OyChicago articles

8 Questions for Oren Dekalo, Matisyahu fan, diamond dealer, Vice President

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11/11/2008

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Oren, excited about the Big Event 

When Lincoln Park dweller Oren Dekalo isn’t at work as the 2009 Vice President of the YLD campaign—which isn’t often—the Glencoe native can be found working as a diamond wholesaler.

So, if you don’t have time to read actual books, look forward to lunches on the 6th floor of the JUF or like shiny things, Oren Dekalo is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, or a professional soccer player (my Bar Mitzvah was a couple weeks after the '94 World Cup, and that was the theme for my party).

2. What do you love about what you do today?
Hearing people's comments when they find out what I do.

3. What are you reading?
A lot of YLD emails about "The Big Event" featuring Matisyahu on December 13.  Books ... not so much right now.

4. What's your favorite place to eat in Chicago?
The JUF Conference Room - the food is half the fun of being on the Board!

5. If money and logistical reality played no part, what would you invent?
A machine that would produce money--specifically for the YLD Campaign--and a shield to protect Israel from its hostile neighbors.

6. Would you rather have the ability to fly or the ability to be invisible?
Definitely fly so that I could go to Israel for free - and avoid Chicago traffic, of course.

7. If I scrolled through your iPod, what guilty pleasure song would I find?
None since I don't have one.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago—in other words, how do you Jew?
I enjoy planning, and attending, YLD events.  Right now, the YLD Board's focus is on making "The Big Event" featuring Matisyahu a tremendous success - both in terms of the overall quality and the number of people who will be there to experience it.

Hineni

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I am here. Here I am.
11/11/2008

Oy31LJ_

Sarah is here. Here Sarah is.

My apartment is littered with post-its and print-outs bearing the words Hineni: Here I am and an X. Because, bizarre as it may seem, I sometimes forget it.

But of course I’m here. I can feel my couch underneath my butt. I can see the diamond-shaped painting my maternal grandmother did decades ago hanging on my wall. I can smell the cumin and lamb in the air from tonight’s dinner.

But over the last few years I have come to realize more than ever that hineni means more than existing in physical space and going through the motions of life. Hineni means making a conscious effort to be present and emotionally invested in each moment. It’s something I especially struggled with in college, when I didn’t know what I wanted to study or do with my life, or who I wanted to become. Back then, I decided not to really give a damn, and just float through classes and days and years until someone or something got in my way.

Having been in the real world for a few years now, I’ve established a pretty comfortable routine for myself. I wake up in a neighborhood filled with vibrant young people and small businesses, tasty food and good draft beers, easy access to the lake, and a burgeoning puppy and baby population.

I take the red line to work at an organization whose mission resonates with me, working with caring, intelligent, witty people for whom I have great respect and from whom I can learn a lot.

At the end of the day I get back on my beloved CTA train and head home. Sometimes I’ll meet a friend for dinner or drinks, or go to the gym, or take a walk up Clark Street to people watch and see what new books are in the window at Women and Children First.

It’s not that I’m unhappy with this routine; to be perfectly frank, it works very well for me. But I’m running on autopilot, once again just gliding through the days and weeks, tackling roadblocks as they come along but ultimately staying the course.

Not long after graduating from school I realized that with real world freedoms come real world responsibilities. Even though I was theoretically free to live however I wanted, and to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to do it, in practice, life became much more regimented and bland. I felt confined by my responsibilities, to the point where I didn’t feel like I really had choices, just tasks that had to be completed to get through the day. I felt like I was losing control over my life, even while it was all still very neat and tidy and functional.

So I decided to start keeping pseudo-kosher. I already wasn’t eating pork, so I decided to stop mixing milk and meat as well (I will never be able to give up shellfish). I admit that I made the decision in part to annoy my then-roommates. But I also hoped it would help me feel more present, decisive and in control of my own life. By scrutinizing a decision as mundane as whether to put Swiss cheese on my turkey sandwich or not, I was taking an active role in shaping my daily life. I was making active choices – however inconsequential to the world around me – rather than settling for whatever was most convenient or conventional.

It didn’t stick. It sort of worked for a while, but let’s cut to the chase: Swissburgers are damn tasty. I decided I needed a Plan B.

During high school I was an active B’nai B’rith Girl, part of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO). That was where I first learned the Hebrew word hineni, It’s how we responded when attendance was being taken at meetings.

At first I was confused by this response. I knew that ani was the Hebrew word for “I,” and that po meant “here,” so I didn’t understand why the reply wouldn’t be ani po or po ani (my Hebrew vocabulary is passable, but my grammar is ra m’od -- very bad).

I’m still friends with a few of my sister B’nai B’rith Girls, as we called each other, and one of them in particular has always truly been like a big sister to me. After one of our lengthy long distance conversations a little over a year ago I became nostalgic and pulled out some old photos, including some from that first meeting when I heard a roomful of girls proclaiming hineni. I decided to re-examine its meaning.

It turns out that in the Torah, hineni is used when someone is being called upon directly by G-d. Its meaning goes beyond the physical act of being and denotes a spiritual, intellectual, and corporal presence all at once.

G-d’s not doing a whole lot of talking to me these days, and I’m not necessarily picking up my phone and calling Him/Her/It. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be living each day and responding to myself and the world around me with the same fervor and dedication that Abraham or Moses showed when G-d called upon them back in the day.

I needed a way to remind myself of this fact day in and day out.

So Plan B: Get a tattoo of the word hineni. A permanent reminder that I am here. That it is time to stop passively floating through days. Time to actively choose my own path, rather than following the one of greatest comfort and least resistance. Time to take ownership over every minute, hour, and day of my life.

As the weeks went by and I hadn’t decided on the right Hebrew font or researched which tattoo artist or parlor to go to, I began to question why I couldn’t just take the plunge already. And then it dawned on me: the tattoo was just another crutch.

Irony of ironies, by permanently inking “here I am” on my body, I realized I would actually be giving myself an excuse not to be here. I could float along “present” in each moment because of course I’m here; I have the proof tattooed on my foot and I need to do no more! But it would lose all meaning. I would once again be taking the most convenient (albeit the most painful) path. I could forget to actually be here because I could use the tattoo to simply appear as though I was present in every moment. And I couldn’t let that happen.

So the hineni tattoo was scrapped.

Since giving up this idea, I haven’t massively overhauled my life. My daily routine still includes the same neighborhood, the same commute, and the same job, and yet nothing really feels the same. Because while there will no doubt be occasional days when I shift into autopilot, I am starting to embrace the fact that I am the lead actor in my own life; in each misstep, triumph, and everything in between. I am finally giving myself the chance to believe: hineni.

Oh So Very Thankful

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11/11/2008

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Stacey, thankful for Thanksgiving

It’s probably going to get me some flack to admit that my favorite holiday isn’t a Jewish holiday, but a secular one. Don’t get me wrong, I love many of our ages-old holy days, and look forward to both the sense of connectedness they bring as well as the comfort of traditional foods and the company of friends and family. Rosh Hashanah, Passover…both solidly in my top five holiday-wise. I love a latke, I’m moved by matzo balls, get blissed out over brisket. I even heart a hamentashen. But none of the celebrations mandated by the Torah come close to inspiring the passion I have for Thanksgiving.

Deep down, I sort of think of Thanksgiving as a Jewish holiday.  After all, it celebrates autumn, much like Sukkot. It is centered around a very prescribed traditional meal, sort of like Passover. It is a time to reflect on personal blessings, which is as much a part of Yom Kippur as the atoning part. It brings together family and friends, like Rosh Hashanah. And lets be frank, any holiday that devotes itself to total food indulgence has got to be something we Jews can get solidly behind, if not out and out co-opting it for ourselves!

As a home cook, Thanksgiving is my grail, my marathon--the ability to pull it off is a source of pride, and no moments of my year are as purely pleasurable as those brief moments of silence around the table when everyone tucks into their plates, followed by gradual exclamations of rapturous delight.  And while there is always something a little bit new or different every year, the basics stay the same, and I’ve gotten a lot of it down to a science. But science doesn’t mean clenched perfectionism. With all due respect to Martha Stewart, you don’t need twenty four matching turkey shaped bowls for the soup to taste good, you don’t have to weave your own napkins, grow your own cranberries, or even make your own pie crust (or pie for that matter) for this day to be wonderful. Good food, prepared with love, and served with a smile is all anyone needs for the holiday to be sublime…to each at the level of their own ability.

For those of you who are thinking of tackling the big day, I’ve got some tips to help you out. The most important thing about Thanksgiving is right there in the name, be thankful. If you burn the turkey, make PB&J and laugh it off. And if at all possible, set yourself up for success with some simple advice and simpler recipes.

First, know thyself. Do you regularly make your own puff pastry, serve towering soufflés, and finish your sauces with homemade demi-glace? Then find any challenging menu that inspires you and have at it. But if you burn the toast four days out of ten, this isn’t the time to try anything complicated. Keep things simple, and don’t be afraid to get help with the hard stuff or fiddly bits. People love to participate, so let guests bring something to take some of the pressure off you. If you’ve never made pie crust, buy a good quality frozen crust. Look at local prepared foods sections of grocery stores and see who is offering side dishes and do a tasting the week before. If Whole Foods is making a killer stuffing, there’s no shame in serving it.  Does gravy make you nervous?  Add five or six whole peeled shallots to the turkey roasting pan along with your bird, and simply blend them into the de-fatted pan juices to thicken it easily without all that tricky flour business.

Thanksgiving is also a great time to connect with Mom, Grandma, or your favorite Aunt…call and ask for advice and recipes, they’ll be flattered and you’ll be amazed how many great tips they can give you.

So, if you’re getting ready for the big day, here are Stacey’s Thanksgiving Commandments:

1. Thou shalt buy a fresh turkey from a butcher, and brine before roasting.
I know Butterball seems like a good idea, but they are so filled with preservatives and salt and other unnatural stuff, they don’t really taste like turkey.  Call two to three weeks before the holiday and have your local butcher order you a fresh turkey for pick up the day before Thanksgiving. Take it home and brine overnight using the brine recipe of your choice…mine is below. You’ll be delighted with the results.

2. Thou shalt discover how easy it is to make awesome cranberry sauce, and not have to serve the slice-able stuff from the can.
Cranberry sauce is not just the easiest part of the meal, it can be made up to a week in advance. You’ll never go back to the tinned stuff.

3. Thou shalt not be ashamed to make the green bean casserole with the Campbell’s Condensed Soup.
Sure, I’m a foodie/crazy person, so I make my cream of mushroom soup from scratch before assembling the ubiquitous casserole…but honestly, it’s a tradition for a reason, the original recipe is pretty comforting and delicious, and easy to make, so even if you consider yourself a major gourmet, pull out the processed food version and serve with a smile. Ditto sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

4. Thou shalt not overdo the appetizers.
You’re going to spend two days cooking for this meal. Let your guests be hungry when they get to the table. Keep your pre-dinner nibbles to small bowls of nuts or olives or pretzels or the like, think basic bar snacks…you just want your guests to have something to nosh on with their pre-dinner drinks, but if they fill up on hors d’oeuvres you’ll all be sad when you get to the table and can’t manage seconds.

5. Thou shalt not bother with salad.
I know it always seems like such a good idea to make a fresh green salad. But frankly, it takes up valuable space on a plate that should be devoted to fourteen different starches, and you’re just going to throw most of it away, since it will be all wilty and depressed by the time you go to put the leftovers away. No one will miss it.

6. Thou shalt not count calories, skimp on ingredients, measure portions, or whinge and pout about how bad the food is for you.
We are all very sensitive to healthy eating these days, and more than a few of us are dealing with the need to lose a couple pounds. THIS IS NOT THE DAY TO DO IT. Thanksgiving is, at its very core, a celebration of food and the memories that food invokes and the new memories created at the table. You do yourself, your host, and the day a disservice if you think of it as anything else, or deprive yourself of the sheer joy of this meal. If you’re the cook, don’t alter recipes with low fat/low salt/low taste versions of things. Don’t skip meals before, so that you aren’t blindly starving by the time you get to the buffet, and if you’re really concerned, fill your plate anyway you like, but don’t go back for seconds. Any nutritionist worth their salt will tell you that one meal cannot derail your overall progress, especially if you get back to your program the next day and maybe add a workout that week. And any counselor will tell you that the surest way to be cranky is to deprive yourself while all around you are celebrating. Give yourself a break…you’ll be amazed that if you give yourself permission to have everything you want, how easy it is not to overdo it.

7. Thou shalt not stuff your bird.
I can hear you crying about it now….you are used to the bird packed with stuffing, you dream about the really crispy good part in the front over the neck, why can’t we stuff our turkeys?  Here’s why….one, a stuffed bird is the best way to get food poisoning. If the stuffing doesn’t get up to at least 180 degrees internally, it can breed bacteria, not fun. Two, in order to get the stuffing to 180, you are going to overcook the crap out of the turkey itself, especially the breast meat. Three, all that moistness you love in the in-the-bird stuffing?  That is all the juices from the meat that are getting sucked out by the huge stuffing sponge, and you not only dry out your bird, you have many fewer juices with which to make gravy. Make your stuffing and bake in a separate dish, and if you really miss that dense moistness, melt a stick of butter in a cup of chicken stock and pour it over the stuffing ten minutes before taking it out of the oven.  And get over it.

8. Thou shalt not test more than one new recipe for this meal.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful meal to add to, but don’t do everything at once. I know that the cooking mags have all sorts of new-fangled versions of things, but they have to reinvent the holiday menu every year. Experimentation is good, but if you change the whole thing up at once, people are going to miss their old standby favorites. Pick one dish that you think is ready for a revamp, and throw in that curveball. If you love it, add it to the repertoire. But don’t do the chipotle rubbed turkey, sweet potato tofu bake, barley stuffing, green beans with fresh ricotta, and sherried fig cranberry coulis all in one meal. Someone will weep openly, and everyone will have to run out the next day and make a few traditional items to get them through to next year.

9. Thou shalt not be a Thanksgiving Dictator.
If people want to help in the kitchen, let them. And don’t criticize the quality of their small dice, or the way they wash the pots. Ditto assigning specific foods to guests who want to bring something…if someone offers to bring a dish, ask them what they love to make or what they crave most about Thanksgiving and let them bring that. Who cares if you have two kinds of sweet potatoes, or both cornbread and regular stuffing?   On Thanksgiving, more is more, and abundance rules. Besides, you have a three-day weekend that needs quality leftovers.

10. Thou shalt be thankful.
We are all very blessed. Take a few moments to think about all of the gifts you have in your life, the family and friends who surround you, all of the wonderful things you may take for granted in the hustle and bustle of your day to day.  Close your eyes, be joyful, and in all sincerity and humbleness thank the universe for your life.

Yours in good taste,
Stacey
www.staceyballis.com

NOSH of the week:

Here are some of my go-to turkey day recipes. Follow to the letter or use as a springboard for your own touches…

Brined Turkey

1 16 lb. turkey

Brine:
9 Q water
1 gallon apple cider
1 bottle Riesling or other fruity white wine
2 ½ c kosher salt
2 c brown sugar
8 bay leaves
2 ½ T coriander
1 ½ T juniper
2 T peppercorns
1 ½ T fennel seed
1 T mustard seed
3 onions-quartered
2 apples-quartered
1 bunch thyme

Boil 1 Q water with salt, sugar and all spices. Cool. Put in brining bag. Add rest of ingredients and turkey. Brine overnight. Remove turkey from brine, rinse and dry. Add an herb butter under the skin if you like. Put an onion and an apple in the cavity of the bird. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In roasting pan, make rack of ribs of celery, carrots, sliced onion, 5-6 whole shallots, thyme. Put turkey breast side down, put in oven, and immediately reduce to 400 degrees. Cook 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325, cook 90 minutes. Flip breast side up, cook to 155 internal temp, approximately another  30-40 minutes. Rest 30 minutes before carving.

Cranberry sauce

2 bags cranberries
1 ½ c port
1 c sugar
1 t salt
5 T orange juice
1 ½ t cornstarch
1 t ground mustard
1 t lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch ground clove
Pinch fresh ginger
Zest of 1 lemon
½ c dried cherries-rehydrate in ¼ c port

Cook cranberries and port in a saucepan over med-high heat 10 minutes, until cranberries burst. Add sugar and salt. Whisk OJ, cornstarch, mustard, lemon juice in a bowl and add to berries. Stir to combine. Add rest of ingredients, cook 5-6 minutes more, cool.

Mashed potatoes

10 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled, cubed)
2 sticks butter, cubed
1 pt. whole milk (or half and half or cream, depending on how rich you like it)
1 pt. sour cream
1 bunch chives, chopped fine
S&P to taste

Boil potatoes till soft. Drain completely. Put potatoes through ricer, or just use hand mixer to mash. Add butter first, and then milk to just shy of your preferred texture. Once the potatoes are almost there, add in the sour cream and chives and season well.

Basic Stuffing

1 XL loaf country bread or French bread cubed and toasted till totally dry  (2 lbs.)
1 pkg soft rolls or hot dog buns torn coarsely
2 ½ sticks butter
1 ½ c chopped onion
1 ½ c chopped celery
Celery leaves from 2 heads, chopped
¼ c chopped flat leaf parsley
Dried sage, thyme, marjoram (1 T each)
S/P to taste
4 lg eggs, beaten
1 box chicken stock…add as necessary to moisten.

Sautee veggies and herbs in 1 ½ sticks butter. Toss with bread. Add stock slowly till moist but not overly soggy. Taste for seasoning. Stir in eggs and mix well. Put in deep foil pan. Drizzle with melted stick of butter and sprinkle of breadcrumbs.

400 degrees 25 minutes covered, 20 uncovered. If you want extra moistness, melt another 4-8 T butter in 1 c chicken stock and pour over top when you uncover the stuffing, then continue cooking.

Pickled carrots
(great pre-dinner nibble!  A bowl of these and a bowl of nuts are all you need.)

1 large bag baby carrots (2 1bs)
1 bottle apple cider vinegar
1 large jar honey
4 T mustard seed
1 bunch dill

Combine vinegar, honey and mustard seed in saucepan. Add carrots and cook over med-high heat till carrots are cooked but still crisp, 5-8 minutes. Store in pickling liquid in fridge. Before serving, drain liquid, add chopped fresh dill.

NOSH Food read of the week:  The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White

Girl Power

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Jewish Women International combats self-destructive behavior among Jewish girls 
11/11/2008

Oy31Feature

Speakers Leslie Goldman, Lori Weinstein, Mary Jo Barrett and program facilitator Alyson Weinberg combine their brain power for girl power 

Cady: And they have this book, this burn book, where they write mean things about all the girls in our grade.
Janis: What does it say about me?
Cady: You're not in it.
Janis: Those bitches!
--Mean Girls


If you’ve ever seen the movie “Mean Girls” with Lindsay Lohan, you know it’s not easy being a teenage girl these days. On top of the social pressure to look a certain way, there’s the desire to hang out with the right crowd, find the right boyfriend and get good enough grades to get into the right college. And, between ages 9 and 16, girls start to mature both physically and emotionally--much earlier than their male counterparts. Now add in the pressure from the media, television shows like “Gossip Girl,” complete 24/7 access to what everyone is doing through Facebook and texting. Girls today have no choice but to grow up fast, and sometimes turn to self-destructive behaviors like disordered eating, bullying, alcohol abuse and self mutilation to help cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life.

I know you’re probably thinking, ‘that never happened to me,’ or ‘my daughter would never do something like that,’ but Jewish girls are no exception. In fact, they sometimes face even more pressure from their peers, family and themselves to succeed and live up to often unrealistic expectations. And it’s not just a coincidence that “Mean Girls” takes place on the North Shore of Chicago…

Washington D.C.-based Jewish Women’s International (JWI) is tackling the problem head on by going right to the source—mothers, educators and social workers. In response to a recently completed survey of professionals who work directly with Jewish girls, JWI has launched Brain Power for Girl Power Think Tanks, an initiative that brings together Jewish women to learn about and engage in constructive brainstorming around the issues that affect Jewish girls. The first of these brainstorming sessions was held Oct. 29 at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago.

“In the blink of an eye, there will be a new group of women standing in our shoes,” says Lori Weinstein, executive director, JWI. “Jewish girls need a path and we’re here to partner with you and clear it for them.”

The survey, “Jewish Girls and Their Behaviors,” which was designed by JWI in conjunction with Professions Research, Inc. of Washington, DC, polled 1,000 Jewish professionals on Jewish girls’ participation in behaviors such as anorexia, alcohol abuse and self-mutilation, or “cutting.” The survey revealed that the three most common destructive behaviors encountered in Jewish professionals’ work with Jewish girls are: disordered eating habits and patterns (48%), bullying (40%) and risky or precocious sexual behavior (38%). For girls ages 9 to 11, the most common behaviors included bullying (66%), disordered eating (35%), alcohol abuse (6%) and cutting (3%). For girls ages 12 to 15, disordered eating patterns and bullying were the most common (75%), followed risky sexual behavior (69%), cutting (58%) and alcohol abuse (48%). And of those surveyed, only 1 to 6 % said they felt parents were very aware of the problems facing their daughters.

“Jewish girls are coming of age in a time that is much more complicated than we did,” says Weinstein. “We want to create that metaphorical embrace among teenage girls, to make sure they have a safer passage along the bridge.”

How long is a girl a child? She is a child, and then one morning you wake up she's a woman, and a dozen different people of whom you recognize none.
--Louis L'Amour


Mary Jo Barret, a leading authority on trauma and violence and executive director and co-founder of the Center for Contextual Change, spoke to the group first, answering the question: Why do girls participate in these destructive behaviors?

Young girls, she said, view self-destructive behaviors as empowering, and as a friend during a time in their lives of naturally heightened activity and anxiety. Sometimes, she says, they know exactly why they are engaging in these dangerous behaviors, but don’t have a lot of motivation to stop. One girl explained that she cut herself because “When I see the blood, I know I’m not empty.” It’s something their parents cannot control, Barrett says, something that’s only theirs.

“These behaviors are the way that these girls try to and successfully empower themselves, give themselves value and control,” she says, and for Jewish girls who come from affluent homes, “it’s the convergence of a perfect storm.”

Today’s young girls have more of everything and constant access to information. They can create a Facebook profile that has nothing to do with who they really are, and are often losing their own true identities, she says.

“They live in a society that values this materialism and values being something you’re not,” Barrett says, “not even having the opportunity to build that self-esteem because too busy building a faux being.”

There are no rules in this house.
I'm not like a regular mom.
I'm a cool mom. Right, Regina?
--Mean Girls


Parenting styles have changed as well, and maybe not all for the better, Barrett says.

“We want to be our daughters’ friends and we’re ambivalent about limit setting,” she says. “The other thing we don’t teach our kids is how to cope with frustration.”

Also, Barrett says, because there is such an emphasis on competition, parents aren’t emphasizing altruism, or taking care of other people in the community.

The differences between boys and girls at this age can be explained by neuroscience. Before puberty, Barrett says, boys and girls have the same level of depression. After, girls double while boys remain the same. Also, girls go through puberty much earlier than boys, so their bodies mature much faster than their brains.

“Their bodies are literally ready for sex before their brains are,” she says.

Additionally, women store memories on the right side of the brain, the more emotional side, and so they tend to ruminate on things while men store memories on their left side, remembering facts, and coping through  problem solving. Sometimes, to stop the cycle of rumination and worry, girls turn to self-destructive behaviors to try to release those feelings.

What the daughter does, the mother did.
--Jewish Proverb


Following Barrett, Leslie Goldman, health writer and author of  Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth about Women, Body Image and Re-imagining the “Perfect” Body , spoke about her battle with an eating disorder during her time as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Leaving Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire for UW was a big change for Goldman, who had always been successful in high school.  “I went from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a huge pond of 40,000,” she says. “What better way to handle it than to avoid it?”

She began feeling the pressure to fit in and the need for control and began under-eating and over-exercising. When she came home for Thanksgiving, everything hit the fan and she was put into a treatment center for anorexia. Years later, Goldman’s experiences would inspire her to write her book, talking with women in gym locker rooms to reveal the truth about body image.

Though there is no proven research, Goldman says she thinks there is a definite link between being Jewish and eating disorders. Among the reasons, she included the pressure to succeed, strong dedication to education, putting others before yourself and, for many, having to the money to finance gym memberships and plastic surgery.

“I believe to be Jewish is to have an eating disorder of some sort,” she says. “In Jewish life, food is used to show love, food is used to mourn, holidays are based around food,” she says.

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.
--Maya Angelou


Following the speakers, the participants split into groups to define several problems—the influence of food, the media, sexual pressures on self-destructive behaviors—and proposed programming to combat those problems.

After a similar Think Tank program in Detroit the following day, a December seminar in Washington, D.C. about girls in leadership—how accomplished Jewish girls are, and a spring seminar in Los Angeles about girls and money, JWI will likely conduct another survey and eventually develop new programming based on these findings.

“Our goal is to drill down our understanding of where Jewish girls are,” Weinstein says, “and create new programming driven through the bloodstream of Jewish organizations.”

To learn more about JWI and the Brain Power for Girl Power Think Tanks, visit  www.jwi.org . 

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