren to travel to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.

This spring, Silverman released her autobiography “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee” (HarperCollins Publishers), which offers a mix of the usual Silverman humor with more sobering subjects, including her lifelong battle with clinical depression and the accidental death of her baby brother. As the title of the book hints, she writes a lot about her struggle with bedwetting from the time she was a little girl well into her teens.

The comedian, the youngest of four daughters, was raised in New Hampshire in a non-observant Jewish household. She pokes fun in her act at her loving parents who divorced (her mother was George McGovern’s personal campaign photographer and her father, a social worker by training, ran the discount clothing store “Crazy Sophie’s Outlet.”) One of Silverman’s sisters is a rabbi living on a kibbutz in Israel, married with five children.

“I don’t remember if I mentioned this to you before, but I am Jewish,” Silverman writes 20 pages from the end of her book, a joke because she’s so famously branded as a Jewish comedian. She says “she accepts the responsibilities, limitations, and consequences” that come with being Jewish. But, at the same time, she jokes “she has no background of participation in Jewish traditions other than nausea.”

Silverman covers taboo topics in her cool, somewhat detached, little-girl-voice persona. But really, she figures, her humor allows her to tackle the “ugliest, most terrifying things in the world,” she writes in her book.

“Adopting a persona at once ignorant and arrogant allowed me to say what I didn’t mean, even preach the opposite of what I believed,” she writes. “For me, it was a funny way to be sincere. And like the jokes in a roast, the hope is that the genuine sentiment—maybe even a goodness underneath the joke (however brutal) transcends.”

Register online . Tickets to YLD’s Big Event cost $80 per person (not tax-deductible) and require a gift to the 2011 JUF Annual Campaign. The minimum requirement is a match or increase to your previous JUF gift. If you have not given to JUF in the past, you are required to make a gift. Attendance to the event signifies your consent. For more information, contact the YLD office at (312) 357-4880 or  YLD@JUF.org .

This event is for ages 21 and over only—Please keep in mind that this event is R-rated and JUF has no control over the content of Sarah Silverman’s program.

And here’s your host…

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Jay Leno brings the laughs to Chicago 
10/19/2010

And here’s your host… photo

Jay Leno needs no introduction. After years of working his way up in the standup scene, the comedian became a household name when he took the reins of NBC’s The Tonight Show in 1992. This March marked the beginning of his 18th season as host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Leno recently made headlines when he reclaimed the late night spotlight from Conan O’Brien and returned to host The Tonight Show after a brief six month move to primetime. Despite taking some flack in the media, Leno is regarded as one of the nicest and hardest workers in show business.

Usually the one asking the questions, Leno took some time to answer our questions leading up to his visit to Chicago for JUF’s Vanguard Dinner this Sunday, Oct. 24.

The iconic funnyman shares an odd experience in the Catskills, tells us his take on Jewish humor, and explains why he loves working with his famous collection of cars and motorcycles.

Oy!Chicago: We’re going to see you here October for a Jewish Federation dinner. Do you tailor your stand up routine based on your audience?
Jay Leno: I remember years ago, I had an agent in New York City and he says, ‘oh you’re going up to a resort in the Catskills, I booked you up there.’ He didn’t tell me it was a Chasidic resort. I pull up and the marquee says ‘Jay Leno, Jewish storyteller.’ This agent had booked me as a Jewish storyteller. And I go there and everybody’s Chasidic and they’re all speaking Yiddish and I walked out on stage and first, they were surprised that I’m speaking English, and I was like ‘um guys, I’m not…I’m Italian and the agent uh kind of…, and they were very nice they were really nice people and I was a kid—I was like 20 years old. It’s just very funny. It’s just one of those sort of odd things.

It just seems like an important event to do. I like people who are proud of what they are, whatever group it might be. I like people who take care of their own and are proud of what they do and everyone should be proud of who and what they are. Organizations that do that are good organizations, whether it’s Jewish or any other.

You once told a colleague that there's no such thing as a stereotypical Jewish mother because all mothers are Jewish mothers. Is there such a thing as Jewish humor?
Any people that have gone through hardship—the best way to deal with it is through humor, so I think there obviously is sort of a Jewish sense of humor. I’m not quite sure how you would define it. Jewish people put such a heavy emphasis on family and education, and that type of thing, and there are stories in the Jewish culture about how important that is, and those tend to be funny stories, in terms of being protective or whatever it might be. To me, Jewish mom is just another word for good mom. So if you call someone a Jewish mother, you’re giving them a compliment. But yeah, of course there is Jewish humor. It’s one of those things, it’s cultural, it comes from where you grew up; it comes from constantly living in one world and having to deal with another.

Who is your favorite Jewish comedian of all time?
Well when I was a kid, my mother loved Myron Cohen. My mother had a very hard life—she came to this country by herself when she was 11. My mom’s natural inclination was not necessarily to smile. She wasn’t a depressed person, but whenever I’d look at my mom as a kid, my inclination was always to do something to try to make her laugh. Whenever Myron Cohen was on TV, my mother used to laugh out loud and I used to think, ‘I wanna be like that Jewish guy.’

I think my mother’s favorite Myron Cohen story was the one about a Jewish grandmother who takes a kid to the beach. She’s been trusted with watching the child and she puts the child down on the sand. She takes a couple of steps [back] and a big wave comes in and washes the baby into the ocean. Right away the Jewish grandmother [begins to pray]: ‘Oh my God. I was left with this child, my only grandchild, please God I’ll do anything, I’ll do anything, I’ll go to temple,’ and on and on… Finally a big wave comes back and drops the kid on the beach totally unharmed and she walks over to the kid and looks up at the sky and says, ‘he had a hat.’

Jackie Mason, Alan King… The best comedians are always the Jewish comedians…

In your autobiography you say you are incapable of taking a vacation. Is that why you continue performing standup on your time off from The Tonight Show?
If you’re doing what you like, it’s not really work. I like to tell jokes; it’s fun. The stage is not a normal place to be, so the more you’re on stage the more natural it becomes to you and that’s really the key. If you’re a runner you can’t just do marathons, you’ve gotta run every day and it’s the same thing with comedy. You’ve gotta perform at least two or three times a week to keep yourself sharp and keep on the ball.

What is your favorite Tonight Show segment?
To me I like the Jaywalking and the Headlines.

Who is the coolest person you’ve interviewed to date?
Coolest interview would have to be President Obama.

Do you have a favorite car or motorcycle in your collection?
If I had a favorite I wouldn’t have all those cars! When you work with your hands you get a sense of perspective. Comedy is very subjective; some people thinks it’s funny and some people think it’s not, and neither one of them is correct. It’s what works for you. But when you have something that is broken and you repair it, and it actually runs, no one can say you didn’t fix it. Plus, when you work with your hands and you put a transmission in or you put in an engine, and you realize the average person made $100 bucks for that, you realize how fortunate you are to be in show business.

8 Questions for Erin Rutman, clothing designer, future photographer and lover of Jewish books

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10/14/2010

8 questions for Erin Rutman photo

Like many women, Chicagoan Erin Rutman was disappointed by the lack of cute maternity clothing available during her recent pregnancy, but not for her…for her husband, Jonathan. So she decided to do something about it and launched BellyMan, a clothing line for the hubbies who are expecting, but don’t have growing bumps to announce the news. Erin describes the line of vintage due-date tees as the next best thing in maternity wear for the “other” half.

While not working on her clothing line, Erin is a busy mom to two girls and she’s also the chair of PJ Library in Chicago, a free program that delivers young children Jewish books and music each month.

So, if you want to wear your paternity proudly, enjoy giving back to the community or laugh at the comedy of Adam Sandler, Erin Rutman is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
I can be found googling the latest trends in men’s fashion and keeping up to speed on the maternity industry by reading and tracking dozens of mommy bloggers.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
I have never been to Israel so that would at the top of my list.

3. If a movie was made about your life, who would play you?
I was shopping in a kids store on Armitage and the owner asked me to take off my sunglasses to make sure I was telling her the truth that I indeed was not Anne Hathaway.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be?
I love Adam Sandler. I never had the chance to meet my Dad's mom Ida (who my daughter Isabelle is named after).

5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
Sleeping in past 6am (thanks to my beautiful daughters).

6. What do you love about what you do?
When we were expecting our first daughter, (who now has a little sister!) there was absolutely nothing available for the dad-to-be, except a handful of gimmicky items. From that moment, my mission was to create a line of due date shirts available for men to help share in the pregnancy pride. And, alas, four years later, came BellyMan (sometimes known as our 3rd child)!

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Photographer.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
Celebrating Shabbat with my family.

Susan G. Komen Israel Race for the Cure®

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The world’s largest series of 5k runs/fitness walks celebrating breast cancer survivors and supporters held in Israel for the first time
10/12/2010

Susan G. Komen photo 1

Breast cancer awareness, fundraising, and support are finally reaching Israel. This October 28 presents a milestone: the first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® in Israel. And while the time to register as a delegate has closed, interested parties may still register as a virtual participant online.

A VIP—or Virtual Israel Participant—is a new option for those people who want to participate but can’t travel to Israel for any number of reasons. VIPs receive their own Israel Race website page to personalize with photos and stories, to raise awareness and funds, and to honor someone affected by breast cancer. VIPs also can form virtual race teams, complete with T-shirts and special race bibs marking this historic event.

“The Race for the Cure is a powerful way for schools, churches, synagogues and local organizations to participate by walking, running and forming race teams to support breast cancer survivors, their families and friends in Israel, and around the world, in a fun and meaningful way,” says Stephanie Siegel, a breast cancer survivor who is co-chair of the Israel delegation trip and board member of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Advocacy Alliance, the c4 sister organization to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

Building on its long-standing mission to end breast cancer on a global scale, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, is partnering with the City of Jerusalem, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, health advocates and scientists for a week of events in Israel to examine major scientific issues in breast cancer while advancing the international breast cancer movement. During the week, Komen is calling together leading researchers and clinicians for a separate, invitation-only Think Tank designed to jump-start new thinking on breast cancer screening and risk assessment methodologies. The main event surrounded by the research and conversations is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® around the walls of Jerusalem on Oct. 28.

Susan G. Komen photo 2

“Jerusalem is a site of great historic significance to people of all faiths. It will be very meaningful to see people of all religions and nationalities racing as one toward a common goal of ending suffering from breast cancer, while also celebrating those who are living with and conquering this disease, whether they join us in person or in spirit from anywhere in the world,” says Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

This is not the first time that Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is going global, however. This mission trip is similar to those Komen has sponsored in recent years to the Middle East, Western Europe and Africa to build on the momentum of the global breast cancer movement. It is, however, the first time such an event has been held in Israel.

As a breast cancer fundraising enthusiast, I am extremely proud to see that this event has finally reached Israel. Somewhere in the world, a woman dies of breast cancer every 68 seconds, and in Israel, breast cancer remains the most common form of women’s cancer and is growing, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all new cancer cases in the country. About 4,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel each year. Since 1982, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has granted nearly $2 million to organizations in Israel including the Weizmann Institute of Science, Hebrew University-Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Beit Natan and Life’s Door. This new week-long event provides opportunities to continue Komen’s long-standing partnerships in Israel and around the world with organizations such as the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, as well as open doors to new collaborations with organizations such as the Israel Cancer Association.

Planning for the Israel events began more than a year ago with the support of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who will help lead the Susan G. Komen Israel Race for the Cure®.

“As a runner myself, I know the power of these events to unite people toward a common purpose,” Barkat says. “We have many different religions and nationalities in Israel. This race brings them together in fellowship with all people who face the impacts of this terrible disease. I am honored to open the gates of our unique city to any and all people who want to see a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime."

Susan G. Komen photo 3

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® was created by Nancy G. Brinker, when she promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, more than $1.5 billion have been invested to fulfill that promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, breast health or breast cancer, visit komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN.

‘Emmanuel’s Gift’

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Ghanaian champion for the disabled speaks for Illinois Holocaust Museum
10/06/2010

Emmanuel’s Gift photo

When Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was a child growing up in Ghana, the other kids wouldn’t play with him because he had a deformed leg.

But Yeboah wouldn’t let them burst his spirit. The boy, who came from a destitute family, got a part-time job shining shoes and earned enough money to buy a soccer ball to loan out to the other kids, also too poor to afford one. Yeboah told them they could use the ball on one condition—that they let him play soccer with them.

Now in his early 30s, Yeboah, a competitive cyclist and triathlete, possesses that same spirit. He is a champion for disabled people in his home country of Ghana and abroad, and the subject of the documentary “Emmanuel’s Gift” narrated by Oprah Winfrey. The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center will present a discussion with Yeboah in a program called “Emmanuel’s Gift,” In Conversation with …Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah” at The Standard Club in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 7.

The speaking engagement complements the current traveling exhibit “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race”—produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—which examines how individuals in professions traditionally charged with healing and public good use science to help legitimize Nazi policies.

The exhibit explores the Nazis’ use of Eugenics theory to define, persecute, and murder individuals and people of “inferior” races—including Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, the mentally ill, and other minorities.

When Yeboah was born many people in Ghana believed that a disability is a curse from a deity. Disabled people account for 10% of the population of the country, some two million people, who had been treated as second-class citizens, expected to be beggars in the streets.

And that’s what was expected of Yeboah too. Because Yeboah was born disabled, his father abandoned his family, assuming his son’s life would be worthless. Yeboah’s mother became ill when he was a boy. Yeboah quit school, against his mother’s wishes, and moved to Ghana’s capital Accra, to earn more money as a shoe shiner—$2 per day—to help pay to support his mother.

Soon after, his mother passed away. After her death, it was her memory that motivated Yeboah to aspire to greatness. “My mother inspired me a lot in my life to do so many of the things that I do,” he said. “I believe that without my mom and God, it would have never been possible to do what I do. My mom wanted me to do more with my life.”

Despite all the obstacles that stood in his way, Yeboah persevered and became self-sufficient. To show that disability doesn’t mean inability, he bicycled 379 miles around Ghana using only his left leg.

Yeboah later traveled to California’s Loma Linda Hospital and was fit with a high-tech prosthetic leg, thanks to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Weeks after his surgery, he was running, biking, and swimming in training for a triathlon.

He returned to his home country to a hero’s welcome. Galvanized by his success, 600 disabled people took to the streets to fight for equal rights. With a grant paid for by Nike, Yeboah helped facilitate in Ghana wheelchair construction, scholarships for disabled children, and sports team participation for the disabled. He also fought to make phone booths and libraries in the country wheelchair-accessible. The University of Dreams Foundation has also been assisting Yeboah in his efforts to bolster the disabled in Ghana.

Yeboah received Nike’s Casey Martin Award and is a co-recipient of the 2005 ESPN Arthur Ashe Courage Award. He continues to spread his vision through the Emmanuel Educational Foundation & Sports Academy for the Physically Challenged.

His life’s mission is to help disabled Ghanaians become contributing members of society treated with dignity. He inspires people all over the world, disabled and not, to live their best lives. “I believe I can share my life story with people to help them move forward in their life. They can use my life as an example,” he said.

The late Jim MacLaren, known as the fastest amputee athlete and later rendered a quadriplegic, helped inspire Yeboah to be a great athlete—and in turn the Ghanaian athlete inspired MacLaren. Interviewed in the documentary, MacLaren said, that instead of people saying of Yeboah, “‘Oh my God, thank God I’m not like him,’ they now say, ‘Oh my God, perhaps I can be more like him.’”

“Emmanuel’s Gift,” In Conversation with…Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah” is generously sponsored by Bank of America. The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center’s presentation of “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” is generously sponsored by the McCormick Foundation. The discussion with Yeboah is free with registration. Call (847) 967-4844 to reserve a ticket. The exhibit “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” will be on display through January 2, 2011. For more information, visit  www.ilholocaustmuseum.org/ .

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