OyChicago articles

Jewish Federation opens fund for Hurricane Sandy relief

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Jewish Federation opens fund for Hurricane Sandy relief photo 1

Photos of storm damage, like this one from Astoria, Queens, were shared widely on Facebook and other websites. (Peter Romano via Creative Commons)

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago is accepting donations to help those impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and its related storms along the Eastern seaboard.

"Millions are being affected by these storms and their associated widespread damage," said Federation President Steven Nasatir. "Chicago's Jewish community is ready to respond, as we have so often in the past, to provide support to those most in need."

Jewish Federation opens fund for Hurricane Sandy relief photo 2

Damage to New York City infrastructure, like this one inside a New York subway station, was extensively documented online as Hurricane Sandy washed ashore. (@HeyVeronica via Twitter)

Chicagoans may contribute online at www.juf.org/relief, by calling (312) 444-2869, or by sending a check to the Jewish Federation Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, Room 3022, 30 S. Wells St., Chicago, IL 60606.

All funds collected by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago will be directed to social welfare agencies in the affected areas serving both the Jewish and general communities. The Chicago Federation will absorb all administrative costs, ensuring that 100% of all donations go directly to aid those most grievously affected. 

The Jewish Federations of North America is conducting an initial damage and recovery survey with every federation from Virginia to New England. Damage assessment continues at the local level through contacts with federations, agencies, and our Jewish communal partners through the Jewish Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (JVOAD) partnership. We are also actively participating in the National VOAD partnership, which convenes national and local disaster relief agencies with FEMA and state emergency management agencies.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and Federations across North America have a long track record of caring for victims of global natural disasters. Last year, Jewish Federations raised funds for those affected by widespread storms around the U.S., and more than $1 million for victims of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Donors to Chicago's Jewish Federation Earthquake Relief Fund provided some $725,000 to assist Haitians in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake there in 2010. 

Other recent fundraising efforts included $30 million to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and $10 million to address the aftermath of the southern Asia tsunami in 2004.

When high end fashion met e-commerce

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An interview with Gilt Groupe founder Alexandra Wilkis Wilson


When high end fashion met e-commerce photo 1x

It’s lunch time in the Loop and you’re a fashionista looking for a great deal, where do you go? State Street? Nope. Michigan Avenue? No. These days, those in-the-know make sure to stay right at their desks. Because every day at noon, daily deal site Gilt blasts out an email packed with amazing designer finds at great prices that sell out within minutes of going up.

Founded by Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and her best friend, Alexis Maybank, in just five years, Gilt Groupe has grown into one of the hottest luxury lifestyle brands— with more than 1,000 employees and a billion dollar value— putting Wilson and Maybank in the same category as the Zuckerbergs of the world. Wilson and Maybank detail their journey in the new book By Invitation Only, How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop (Portfolio).

Ahead of Wilson’s upcoming visit to Chicago for the JUF Young Women’s Board Fall Campaign event on Nov. 29, Oy!Chicago interviewed Wilson by phone.

Oy!Chicago: How did you come up with the concept for Gilt Groupe?
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson: We launched Gilt back in the fall of 2007. We were a team of five co-founders and one of them was my best friend from college and grad school. Alexis and I were avid sample sale shoppers…We used to go together to New York City sample sales where we could shop and find little treasures, but often at inconvenient times and in inconvenient locations…The idea really came about by thinking through what if we were to take that concept and bring it online. We thought about our friends that live all around the country in places like Chicago and San Francisco and Miami. Wouldn’t they love to have access to these incredible brands and these prices also?

What is your professional background?
After undergrad at Harvard, I had worked for Merrill Lynch in New York and then in London. Then I went back to business school and worked very hard during business school to get into the fashion and luxury world. I worked very hard for more than three years at Louis Vuitton and then at Bulgari. And then I was off to the races with an idea for a crazy start-up.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurial-minded women looking to launch their own businesses?
I think it’s really important to support other entrepreneurs and build mentors. Think about people you know and ask for help. Build your network where you can. Think about people you don’t know, but who you’d like to know. Try to seek them out whether it’s attending conferences where you might meet them or one day sending them an email, you never know, they might write back to you.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My family. For me a measure of success is happiness and being happy with the choices that I’ve made in my life. Success isn’t something you show on a piece of paper; it’s more in your heart and the inside.

When high end fashion met e-commerce photo 2

What kind of role does Judaism play in your life?
I was raised Jewish. My father is Jewish. My mother converted. I think a lot of the important values and messages that I learned as a little girl in Hebrew school stuck with me. The notion that tzedakah and giving back [is not] only limited to monetary charity [is important to me]. But thinking about helping others, that was largely why we wrote a book. [We wanted] to share our entrepreneurial message with others thinking about trying to start their own businesses and helping them take the plunge.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
I’d like to see more people, especially other women, starting businesses. I think now is as good a time as any to think about entrepreneurship. There is funding out there from venture capitalist right now. Despite what we sometimes read about the economy, now is not a bad time to be an entrepreneur.

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson will be speaking at the JUF Young Women’s Board Fall Campaign event on Thursday, Nov. 29. There is a $750 minimum individual gift to attend. For more information, visit  www.juf.org/women/valor.aspx

Shalom Chicago

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Shalom Chicago photo 1

Maxwell Street supported hundreds of Jewish businesses.

They came to Chicago from diverse nations with hope for freedom, new lives and dreams of success. They were Jews like Abraham Kohn, who left Bavaria at age 23 to sail to America in 1842. Within two years, he and his brothers, Julius and Meier, worked their way to Chicago by buying and selling goods and then established Kohn Brothers, a clothing store on Lake Street. The brothers and other Jewish men founded Chicago's first congregation, the Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv, commonly known as "K-A-M." in 1847. Abraham eventually found his way into politics and was elected city clerk in 1860.

Abraham Kohn is one in a rich and complex cast of characters who built the Chicago Jewish community and at the same time, built Chicago as well. The Chicago History Museum celebrates their contributions in its new exhibit: Shalom Chicago: The History of Jewish Chicago Told Through Personal Stories. The exhibition opens Sunday, Oct. 21 and runs through Sept. 2, 2013. Spertus: A Center for Jewish Learning & Culture collaborated on the exhibit.

Shalom Chicago photo 2

Shalom Chicago is part of a series of exhibitions focusing on the religious communities that have contributed to the city's traditions and its development as a major urban center. "As we continue the tradition of exploring faiths that have been so important in the City's evolution, we understand the challenge of doing justice to such an expansive subject in just one exhibition," said Gary T. Johnson, museum president.

"The exhibition will tell a distinct Jewish story, but it will also tell a broader Chicago history," said curator Olivia "Libby" Mahoney. A member of the Chicago History Museum staff for more than 30 years, Mahoney consulted with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and worked with individuals and organizations from throughout Chicago's Jewish community, among them Spertus: A Center for Jewish Learning and Culture, the Chicago Jewish Historical Society, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center to develop the exhibit.

"While the museum had about half of what we're showing, I had to find the other half elsewhere. But that's what makes it interesting and fun-to track down things that you didn't know were there before," Mahoney said. "This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about people from this community."

Visitors will experience the exhibition in three themed sections: The Early Community, At Home in Chicago, and New Challenges and Opportunities. The Early Community features the Jewish settlers like Kohn that came to Chicago during the 1840s from Germany and other Central European countries. Kohn's story is one of many in the exhibition that follows a common theme of Jewish immigrants and migrants coming to Chicago seeking greater freedom and economic opportunity. At Home in Chicago focuses on the differences and similarities within Chicago's collective Jewish community. In this section, biographies of families and individuals illustrate two very different Jewish experiences. 

"German and Eastern-European Jews were really worlds apart when they arrived in Chicago," Mahoney said. "The German Jews immigrated to Chicago with generally more education and better financial resources and had adapted to American society by the time the Eastern European Jews arrived. The Eastern-European immigrants came with less, but they also successfully adapted and became an integral part of Chicago history."

A number of interactive elements enhance visitors' experiences as they explore difference in Jewish faith, working trades, and arts and culture. A re-creation of Maxwell Street represents the vibrant Eastern-European Jewish community that grew on the West Side during the early 20th Century. The Mandel family, founders of the Mandel Brothers Department Store, also featured in this section, represents Chicago's South Side German Jewish community. Many prominent business, civic, religious, and cultural leaders from both communities made significant contributions to the city's growth and development. Their stories, photographs, and other artifacts are woven into the fabric of the exhibition.

"I found all the people that I chose to focus on to be very compelling. Each person has a unique story to tell," Mahoney said. "They tell their own community history, but they tell a larger story about our city."

The final section, New Challenges and Opportunities, focuses on the local Jewish community's response to Adolf Hitler's rise to power. The exhibit opens with 1933 film footage of approximately 50,000 Chicago Jews staging a protest march against Nazism and Nazi participation in the Chicago World's Fair: A Century of Progress. Visitors then move through the turbulent, tragic time of World War II and the Holocaust, and explore how Chicago Jews served their country and community during this time.

The last section of Shalom Chicago includes observations of post war Chicago, when the community changed with a shift to the suburbs and the arrival of thousands of Soviet Jews who, like earlier immigrants, came to Chicago seeking a new life of freedom and opportunity. Among the artifacts provided for this section by the Jewish Federation is a poster promoting the historic 1987 March for Soviet Jewry in Washington, D.C. A video about Jewish Chicago today, as told by members of the contemporary community, closes the exhibit.

Shalom Chicago is made possible with support of DePaul University, Mr. and Mrs. Newton Minow, The Crown Family Foundation, The Jacob & Rosaline Cohn Foundation, Manfred Steinfeld, and Neil Minow, Martha Minow, and Mary Minow in honor of Jo and Newton Minow.

Shalom Chicago runs from Oct. 21 through Sept. 2, 2013, at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St. Hours are Mondays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For information, call ( 312) 642-4600 or visit chicagohistory.org.

Your Guide to the 2012 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema

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Your Guide to the 2012 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema photo

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema.
"My Australia" (Poland)

In 2006, a group of local film lovers decided to organize an annual program focused on Israeli cinema. Their timing was prescient. After decades of near invisibility, Israeli films were suddenly winning accolades at festivals all around the world, and last year, an Israeli film was a contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the fourth time in five years.

The first "Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema" (CFIC) was also an important event in my own life. In October '06, I was just beginning my second year as Arts & Culture critic for JUF News, and covering the CFIC has been a highlight of every year since. But as many readers already know, my husband recently took a new job in Brooklyn, so this will be my last monthly column.

Watching CFIC films year in and year out, I have immersed myself in Israeli history and culture, walking many metaphorical miles in the shoes of those who brought a wide variety of languages and traditions with them to Eretz Yisrael. I intend to continue my commitment to Israeli cinema in the future, and I hope you will too.

Israel's expanded presence on the world cinema scene has created new opportunities for collaboration with filmmakers from other countries. This year, you will hear a lot of Polish, as well as a surprising amount of Spanish.

For years, actor Vladimir Friedman kept busy playing displaced Russian physicians. But this year, in Salsa Tel Aviv, Friedman plays a Hebrew-speaking landlord renting to a group of illegal immigrants from Mexico. This tells me the huge influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union has been more or less absorbed, and newer arrivals are causing bigger cultural hiccups.

One of the Spanish speakers is beautiful Natalia Faust who plays an Argentine immigrant named "Anna" in Dusk (written and directed by Alon Zingman). Dusk, a Crash-type film with multiple storylines, stars well-known Israeli actresses like Orly Silbersatz (my pick for Best Supporting Actress last year), yet Faust more than holds her own.

Ami Drozd was one of the co-creators of the documentary The Name My Mother Gave Me (shown in 2010). This year he excels as writer/director of his first feature film, the semi-autobiographical My Australia.

 TOP PICKS: Features 
My top pick in the Feature category this year is My Australia. Told from the point of view of "Tadek" (Jakub Wroblewski), a kid growing up in Lodz in the early 60s, My Australia answers all those who wonder why Jewish Holocaust survivors didn't just "go home" after the Allies defeated the Nazis. Tadek thinks of himself as a devout Catholic, but mother "Halina" (Aleksandra Poplawska) has secrets. When Tadek and his older brother fall in with a group of anti-Semitic hoodlums, Halina decides it's time for them to leave Poland and join their relatives in Australia. Only after she has them safely at sea does Halina reveal the fact that their actual destination is Israel.

 TOP PICKS: Documentaries 
Three wonderful BioDocs that have already played in metro Chicago will be returning for encore screenings at this year's CFIC: Follow Me is the story of Yoni Netanyahu (commander of the 1976 raid on Entebbe), Incessant Visions is the story of Erich Mendelsohn (the architect who designed many of the first "important" buildings in Tel Aviv), and Torn is the story of Romuald Jakub Weksler-Waszkimel (a Catholic priest who discovers that his birth parents were Jews who perished in the Holocaust).

Of the new documentaries showing in Chicago for the very first time, my top pick is Lost Love Diaries. One year after losing her husband Elmie (to whom she was married for 62 years), Elisheva Lehman returns to Holland with her Israeli-born daughter Shula to look for traces of Bernie—the fiancé she lost in 1943.

And while she searches, we learn all about her. Elisheva's remarkable spirit is captured in this voiceover: "You know me, Bernie, forever the optimist. When you disappeared after the War, I ran ahead. I didn't look back, not even once. I decided to live, and I made every new day a festival." With four children, 10 grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren at the time of filming, Elisheva Lehman is a true mother of modern Israel!

My Best Actor pick for 2012 is Yehezkel Lazarov who plays "Dov Markovsky" in Dina Zvi-Riklis' Yishuv drama The Fifth Heaven. Markovsky is a Russian-born physician who runs a small orphanage. As 1945 begins, the Jews of Palestine have ceased to fear a Nazi invasion, and they are eager to return to the business of statehood. But Markovsky, an idealist, can't turn his back on those already dependent on him for their minimal sustenance.

Most of the action takes place in the orphanage, and the large cast of women and girls who live there under his wing is terrific. My Best Supporting Actress nod goes to Rotem Zisman as "Bertha," a young woman engaged in a way too public affair with a British officer, but a close second is Esti Zakheim as "Paula," an older woman remembering the Warsaw in her glory days.

At the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum is Salsa Tel Aviv staring Angelica Vale as "Vicky," a Mexican woman who sneaks into Israel in search of a ne'er do well boyfriend. Vale is a very well-known singer/actress with a long list of Latin American film and concert credits. On the other hand, her counterpart, Israeli actor Angel Bonani, is a relative novice. And yet this bubbly confection is the closest thing I've seen to the Hepburn/Grant screwball comedy classic Bringing Up Baby in years. Gracias!


Best Feature Film: My Australia

Best Documentary Film: Lost Love Diaries

Best Actress in a Feature: Angelica Vale in Salsa  Tel Aviv

Best Actor in a Feature: Yehezkel Lazarov in The Fifth Heaven

Best Supporting Actress: Rotem Zisman in The Fifth Heaven

Best Supporting Actor: Angel Bonani in Salsa Tel Aviv

And here is my personal ranking of films on this year's schedule:

 Narrative Features—Highly Recommended:
The Fifth Heaven
My Australia
Salsa Tel Aviv

 Narrative Features—Recommended:
Melting Away
Off-White Lies

 Docs over 60 Minutes—Highly Recommended:
Dolphin Boy
Follow Me
Incessant Visions

 Docs under 60 Minutes—Highly Recommended:
Life in Stills
Lost Love Diaries
The Secret

About Yossi*… Yossi is a sequel to Eytan Fox's enormously successful film Yossi & Jagger. If you've seen Yossi & Jagger, then you will certainly want to see Yossi, but sorry to say, it doesn't really stand alone.

CFIC 2012 opens with a screening of Dolphin Boy at the Shedd Aquarium on Tues Oct. 23. Additional events are scheduled in Chicago on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Then CFIC 2012 moves out to the AMC Northbrook Court for a week of screenings from Sunday, Oct. 28 through Sunday, Nov. 4. For complete details, visit: http://ChicagoFestivalOfIsraeliCinema.org.

I will be in Northbrook on Sunday, Oct. 28 to lead the Q&A after the 3:30 screening of The Fifth Heaven. I will also introduce the three films by women filmmakers scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29 (Lost Love Diaries, Life in Stills, and Off-White Lies). If you would like to meet there to discuss Israeli film, please contact me at tzivi@msn.com. Signing out now—thanks for the memories!

 Jan Lisa Huttner (Tzivi) has served as the Arts & Culture critic for JUF News for the past 7 years. After 35 years in Chicago, Jan recently relocated to Brooklyn. Visit Jan's blog, www.SecondCityTzivi.com, for a complete online archive of all JUF News columns and posts plus additional interviews and reviews. Jan's Blog will also keep current with reviews of new films of special interest to Jewish viewers.

Love carefully packaged into small freezable containers.

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Love carefully packaged into small freezable containers. photo

Jonah is the last of my three boys/men to go off to college. I started worrying and grieving about two years ago. The thought of an empty nest terrified me. But, two years is a long time, I told myself, and I put off thinking about it. Sure, the reality crept in every now and then as I watched him tower over me and mature, but denial is a powerful thing to a mother.

This summer was a reality check. I had three, in the blink of an eye, months to drink in all I could and to impart whatever last minute wisdom I had on my youngest son.

Since Jonah is my third son, I learned a long time ago that the way to get a message across is as part of a larger conversation. Anything that seems and sounds like a lesson is going to get tossed in the discard pile if even heard at all.

Some of my messages would come as a sneak attack, like: ‘so how was school and, oh and by the way did you know that drinking your weight in alcohol will kill you?’ Others would be more of a plea, for instance: ‘you are so handsome and I love you and hope you don’t drink your weight in alcohol.’

Most of my messages were never verbal though. As a chef, I communicate through food. I pour my heart and soul into my creations. I show my love through small touches that have big flavor and carry messages of love and affection.

As my husband, who is also a chef recently said, EVEN YOUR GARNISHES HAVE GARNISHES! I have always cooked over the top, at work and at home. I don’t know how to stop potchke-ing and as the three months before Jonah left for school seemed to dissolve away, my cooking became more elaborate, all in an effort to say what I felt.

I was like this as each of my kids went away to school. I cooked favorite meals and poured my love into soufflés, soups, stews and roasts. I was determined that each kid miss my cooking and me.

I knew I had run out of time when I a trip to the farmer’s market yielded, end of the summer, tomatoes. I love tomatoes and normally celebrate their arrival. This year, I dreaded seeing them. The mom/chef in me took over and I grabbed tomatoes and concentrated my feelings into tomato soups, sauces and other tomatoey dishes.

All this culinary communication poured into meals and then Jonah left for college. Bittersweet times and flavors.

A mere 10 days after his departure, I received a text. I MISS HOMEMADE FOOD. Success was mine. I know the text indicated missing homemade food and not necessarily me, but I will grab the moment and run with it. My love went into every bite and that message was heard loud and clear,

This week, after the holiday, I am going to make some of Jonah’s favorites and when I go to visit him next week, I will arrive loaded with my love carefully packaged into small freezable containers.

Here is some of what I am taking with me.


My oldest son Zachary is also a champion for this recipe. I used to make this dish weekly. It is as comforting as a pair of fuzzy slippers, or a big hug from MOM.

Serves 6 generously

1 pound macaroni or favorite pasta shape (I use whole wheat pasta)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups milk (I use whole milk for this)
½ teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese or a mix of favorite cheeses (I use white sharp cheddar, Swiss and blue)
1 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the crunchy topping

We have had family conversations regarding the pros and cons of a bread crumb topping for the casserole. After much discussion, the bread crumbs are in due to their texture and salty crunch.

½ cup bread crumbs (Panko* is perfect for this)
2 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Bring a large saucepan with water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente (about 10 minutes depending upon size of pasta). Drain and set aside.

2. Place a large sauté over medium heat. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add chopped shallot and garlic. Cook until light golden brown (about 3 minutes) Add flour and stir together. Cook the mixture for several minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor.

3. In a separate pan heat the milk until simmering. Add all at once to flour mixture. Whisk to prevent lumps. Cook until thickened (about 3-5 minutes). Add the nutmeg and hot sauce and whisk until combined.

4. Remove from heat. Add grated cheese and stir until melted.

5. Stir sour cream with cooked pasta. Add cheese mixture and stir to combine. Place in a lightly greased casserole.

6. Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake at 350 until bubbly and golden (about 30 minutes).

7. Serve with salad. The macaroni and cheese casserole can be made 1 day ahead of serving and can be assembled but not baked and held in the refrigerator.


I start craving this dish in the autumn when the nights are cool. The dish is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd. It is perfect for your Sukkah or anytime.

Serves 5

2 ½ pounds beef chuck-cut into 2 inch pieces
1 bottle red wine (I like a hearty Pinot Noir for this)
1 spring rosemary
Several sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup flour
2 leeks-light green parts only-sliced thinly
2 carrots-peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 stalk celery-cut into large pieces
4 cloves garlic-peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups mushrooms-cut into ½ (use cremini, button or shiitake)
1 cup pearl onions-blanched, shocked and peeled

1. Place the meat and the wine in a zip-loc bag or container with a tight fitting lid. Be sure each piece of meat is covered by the wine. Let the meat marinate over night or at least 4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 300.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat.

4. Remove the meat from the wine and pat dry, reserve the wine. Salt and pepper each piece of meat. Dredge the meat in the flour and brown on all sides (about 5 minutes per side). Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.

5. Brown the vegetables in the same pan and cook until they are browned (about 10 minutes).

6. Add the wine to the pan with the tomato paste and lightly stir to gather the browned bits left in the pan by meat. Add the chicken stock and stir together.

7. Place the meat and vegetables in a large Dutch oven or casserole with a lid. Pour the wine over the meat and add the fresh herbs.

8. Braise the beef until it is tender and releases easily when pierced with a fork (about 2½-3 hours).

9. Sauté the mushrooms and onions until lightly browned and caramelized (about 5-7 minutes).

10. Add the mushrooms and onions to the beef.

11. Serve with pasta, mashed potatoes or roasted garlic-potato galette


This is really a pretty potato dish and is my son Ari’s favorite. It has all the crispiness of potato chips with a creaminess of mashed potatoes. It is a snap to make and can make any cook look like a pro! I recommend using a Teflon or non-stick pan to make this dish as it makes flipping the galette easier. I have pans that are dedicated for specific uses and this is one of those dishes that has its own pan!

1 head garlic
¼ cup white wine
4 Russet potatoes-peeled
1 t. fresh thyme-chopped
1 t. fresh chives-chopped
1 t. fresh flat leaf parsley-chopped
Salt and pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the head of garlic 7/8 of the way off the flowering end. Salt and pepper the large piece of garlic as needed. Sprinkle a tablespoon of olive oil on the garlic. Place the garlic in a small baking dish or small sauté pan. Pour the white wine in the pan and cover tightly with foil. Roast the garlic until the cloves are very soft and can be squeezed out of the head (about 1 hour).

2. Cool the garlic before handling. Squeeze the garlic cloves from the head and mash with a fork. Using a mandolin or Asian slicer, slice the potatoes into paper thin rounds. Place the cut potatoes into a large bowl and liberally toss them with Extra Virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper as needed. Add the herbs, the roasted garlic and toss the mixture. Place an 8-10 inch sauté pan over medium-low heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Layer the potatoes in the pan so that they overlap and cover the bottom of the pan. The bottom layer is the layer that will be seen, so make it fairly even. Add the rest of the potatoes and spread them evenly. Slowly brown the potatoes until the bottom layer is browned and can be shaken loose (about 30 minutes).

3. Invert the potatoes onto a plate and slide the uncooked side into the pan, or, flip the potatoes over and place the pan into the oven.

4. Continue cooking the potatoes until the under side is browned and can be shaken loose (about 30 minutes).

5. Remove the potatoes and cut into wedges. Place a wedge on a plate or shallow bowl and top with beef Bourguignonne and some of the braising liquid.

Making it to the top

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Alison Levine makes climbing mountains, and the corporate ladder, look easy


Making it to the top photo

Alison Levine has made it to the top, both literally and figuratively.

Born with a life-threatening heart condition, Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome, that prevented her from driving a car or walking up a flight of stairs, today Levine climbs mountains and the corporate ladder.

Thirteen years after her initial diagnosis, Levine had surgery that changed her life. As one of the most experienced female mountaineers in the country, she has climbed peaks on every continent. In 2010, with her successful expedition to the top of Mount Everest, she became one of the few climbers to complete the Adventure Grand Slam—claiming the Seven Summits and skiing to both Poles.

Levine's personal career has encompassed healthcare, technology, and finance. After earning her MBA from Duke University, she worked for Goldman Sachs, and left in 2003 to serve as deputy finance director for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his successful bid to become Governor of California.

She currently serves as an adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, has her own consulting firm, Daredevil Strategies, and in 2005 founded the Climb High Foundation.

Levine will visit Chicago Thursday, Oct. 11, for JUF's Women's Division Lion Luncheon at the Standard Club.

In advance of her visit to Chicago, Oy!Chicago chatted with Levine about climbing mountains, Judaism, and what's next for her:

 Oy!Chicago: How does your Judaism influence your life, both personally and professionally? 
Allison Levine: In all areas of my life I work hard for the things that I want and I stand up against the things I believe are wrong. Not speaking out against things you know are wrong is the same as advocating those things. I also know that each of us has the responsibility to leave this world a better place than it was when we got here. Those are things ways Judaism has influenced my life.

Is there one thing you can pinpoint as your greatest accomplishment? Your coolest experience? 
YES! Coolest experience would be training the first group of Ugandan women to work as trekking guides in the Rwenzori Mountains. There had been a longstanding cultural belief that it was taboo for local women to go to the mountains so prior to this climb the local women had never been permitted to climb. Working in the mountains as trekking guides or porters is the main source of income for the men in this region, and because women were not allowed in the mountains they had no way to earn money. After much negotiating with the head of the local village, the head of the park service and the head of the trekking service I convinced them to allow the local women to climb for the first time. Breaking down this barrier was a huge step forward for women's rights in this area.

After our climb I returned six months later and founded an organization called the Climb High Foundation which trains jobless women to work as trekking guides and porters in the Rwenzori Mountains. This work allows them to earn a sustainable living wage and to improve their quality of life. They have made great strides in gaining equality as a result. This is by far my greatest accomplishment and is a legacy I am really proud of.

What is next for you? 
I am currently working on my first book which will be published in late 2013. It feels like the toughest mountain I have ever climbed as this is the first time I have tried to tackle writing anything beyond a humorous blog for an expedition. The book will be about the leadership lessons I learned while climbing the world's highest peaks and how these lessons apply to the business world and beyond.

What skills from the business world also apply to your expeditions, and vice versa? 
The ability to act quickly and make critical decisions is important in both arenas. Sometimes you have to toss well laid-out plans out the window and take action based on the situation at the time rather than on the plan. Plans are outdated as soon as they are finished in environments that change very rapidly. Another key to success that applies to both business and the mountains would be empowering everyone to think and act like leaders regardless of title or tenure or experience level, because everyone needs to realize that they have a responsibility to the people on either side off them. And I think that the number one lesson I have learned in the mountains and in business (which I think also applies to life in general) is that it is okay to feel scared or intimidated as long as you take action, because complacency will kill you. You have to be able to act/react as things around are shifting and changing.

What advice do you have for others who dream of climbing mountains?
Don't let anyone discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Surround yourself with people who are more skilled/stronger than you are—you'll learn faster and they will push yourself harder.

Do you have any Chicago connections? 
Matter of fact, yes! I am currently working with an outdoor apparel company called HUM which is based in Chicago and the founders are Danny and Aaron Feuerstein. Aaron Feuerstein was the CEO of Malden Mills (which made Polartec fleece). His factory burned down in 1995 and he used much of the insurance money to pay all of his factory workers wages and benefits for six months while the facility was being re-built. He spent millions taking care of his people. If that isn't a fabulous example of the generosity and selflessness of Judaism I don't know what is.

For more information about the Lion Luncheon, visit www.juf.org/women.

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