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‘One Book One Community’

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Spertus selects ‘A Day of Small Beginnings’ for community-wide exploration of Jewish faith and heritage across generations 


‘One Book One Community’ photo 

“How do you know who you are if you don’t know where you come from?” This question is posed by author Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum in A Day of Small Beginnings, the novel selected by Spertus, Chicago’s center for Jewish learning and culture, for its new One Book | One Community initiative. 

Starting Sunday, November 13—just in time for Jewish Book Month—Spertus will present a series of programs, all related to A Day of Small Beginnings, in locations across the Chicago region. On Sunday, December 4, author Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum will make two area appearances, first at Spertus at 2 pm and then at the Wilmette Public Library at 7 pm.

Spertus Director of Programming Beth Schenker hopes that individual readers and book groups across the Chicago area’s diverse Jewish community will read A Day of Small Beginnings andtake advantage of the lectures, activities, and resources Spertus will offer to explore the book’s themes. “We selected A Day of Small Beginnings because the novel addresses ideas about Jewish faith on both a very personal level and through the wide lens of political and social change. It examines the loss of Jewish family history and cultural heritage against the backdrop of increased freedom and opportunities in the secular world,” Schenker said.

Acknowledging the community-building potential of this project, JUF News is proud to be the media sponsor for One Book | One Community. “JUF News is thrilled to partner with Spertus on One Book | One Community. A Day of Small Beginnings has something for everyone and will resonate with different generations in the Chicago-area Jewish community,” said Cindy Sher, editor of JUF News and Oy!Chicago blogger. “One Book | One Community is a wonderful way to get our diverse community reading together and discussing with each other Jewish literature and issues of Jewish identity.”

A Day of Small Beginnings was selected with recommendations from Spertus staff and local Jewish librarians. These early readers noted the book’s mystical and sometimes surprising plot lines, the intertwined stories of characters across generations and circumstances, and the vivid portrait the book paints of what life was like for many eastern European Jews in the early years of the 20th century. 

A Day of Small Beginnings starts its story in a small town in rural Poland, with the appearance of a lively 83-year-old ghost named Friedl Alterman. It tracks three generations of an American Jewish family trying to unravel the mysteries of their past. Published to acclaim in 2006 by Little, Brown and Company, it is the debut novel by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum.

Many people in the Chicago area are familiar with a community coming together to read and discuss a common book through the city’s One Book, One Chicago program. The concept was originated in 1998 by the Washington Center for the Book. Today there are citywide, statewide, and even country-wide reading programs all over the world. Spertus brings this concept to the Jewish community of Chicago with a nod to Nobel prize-winning writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, who said, “I am not ashamed to admit that I belong to those who fantasize that literature is capable of bringing new horizons and new perspectives.”

Spertus is preparing a free reader resource guide perfect for book groups or readers’ own investigation. The guide will include discussion questions, a bibliography keyed to major themes in the book, related web resources, and more.

Program schedule for One Book, One Chicago 

Programs presented by Spertus in partnership with The Book Stall at Chestnut Court.
Each program is $18 ($10 for Spertus members and $8 for students).
As an incentive for book groups to attend together, tickets are $10 per person for groups of ten or more.
Advance tickets are strongly recommended.
Tickets can be purchased online at spertus.edu or by phone at (312) 322-1773.
A Day of Small Beginnings will be for sale at all events. 

Kick-off event—Getting Inside the Story 
Sunday, November 13 at 2 pm at Spertus 

Two treasured forms of Jewish expression—storytelling and papercutting—play parts in A Day of Small Beginnings. Participants will be able to delve into these traditions with two award-winning experts—storyteller Susan Stone and papercut artist Melanie Dankowicz—at this kick-off event. A post-program reception will give attendees an opportunity to purchase the book and meet other readers.

Susan Stone is a professional storyteller who travels around the country telling stories at festivals, museums, schools, and synagogues. Jewish folktales and mystical stories feed her imagination and her neshama (soul) and it is her mission to have these stories nourish yours, too.

Melanie Dankowicz is an artist whose intricate papercut works carry on a tradition that has been a meaningful part of Jewish expression for centuries. She creates dreidels, mezuzot, and ketubot of paper, and also renders papercut designs in stainless steel. 

Lecture and discussion—Revolution and Tradition in Modern Jewish Literature 
Sunday, November 20 at 2 pm at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka 

Modern Jewish literature first emerged as part of a radical rejection of traditional 19th-century Jewish life. As in A Day of Small Beginnings, however, contemporary Jewish literature often draws on the history and language of the Jewish past. Dr. Todd Hasak-Lowy, an adjunct member of the Spertus faculty, will explore this tension in today’s American Jewish writing. 

Dr. Todd Hasak-Lowy earned his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of a short story collection, a novel, and an academic study of modern Hebrew fiction. This fall, he is a visiting professor of Israel Studies at University of Illinois-Chicago.

Lecture and dance demonstration—What Makes a Jewish Dance? 
Thursday, December 1 at 6:30 pm at Spertus  

Dancer and choreographerSteven Lee Weintraubwill draw from his own experience and the history of Jewish dance, to consider—like the character Ellen in A Day of Small Beginnings—what makes a Jewish dance.

Steven Lee Weintraub is a teacher of traditional Yiddish dance and the principal dance leader for Chicago's Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. He has taught at festivals in Krakow, Furth, Weimar, Paris, and London, served as assistant director of New York City’s Israeli Folk Dance Festival, and choreographed theater productions around the U.S. 

Author event—Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum 
Sunday, December 4 
Author Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum comes to Spertus (at 2 pm) and to the Wilmette Public Library (at 7 pm) to discuss A Day of Small Beginnings. The Wilmette Library is located at 1242 Wilmette Avenue. 

Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum was born and raised in New York, where she studied modern dance and choreography. The seed of A Day of Small Beginnings was planted when she traveled alone to Europe at the age of 18. Her shock at seeing a Paris street lined with plaques commemorating the World War II destruction of the area’s Jewish community grew into a lifelong interest in Jewish history and theology. She studied religion and philosophy at New York University and international relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and then worked at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles before returning to school to study law. As a lawyer, she litigated constitutional cases related to church-state issues in California.

She left law to produce cultural programs for a cable television network. After her first child was born, she took a creative writing class and found that her sensibilities about writing fiction felt much like creating dance—a choreography with words.

In the mid-1990s Rosenbaum traveled to Poland with her in-laws, who are Holocaust survivors. Their experiences, particularly in the family’s hometown, inspired and informed much of A Day of Small Beginnings. Rosenbaum lives in Los Angeles with her husband Walt Lipsman. They have two daughters, Ariana and Maya. She is a past president of the Santa Monica Synagogue, executive producer of the Genesis Arts Council, and has written work produced by the Jewish Women's Theatre in Los Angeles.

Spertus is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue. Discount parking is $10 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, two blocks south of Spertus.

Raffle and resources 

A special section of the Spertus website—accessible at Spertus.edu/OneBook—will link to program information (including additional events as they are confirmed), a downloadable version of the reader resource guide, and a drawing for a beautiful handcut paper dreidel by artist Melanie Dankowicz or one of several gift certificates to the Spertus Shop. 

About Jewish Book Month  

Jewish Book Month is an annual event on the American Jewish calendar dedicated to the celebration of Jewish books. It is observed during the month preceding Hanukkah, thus the exact date changes each year. For 2011, Jewish Book Month falls November 21 through December 21, with events celebrating Jewish literature occurring across North America throughout November and December.

DMK Burger Bar: Upscale burger bar with sides of fries

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Kevin Friduss photo 

Do you want fries with that? How about a side of mac & cheese? Deviled eggs? That’s what the waitress asked after ordering our burgers at DMK Burger Bar in Lakeview. (2954 N Sheffield Ave, 773-360-8686). 


Upon walking into a packed house and learning of a 45-minute wait, I was surprised to learn that DMK Burger Bar is able to quickly turn over tables in such a small space. Unlike the likes of places like Kuma’s Corner where a fantastic burger takes a couple hours to get through, a quick and upscale type burger is great when you’re trying to get to an early movie in Chicago. The bar is owned by MK’s Michael Kornick and David Morton, and pushes the fact that every burger is a flat $8 with lots of cheap side choices. They also offer Veggie, Turkey, and Lamb Burgers among others.

Most recently, DMK Burger Bar was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Guy Fieri cooked for hours with Chef Michael Kornick in the kitchen, interviewed a restaurant full of diners and ate some great grub. The #5 bison burger and Parmesan truffle fries were among Guy's favorite bites.


One burger that was among the elite was the #6, Grilled Portobello with Blue Brie, Griddled Scallions, and Dijonnaise for $10. The bun was perfection, soft yet kept the burger together, unlike some places that the bun becomes too soft and begins to fall apart. The juices and sauce weren’t messy which made for a nice experience of not having to clean up my hands every time I took a bite. If you don’t plan to come for dinner, the beer selection is extensive with many local and regional craft brews but not a lot of space to socialize unless you are eating.


What really sets DMK apart from other burger places is the side dishes. Burgers don’t come with a side of fries but be sure to check out the list of different types they have. I tried the Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon Tabasco Aioli and the Sea Salt & Black Pepper with House Ketchup. Each side is either a small portion of $2, with the larger to share of $4, but you may as well try all the different types and take the small portions.


Make sure you stop by Monday-Friday before 7 p.m.; they won’t ask you if you want fries with that. That’s when they are free. If I can offer some advice for a side: Mac & Cheese #1 with Aged Cheddar and a Parmesan Crust, with the Stone IPA beer. The restaurant isn’t 21 and over, and if you are with little ones, they have a great Malted Milk Shake and house-made sodas available.

Meet dating for marriage evangelist Bari Lyman

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Meet dating for marriage evangelist Bari Lyman photo 1

Over the age of 35 and sick of being told by well-meaning people that she had a better chance of being struck by lightning twice than getting married, Bari Lyman knew something had to change. But after dating the same wrong guy over and over again, Bari realized maybe her problem was really from within. So she embarked on her own personal journey to discover and fix her own “relationship blockages” by understanding how her lonely childhood made the adult Bari feel like there was something wrong with her. This realization led to her personal transformation into a confident, purposeful dater who knew exactly what she was looking for in a marriage partner. Married soon after to Michael, “her soul mate and partner in life,” Bari is now determined to help other “marriage-minded singles” experience similar breakthroughs.

Utilizing her business skills as a former recruiter aka career matchmaker, Bari made the leap to “dating for marriage evangelist,” created the Meet to Marry program and published her first book by the same name. Recently, I sat down with Bari for a phone interview to discuss her dating program and new book and to get advice from an expert.


Oy!Chicago: Why did you write this book?  
I wrote the book because I really learned from my own life experience and wanted to help other singles to find their ideal life partner. I had no problem finding people to date, but I tended to attract people who were wrong for me. I had these relationship blind spots…and though I was attractive, successful, in therapy and self-aware, it didn’t matter when it came to relationships. The guys I attracted were always the same—not appropriate. For instance, I attracted guys who were not Jewish. There was a point in time after all these experiences when I thought, ‘it can’t always be outside of myself. Why is it that I always feel this way in relationships?’ So I started a journey to really figure this out. And it was not about anything outside of me. When I changed, everything changed.

What do you tell singles who say, “there are no good men/women out there to meet?” 
I can tell you assuredly that they are wrong and that it’s never ever outside them. Honestly and truly wherever you go, you are.  Every person needs some kind of person to attract to create a lifetime partner— but they’re not being marriage-minded. One thing singles do wrong is guys and girls are hanging out together. They all say to me, everyone is friends with everyone else and there is a pact mentality. I can take any single and have them stand on their own and uncover their blind spots and when they become aware of what makes them marriage-minded, then they can transcend wherever they are.

Also, men want to get married as much as women do, but since they too are mystery dating they are not attracting the right kind of women for them. For example, take a guy who lives on the Upper West Side of New York, he’s 32 and a lawyer and let’s say he is Orthodox minded, but not shomer shabbos. Here’s a guy who desperately wants to get married, but you’d never know it by the women he attracts or goes for— super model gorgeous women. Who he is authentically, is a marriage-minded, loving, kind guy, but he doesn’t articulate it. He was going to bars and picking up women and asking externally, “why don’t I connect with them? Why do I always attract the wrong women?”

Half the people I coach are men and they are wounded little boys and this is why people are not connecting.  Because we are all wounded from being phony externally to protect ourselves from this scary dating scene we hate. There is a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between who we are being and what we want and what we are sharing when we are out there [dating.]

Do you have any tips for connecting and dating for marriage?  
Dating truly is a numbers game. We need to meet a lot of people [to] find the one. The idea is to go out and be marriage-minded and marriage-ready. You want to know what is involved in getting into a long-term commitment—which is being generous, mature and self-aware. So that’s one of the tips, be marriageable, healthy and available. Another tip: be free of previous relationships. If you want to find the one you want to definitely be completely free from other relationships, so you are a vessel and there is room to bring someone new into your life.

What do you think of matchmakers like Patti Stanger? 
My take, without saying anything negative, is I think that we need to really love ourselves and to not stereotype human beings. When it comes to finding love we need to be sensitive to each other’s needs. And I think constructive criticism is great especially if someone’s true desire is to get married. 

I’ll give you an example.  I was at a Shabbat dinner recently and this woman told everyone how she was working on her PhD and doing medical research. So when you’d see this woman, you’d look at her as this career woman who is really motivated to get her PhD.  So when she heard about my book, she took me aside and said, ‘you know, I really want to get married.  This PhD thing is just really a fall back.’ So I asked her, ‘why don’t you share what you really want and who you are, so you can enroll your community to help you?’ And she said, ‘I’ve had a lot of bad dating experiences.’ So I said to her, ‘So when you eat a bad sandwich do you stop eating sandwiches? Of course not!'

What I’m saying about Patti is that I don’t think when you take a mean approach to dating it's appropriate. I think stereotyping men is awful. I also think it’s very important to be married to coach other people. Someone who hasn’t been married, I don’t think they can really know. I think we need to embrace everyone’s humanity and inspire them to find a meaningful and loving connection. There is nothing more wonderful than being married and to find someone who can love you unconditionally and be there for you no matter what.  I think that’s what is important and that’s how I feel about her. Needless to say, I’m not happy about her.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with our readers? 
I’d just leave with them this message: There is someone out there for each of your [single] readers. Read the book, check out the website and experience the coaching— see it as a personal support system for dating. I arranged a special webinar event just for your readers! They can visit www.MeetToMarry.com/OyChicago to participate in a special webinar on October 24 on a very special dating for marriage topic.

For more information about Bari and Meet to Marry, and to purchase the book, visit http://www.meettomarry.com/ 

The name that should have stayed a secret

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The name that should have stayed a secret photo 

Had her life gone the way she had expected it to, you would never have known Valerie Plame Wilson’s name. 

But on July 14, 2003, her identity as a covert CIA agent was revealed by Washington Post columnist Robert Novak in an article about her husband, former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson. More shocking than seeing her name in print was the sense of betrayal she felt—her name had supposedly been leaked by Bush administration officials as retaliation for her husband’s op-ed in the New York Times called “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.” In it, Joseph Wilson suggested that the Bush administration had lacked reasonable cause to invade Iraq and had manipulated intelligence to justify it. After the leak, a momentous scandal ensued, which included a federal investigation.

In 2006, Plame Wilson retired from the CIA. A year later, she published Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, which was later adapted into a film of the same name starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. She is currently working on a series of fictional spy novels.

The ex-CIA agent will be the featured speaker at this year’s Lion Luncheon, hosted by the Women’s Division of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, to be held Thursday, Oct. 6. at the Fairmont Hotel. Recently, Oy!Chicago sat down for a phone interview with Plame Wilson.

Oy!Chicago: Have you always known that you wanted to work for the government? Why had you wanted to work for the CIA? 
Valerie Plame Wilson: I never thought of it as ‘working for the government.’ That sounds boring! I thought of it as wanting to serve my country. My father had served in WWII and was a career Air Force officer, and my brother, a Marine, had been wounded in Vietnam, so I’ve grown up with this sense of public service being noble. I didn’t grow up thinking that I wanted to go into espionage. I just knew that I wasn’t really interested in corporate America, and I wanted to travel. I just wanted something different, so when I was given the opportunity to join the CIA, I was so grateful and honored.

Before your identity was revealed and your career ended, how had you imagined your career would go?  
My grandest ambition was to retire as a Senior Intelligence Officer, and I was on my way to doing that… I loved intelligence; my focus was on terrorism and nuclear threats, and I thought the CIA did that best. So I thought that’s where I would continue. 

You found out that your identity had been revealed when your husband showed you Robert Novak’s column in the Washington Post, outing you as a CIA operative. What were your first thoughts and feelings?  
I was in complete dismay. I feared for the assets with whom I had worked, my network. I feared for my young children, and their security. I knew my career was over. I felt outraged, and I just couldn’t believe that Novak had gone ahead and done that. It was incomprehensible.

What lesson do you think the general public, the people of the United States, should learn or understand from your experience, particularly about trusting the government?  
It’s about power and holding your government to account for their words and deeds. I don’t feel that public officials should use their positions to pursue political enemies. In the grander scheme, in the decade since 9/11 and the War on Iraq, this is a small but important piece of that tale.

Joe wasn’t throwing Molotov cocktails. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times which questioned the [Bush] administration and how they manipulated information to get the country into war with Iraq. It was very civilized. …And the reaction was to out me in retaliation, to belittle him, destroy his business, and destroy my career. Really, is that how our democratic society wants to conduct its dialogue? It’s certainly a cautionary tale.

You published your book with blacked out portions covering the information the CIA had said you couldn’t publish. What was the point you were trying to make? 
The publisher made the decision to keep the redacted portions so that the reading public could see how extensively the CIA made their decisions about what could not be published. It was retaliatory. Nothing there was classified; there were no sources or methods. It was just an attempt by the administration to make sure the book would not be published.

Several years on, have you found meaning in your experience? Because you are doing many worthy things now, but your life certainly did not go the way you had planned it to. 
My husband and I worked hard to rebuild our lives, personally and professionally – that’s why we moved away from Washington, D.C. I am grateful to still be able to work on nuclear proliferation issues, through Global Zero. Weirdly, this whole thing has given us a platform for us to speak about things that we care about deeply, such as post-partum depression for me.

What happened to us was so unexpected, and it marked our lives. But we have two small children that we want to raise well for them to be happy and contributing citizens. We’re not bitter. We’ve just moved on.

I’ve read that this experience has somehow led you to discovering your Jewish roots? Is that true? 
Yes, definitely. I had done a lot of genealogical research on my [maiden] name “Plame,” and had hit a lot of dead ends. But as a result of this exposure, I was able to reconnect with some of my Jewish relatives.

Valerie Plame Wilson will be the featured speaker at the Lion Luncheon 2012, hosted by the Women’s Division of the Jewish United Fund. 

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