OyChicago articles

She’s creepy and she’s kooky—An interview with Jackie Hoffman

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She’s creepy and she’s kooky photo

Second City alumna Jackie Hoffman is back in Chicago appearing as "Grandmama" in the new musical  The Addams Family  (currently playing at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Randolph), but she’s also planned a special Chanukah treat for local fans. On Monday nights, Jackie will debut her new act,  Whining in the Windy City: Holiday Edition , at the Royal George Cabaret on Halsted.

I met Jackie for coffee right before an Addams Family rehearsal on Nov. 5 to learn more about the new show. “About Chicago, I was warned, ‘Well, Jewey stuff doesn’t fly here.’ And I heard that, but despite that, I’m just going to bring people into my world,” she said. “I tell about my life and what happens to me and the things people say to me. After every show, people say to me: ‘Is that true? Is that true?’ It’s all true. I’m not that good a writer. It’s all true.”

“I was fired on a Carson Pirie Scott commercial because I was ‘too ethnic looking’; meanwhile Rosie O’Donnell was cast as Golde in Fiddler on the Roof! Broadway’s become all about the sellable name, so that’s really what it is, but that was just so absurd. But I got a lot of mileage out of it; I made it work for me. Chicago people love down-to-earth, and my act is as down-to-earth as it gets. The truth never fails!”

Performances of The Addams Family run through Sunday, Jan 10. For tickets, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com. Jackie’s four Royal George performances are scheduled for Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 14, and Dec. 21. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com and enter “Jackie Hoffman” in the Search field. The Ford Theatre Box Office line is (800) 775-2000. The Royal George Box Office line is (312) 988-9000.

To see Jackie play “Calliope” (her acclaimed role in the Broadway hit Xanadu), visit www.YouTube.com and enter “xanadu evil woman” in the Search field.

Coincidentally, Jackie also appears in Making Trouble, which will screen at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies on Sunday, Dec 13. Making Trouble is a well-intentioned documentary produced by the Jewish Women’s Archive. Clips of funny ladies Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and Wendy Wasserstein are threaded together through a marathon meal at Katz’s Deli featuring Jackie and fellow comedians Judy Gold, Cory Kahaney, and Jessica Kirson. Comments from multiple scholars and other “talking heads” are also folded in. It’s an enjoyable film, but I left hungry—too many appetizers and side dishes, but no main course. For tickets, visit www.spertus.edu or call (312) 322-1700.

Who says I can’t have a mammogram?

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Who says I can’t have a mammogram? photo

So here’s a question for you. Cancer: good or bad?

You’re a little perplexed that I’ve framed the debate this way, aren’t you? The answer couldn’t be more obvious if it was written in big lights up and down the skyline. Cancer is horrible, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t been affected by it somehow. If there’s any way to prevent suffering like that, it should be pursued to the utmost, right? It’s why women endure mammograms and Pap smears and men go through prostate exams: to establish a baseline of normal health and to try and catch cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

Up until last week, if a woman had no increased risk of breast cancer due to family history or a genetic predisposition, such as a BRCA mutation, the commonly accepted timetable was to start getting yearly mammograms when she turned 40. Last week the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ignited a firestorm of controversy when it issued new recommendations. What they said was that low-risk women should start mammograms at age 50, and should only go in every two years. They also wrote that there is insufficient evidence that breast self-exams catch cancer at a higher rate. What many people heard was: Women’s health isn’t important, and women are overreacting.

It feels like an odd claim, right? Why on earth would anyone think scaling back preventive screenings is a good idea? Is this the medical equivalent of “Why do you hate freedom?”

The USPSTF sees this issue as a conflict between evidence and anecdotes. Even as thousands of women are coming forward and talking about their own experience, that they would be dead if a mammogram hadn’t checked that lump at 39, the task force believes there are fundamental misconceptions in the popular notions of cancer, which are hurting more women than helping. Breast tissue changes as women age, and different imaging techniques produce very different answers from case to case. The task force sees unnecessary biopsies, unnecessary chemotherapies, unnecessary surgeries and unnecessary anxieties on a widespread scale. We, the American public, are just not used to being told that you can, in fact, be too careful, particularly with regards to cancer.

I’m not shilling for their position. The truth is I’m not sure what to think. I’m 25, with a liberal arts degree, and my particular family history doesn’t suggest that I’m at any higher risk than normal. That means I’m due for my first mammogram sometime after 2024, and a lot can change in fifteen years. But here’s the thing: that question from the beginning of this post? The answer hasn’t changed in the last five minutes, and it hasn’t changed since the USPSTF offered a new suggestion about how we think about preventive screening. Cancer is still horrible, and even though it’s not October and the world isn’t smothered in pink ribbons, we’re talking about it. We’re listening to our mothers and aunts and sisters, and we’re asking our doctors about our options. If we’re able to understand all sides of the conversation, not just the ones we agree with, that’s how we move forward.

If you’d like to learn more about the issue, including the text of the recommended guidelines, the Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders has a link roundup at its blog.

‘Sunday Night Live’

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Sunday Night Live photo 1

Photo credit: Robert Kusel

From WWF to ‘SNL’ to YLD
Starting at age 8, Andy Samberg used to sneak out of his bedroom late on Saturday nights to watch WWF wrestling.

But wrestling was only on once a month, so most Saturday nights he would watch “Saturday Night Live” (SNL). “I became obsessed with SNL and fell in love with it,” Samberg recalled. “From that point on, I wanted to figure out how to craft my life to lead me to [a career] at SNL.”

He and his two friends, who would one day form a comedy troupe, would record episodes of the famous sketch comedy show on VHS—especially the ones starring his idol, Will Ferrell, and watch them again and again. “It was never something that was not part of my life,” he said.

Cut to two decades later. Samberg, who is Jewish, has entered his fifth season as a regular cast member on “SNL.” The comedian creates and stars in such comic—and often raunchy—music videos as “Lazy Sunday,” “I’m on a Boat,” “Dick in a Box,” and “Motherlover,” collaborating with entertainers including Justin Timberlake and Natalie Portman.

Samberg’s videos debut as digital shorts on SNL and then rocket their way to YouTube fame. The comedian’s videos have earned several Emmy nominations and other awards and broken records on YouTube. He’s also starred in several movies, including “Hot Rod” and “I Love You, Man.”

As entertaining as Saturday nights are thanks to SNL, the real excitement for many Chicago-area young Jews came on Sunday night, Nov. 15. The JUF’s Young Leadership Division’s (YLD) Second Annual Big Event featured an evening with Samberg.

‘Big(gest) Event’ in YLD history
And it really was a “big event.” Held at Swissotel Chicago, the event drew more than 1,000 people, making it the single largest YLD event in history. “To get that many people there on a Sunday night just shows the dedication and devotion that the young Jewish community has by giving back,” said David Greenbaum, YLD president. The evening included hors d’ oeuvres, dessert reception, open bar, after-party, and an exclusive program with Samberg, including some Jewish-themed clips from “Saturday Night Live.”

Sunday Night Live photo 2

1,000 guests fill the room for YLD's largest event ever
Photo credit: Robert Kusel

YLD’s Big Event raised money for the 2010 Jewish United Fund (JUF) Annual Campaign, offering young adults a chance to give back in tough times, as JUF tries to help more people, but with fewer resources. People who have never needed assistance are calling upon JUF for help. “We’re mindful of the fact that 38,000 local Jews now rely on us for groceries and meals,” said Jonathan Rutman, YLD’s Big Event chairman and 2010 YLD Campaign vice president.  “Most of us have never experienced a time or circumstances like these, where we are challenged by both an economic meltdown and a worldwide surge of anti-Semitism and vilification of Israel.”

‘In your face, ribbon-tying supervisor lady’
Wearing a casual plaid flannel, Vans sneakers, and glasses for the event, Samberg seemed like just a regular, goofy Jewish guy. In an “Inside the Actor’s Studio”-style format, local syndicated columnist and talk show host Mark Bazer interviewed Samberg in front of the crowd. As Samberg began by telling the audience that he grew up in a “hippy” and “melting pot” place called Berkeley, Calif., a young woman in the audience screamed out her love for his hometown. “Thanks, Mom,” he joked. “She goes everywhere with me.”

Samberg, an NYU film school grad, grew up with two other funny guys, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, who formed the comedy troupe “Lonely Island,” named for the apartment building they used to live in. Earlier this year, they released their album “Incredibad,” the first full length album to reach the number one spot on iTunes.

Back when they were struggling to make it on the comedy circuit, they would shoot low-budget comedy videos “eating canned chili and drinking 40s.” To make ends meet, they’d take temp jobs together. “We got fired mainly for tardiness,” he admitted to the crowd tentatively.

Sunday Night Live photo 3

Andy and Mark joking around
Photo credit: Robert Kusel

“Once we got a call at 6 in the morning asking if we wanted to tie ribbons on Christmas Cards…to give it some three-dimensional flair,” Samberg said in a mocking tone. On the job, the three buddies sat tying ribbons and chatting. After failing to separate them, their supervisor fired them for talking too much. All these years later, Samberg’s having the last laugh. “In your face, ribbon-tying supervisor lady,” Samberg joked with the crowd. “She’s here [at Big Event] for sure…way in the back.”

Switching gears, Bazer and Samberg discussed the comedian’s Jewish identity. He said his parents raised him with a strong cultural Jewish identity, but, at first, not a particularly religious one. One day his sister, in the fifth grade at the time, came home from her Jewish day school and said, “We’re way more Jewish than you guys are telling us.” From that point on, Samberg and his family ate Shabbat dinner and observed the Jewish holidays.

He talked about the role his Jewish identity plays in his comedy. “My comedy is not Jewish,” he said. “I’m a comedian because I’m Jewish. That’s like every fifth Jew is a comedian, right? And every other four have a pretty good sense of humor.”

He says he grew up on a diet of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen Jewish humor, but that today’s young comedians must mix it up. “For some reason, this generation of comedians, [no matter] what their ethnicity, can’t base their whole act on one thing, because to me that feels a bit limited. A lot of comedians are like, ‘So, I’m single…’ and that’s their whole act,” he said.

After the interview, the spirited crowd asked Samberg questions, many of which focused on whether the star is dating anyone. “On behalf of all the women and some of the men, do you have a girlfriend?” one young woman asked. Samberg responded, “Do you want me to take my shirt off?” “Are you on JDate?” asked another female fan in the crowd. “I’m not on JDate, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of nice people on JDate,” Samberg replied. A man in the audience got a big laugh with his question, “What was your bar mitzvah theme?”

When asked whether Samberg finds the constant YouTube parodies of his videos flattering, he said he absolutely does. “When I see a group of 10-year-old girls doing ‘Lazy Sunday’ in their small rural town and they’re clearly having fun, that’s inspiring,” he said. “It reminds me of what ‘Saturday Night Live’ meant to me as a kid.”

8 Questions for Cara Bronstein, dance inspired artist, wanna-be world traveler and girly-girl at heart

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8 Questions for Cara Bronstein photo 1

Growing up, Cara Bronstein was surrounded by art. Her mom a painter, photographer, jewelry designer and all around artistic maven filled her house with fine art and creative people. Full disclosure, I grew up with Cara. I was one of the many kids who loved to play at her house after school because it meant getting to do fun art projects we weren’t allowed to do at our own homes and getting to visit her mom’s jewelry studio in her basement. And, I remember a time when Cara wanted to be anything but artistic like her mom and hated these art projects. Luckily, Cara’s changed her mind and is now embracing her inherited artistic and business talents to start her own tutu line. Yep, you read correctly, Cara builds made to order tutus for girls of all ages from scratch, one piece of tulle at a time. Each tutu can take her upwards of 5 hours.

Cara says she started making tutus for a couple of reasons. She has a dance background and to this day loves anything that has to do with pink and ballet. The inspiration for her first tutu came from her boyfriend’s niece, Olivia. She wanted to make Olivia something unique, that was handmade, but not just another baby quilt. She said it hit her one day that a tutu would be the perfect gift because it was beautiful, girlie, and Olivia was about to take her six month professional photos and she thought the tutu would photograph well. It turned out to be the perfect outfit and Cara knew from there that she had to make more.

8 Questions for Cara Bronstein photo 2

Today she runs a tutu company, petal girl 25, to showcase and feature her tutu collections. She has plans to expand the line from just tutus to all things ballet related, including footwear. So if you believe every little girl should have her own tutu, love Israel, or like being creative, Cara Bronstein is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
I don't want to sound too biased, but I really love my mom's blogs: DianePatricia.com and Styleinthestreets.com.  My mom is an artist of life; she has always and will always be a great inspiration to me. Her blogs are her latest creative outlet and they both speak differently to me and spark some of my own creative juices. She lives all the way across the country in Palm Springs, so it’s also a nice way for us to keep in touch.
2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
Since I have all ready been to Israel on a birthright trip, (Israel is one of my favorite places on earth) I won’t say there though I do want to go back soon. Some places on my wish-list are Austria, Ireland and the Ukraine. My Grandpa introduced me to the movie The Sound of Music when I was little. From the first time I watched it, I fell in love with the beautiful scenery and the Von Trapp family. So one day, I hope to go there. Also, I am a quarter Irish, which is pretty unique for someone with a Jewish background; I would love to visit there and see that side of my heritage. Plus, Ireland looks absolutely beautiful and there’s something so romantic about it.

3. If a movie was made about your life, who would play you?
I love this question. I am a huge movie buff, but I never have really thought about this before. I guess I would have to say Amanda Seyfried from Mama Mia and Big Love. I think she is a great, young, versatile actress. Also, she seems like she has a good head on her shoulders, unlike so many other young Hollywood celebrities these days.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? Where would you eat or what would you serve?
I’d want to eat a meal with my Grandparents. I would eat whatever my Grandma would choose to make. She was a great cook. She was also a great craftsman and gardener/florist. She was extremely talented. I strive to be like her. My Grandpa unfortunately past away many years ago when I was just a kid I wish I had got to know him better.

5. What’s your idea of the perfect day?
I have had a few perfect days in my life they were all completely different, but the one thing they had in common  I was either with family or friends— Oh, and the weather was always nice. I am pretty sure you can have a good day in cold weather too, but I don’t think you can label a cold day as a perfect day. :)

6. What do you love about what you do?
I love that the sky is the limit. There are endless possibilities and I can be as creative as possible. I have so many ideas for the direction I want to take my company. This is definitely just the beginning. I also love that I can create beautiful things with my hands and everything I make has lots of TLC. I love how my creations bring a smile to people’s faces of all ages.

8 Questions for Cara Bronstein photo 3

"Cheryl" tutu

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
I am actually working on my esthetics’ licenses. I’m not the kind of person who can just wear one hat all the time. I need to be involved in many different projects, I just am interested in too many things.

8. What’s your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
Definitely celebrating the holidays with my family and friends. Of course, going to Oy! events. I have also been meaning to go to a 3BC (B’nai Brith Beber overnight camp) reunion ever since I moved back to Chicago.

Cara’s tutus are perfect Chanukah gifts this year, for more information about her tutus and how you can purchase them, visit her web site at  www.petalgirl25.com .

He’s having more fun than you

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Jewish author/comedian Aaron Karo to play Chicago’s House of Blues this Saturday 

Aaron Karo

Aaron Karo first came into my life my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when my friend Jamie forwarded me an email that was so funny I almost peed my pants! From then on, every month, my friends and I got an email from Karo titled Ruminations, where he wrote about what was on his mind: college life, dating, drinking and just everyday stuff. His writing was real, relatable and most definitely, hilarious—plus, he was a nice Jewish boy from New York!

Ruminations began in 1997, when as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, Karo sent a funny email to just 20 of his friends—through forwards and word-of-mouth, the “email column” spread like wildfire to hundreds of thousands of college kids throughout the country. Twelve years later, Karo still emails out his Ruminations every other Monday and he also created a website, Ruminations.com, in August of 2008 for fans to share their own ruminations, observations and anecdotes.

Inspired by his column, Karo authored two books, Ruminations on College Life (this one got me through a bad case of the flu my sophomore year) and Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, both published by Simon and Schuster.

According to his website, after a brief detour on Wall Street, Karo moved from New York City to Los Angeles in 2005 to write sitcoms and perform stand-up. In August of 2008, he performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS, and in December 2008, Comedy Central Records released his stand-up album, Just Go Talk to Her. Karo plans to release a new album early next year.

Karo’s third book, I’m Having More Fun Than You , was published Sept. 15 by HarperCollins, and Karo is currently on a 15-city stand-up tour to promote the book. You can catch him at the House of Blues in Chicago this Saturday, Nov. 14—I saw him perform there last year, and trust me, it’s a pee-in-your-pants good time.

Just before he set out on his tour, I had the chance to talk with Karo about his new book, bachelorhood and his Jewish mother’s thoughts about his love of the single life:

Aaron Karo

Oy!Chicago: Tell me about your new book, I’m having more fun than you.
Aaron Karo: I turned 30 earlier this year and I started to notice that as all the women around me wanted to get married more, I actually wanted to get married less. For me, turning 30 meant I had a little money, I was more confident, I knew what I was doing. The book is a tribute to bachelorhood and it’s a series of anecdotes and observations about single life in your 20s and 30s. It’s kind of a defense of bachelorhood because for guys and for girls I feel like a lot of people make you feel bad about being single—you feel ostracized, they stick you at a table at a wedding—and this is kind of saying that “Hey, at least we make the world go ‘round.”

What is your Jewish background? How does being Jewish influence what you do?
I was raised Conservative, but I’m actually completely secular now. But I really think that Judaism to me is more of a cultural thing, especially in comedy. Having a comic background and being able to spot another Jew across the room are the more salient characteristics of Judaism for me.

What does your Jewish mother think of all this “single is more fun” business? Doesn’t she want grandkids?
My parents are not that bad on the spectrum of Jewish parents. Recently, my dad told me that my mom said that she’d be okay with it if I had a kid out of wedlock, just so she could have grandchildren. I think she was kind of half serious. But besides that they haven’t been too bad. Plus, I have a younger sister, so I try to shift some of the burden to her.

Is this love for the single life just your shtick or is it really who you are? Would you change if the right girl came along?
There’s no shtick! I write what I know. I am single and have been for a little while now, although I have had girlfriends that I do mention in the book. I live what I write and vice versa. I write in the introduction that the book is not supposed to be anti-marriage—in fact I do want to get married, just not right now or on anyone’s timetable.

Who is your inspiration? Do you have a favorite Jewish comedian?
I don’t really know if there’s an answer to that question. I started writing in college just for fun, for free. I just put my own experiences on paper, nothing really inspired me to do so, more because I couldn’t sleep as a freshman. My favorites are Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, which is kind of like saying your favorite team is the Yankees, but my favorite team is the Yankees, so I feel like I’m allowed.

Your whole career was basically born from grassroots social networking even before the Facebook and Twitter stuff. What do you think of social media and viral marketing? Do you use Facebook and Twitter?
Well, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse. I mean, on one hand it was nice when I had a giant email list and no one could touch me and now it’s like someone does some tweets and next thing you know you have 10,000 followers. But I also think that it’s not as deep necessarily; I’ve used social media to complement my existing relationships, the email and the website, and I post stuff on Facebook and Twitter. I read all my emails personally so I’ve always been pretty into interacting with fans.

What advice do you have for Jewish 20 and 30somethings?
The thesis of the book is that one of the benefits of being single in your 20s is that you’re more prepared for marriage, which is kind of a counterintuitive statement that I make. I feel like the longer you’re single the more you know what you really want and what makes you happy.

What can we expect from your upcoming show at the House of Blues?
So very excited, new show. It’s an all-new show, different from what I did last year in Chicago, inspired by the book. Lots of discussion of relationships, marriage, dating of course drinking—the House of Blues always has the craziest fans! I’m actually talking about kids a little bit this time around because a bunch of my friends started having kids, so that’s a new part of my act. I think it’s really good—I think it’s the best show I’ve ever done.

A symbol of hope

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Chicago-based MayaWorks offers fair-trade kippot

A symbol of hope photo 1

Whenever my husband wears a kippah – an admittedly rare occasion – he dons a colorful crocheted circle swirling in blues, yellows and browns.

Kippot like his are the work of a handful of Mayan women in Guatemala, who have partnered with MayaWorks, a Chicago-based organization to produce beautiful fair-trade ritual objects, purses and clothing. The colors on my husband’s kippah were chosen by the women of San Marcos la Laguna, a small village on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

The women began crocheting kippot about 10 years ago, after a Jewish tourist traveling with MayaWorks saw them making hacky sacks. “If they can make hacky sacks, they can make kippot,” the tourist remarked, says MayaWorks executive director Jeannie Balanda. That off-hand remark started an effort that now constitutes the artisans’ best-selling product. Besides hacky sacks and kippot, the 40 San Marcos artisans crochet baby hats and shoes and pouches.

Each kippah takes about three to four hours to complete. At first the shape was troubling – some kippot would be really round or really flat, says Naomi Czerwinskyj, MayaWorks product manager. Eventually, with the help of a head dummy, the artisans found the right shape: neither pancake nor Sephardi-style hat.

A symbol of hope photo 2

For the first couple years, the kippot makers didn’t actually know what they were making. But another traveler brought a story about the importance of a kippah in the Jewish tradition – the sign of reverence for God. That’s made the crochet specialists even more respectful of their own work, Balanda says.

The MayaWorks scenario is far from a sweatshop: the organization not only provides market-rate payment for the artisans’ work and supplies, but also scholarships for their children, micro-loans to improve living conditions, and additional training. The artisans create their own patterns, make decisions on whom to include in their craft group, and brainstorm ideas for new products.

“Not only has this been good work for the artisans as far as getting money for their families, but it has also been good for their growth as women and as contributing members of their communities,” Balanda says. “When they see the results of their work, the artisans’ self-esteem increases dramatically.”

A symbol of hope photo 3

That’s no small thing in traditionally macho Guatemala. Add in the long-existing prejudices against indigenous people, and the value of having a market for their products becomes clearer.

The kippot makers are among seven groups of women engaged with MayaWorks. Most are weavers, a traditional craft young girls learn from an early age. They start by making huipiles, blouses made out of hand-woven panels decorated with an array of birds, flowers and vines. The MayaWorks artisans have transferred some of these rich patterns onto the products they make – including other Judaica: the mezuzah covers, banners proclaiming shalom and, most recently, tallitot and tallit bags. Of course, Jewish ritual objects are not the only products. The MayaWorks warehouse in Chicago is a treasure trove of eye-glass cases, tablecloths, decorative wall panels, purses, Christmas tree ornaments and headgear.

The colors and patterns that first drew my husband to his kippah are a powerful symbol of what Maimonides taught 800 years ago: the best way to help someone is to give them the resources to help themselves.

Since discovering the kippot, we’ve given MayaWorks headgear as gifts to our extended family. They’re more than a mark of our Jewish heritage. They’re a symbol of hope.

Israel: Sing It!!!

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Israel: Sing It! photo

This Wednesday night (Nov. 4) Chicagoans will have the rare opportunity to get a glimpse into Israeli culture—free of charge! Three former contestants of “ Kochav Nolad/ A Star is Born,” Israel's version of "American Idol," will perform “Israel: Sing it!!! A Concert Honoring Yitzhak Rabin's Legacy of Peace and Tolerance.”

The concert, presented by USD Hagshama and The Petach Tikva Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Program, starts at 7 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center78 E. Washington Street.

I got a chance to sit down with the show’s talented young Israeli artists yesterday as they arrived in Chicago—the last stop on their three week tour of the US—to learn a little bit about each of their lives and music careers,  and how being on one of Israel’s most popular television shows made them instantly famous!

Israela Asago

Israel: Sing It photo 1

“My family came from a small village in Ethiopia. Before I was born, they escaped and decided to make aliyah to Israel,” says Israela Asago, a competitor on the fourth season of “Kochav Nolad.” The singer, who will soon be turning 28, says she has been singing since she was four or five years old. She is currently working on an album of pop songs and consistently touring with Israel’s top artists.

Moran Gamliel

Israel: Sing It photo 2

Born in Israel, 29-year-old Moran Gamliel says he has been singing for as long as he can remember. He began his own band in high school and then served in the IDF’s Educational Music Corp. in what he calls a “military band.” After the army, Gamliel decided to try out for “Kochav Nolad” and made it to the semifinals. He released his first album shortly afterwards and currently has two songs in the Top 10 in Israel, one of which was number one. He describes his music as “soft rock and a bit of pop.” Check out one of his songs here.

Boris Soltanov

Israel: Sing It photo 3

Born in the Former Soviet Union, Boris Soltanov came to Israel at the age of 12 when his family decided to make aliyah. A musician from a young age, Soltanov, now 26, joined a band in high school and his music career took off from there. Though a teenage immigrant, Soltanov mastered Hebrew, joined the IDF and managed to break into the Israeli music scene at a young age. “In the middle of my army service I saw this commercial about this show, it was the first season,” Soltanov says. He tried out, made it to the semifinals of the first season and became part what quickly became the most popular show on Israeli television. He describes his music as “pop, but also classic. My roots definitely still are there.”

For all three of these singers, being on Israel’s version of “Idol” has opened up many new doors, including the opportunity to tour the US, visiting many cities for the first time.

“We’re excited because it’s a beautiful opportunity for us to see different places in our tour,” Soltanov says. “We’re blessed, I will say, to perform to show ourselves and still see the world. One of my main reasons to come here was to use this opportunity to travel a little bit and to see the US.”

According to the singers, tomorrow night’s show will be a bit slower paced and more acoustic than the regular concert these artists perform around the world—which features more upbeat, high energy pop music—but the message is still the same.

“The whole idea is just to bring today’s Israeli music to show this Israeli culture which is not really known to most of the people around the world,” Soltanov says. “Even if we’re performing in front of Jewish students, still people all around the world are not really familiar with Israel. We’re trying to bring this little bit of an educational message (to people) that (Israel) is much more than desert or those crazy things that they’re hearing in the news.

The main message is to show a different Israel--you know what, to show the real Israel.”

During the show, the three artists also share their personal stories and answer questions from the audience following their performance.

“We still do what we love to do,” Asago says, “we sing!”

Cosponsors for Wednesday’s concert include: American Zionist Movement, Birthright Israel NEXT, Chicago Sister Cities International Program, Consulate General of Israel, Israel Aliyah Center, The Israel House, JCRC's Israel Initiative, Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and USD/Hagshama.

Questions? Contact Aimee Weiss at  aimeew@jafi.org or check out the event on  Facebook .

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