OyChicago articles

Afterlight Events: Jews meeting Jews for a good cause

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The Matzo Bash 2010 photo_md

We’ve all been there before: you want to go out, have a good night, hang with friends, and potentially meet that special someone. So where do you do that? Go to a bar? A friend’s party? Sure you end up meeting a bunch of new people, but how can you meet new, Jewish people? One way is through JUF’s Young Leadership Division, which holds many great events throughout the year. Another place to meet fellow MOTs is parties hosted by Afterlight Events.

Comprised of different promoters and party planners and members, Afterlight Events is a group that works to create social scenes and parties for Jews in Chicago. But not only do they work to bring Jews together, they also do it for a cause.

“Our goal is to bring Jewish people together in a networking and social atmosphere, while raising money for Jewish nonprofits,” the group* said. “Our main goal is to help out non profits and charities who don’t have the capacity or the know-how to throw these events.”

Afterlight Events throws about three or four parties a year, including the Matzo Bash, one of the biggest parties in Chicago on Christmas Eve.

“At our Matzo Bash [last] year we had about 1,200 people at Enclave,” the group said. “And we raised thousands of dollars for charities. We also throw a Valentine’s Day party every year. We get sponsored and we raise money and a great portion of the ticket sales get donated to Jewish charities.”

While raising money for Jewish charities is the main goal of Afterlight Events, the fact that they help Jews meet other Jews is a huge benefit of the parties they throw.

“Obviously on Christmas Eve our biggest goal is to bring Jewish people together,” the group said. “We’ve had tons of people tell us that they’ve met their girlfriends or their wives, boyfriends at our parties which is obviously a mitzvah in itself.”

“We wanted to make it clear that understanding our heritage and meeting people in our religion is important and it can be done in a fun and social atmosphere. And up to today’s standards in Chicago, one of the best cities in the world, it’s important to have an opportunity to come together.”

However, sometimes throwing parties like the ones Afterlight Events plans can present a challenge.

“The only obstacle is really getting the word out,” the group said. “And we do a pretty good job of partnering with different organizations and groups to help them spread the word. A lot of times what we’ll do is we’ll throw an event for a charity but then have other non-profits sell tickets and they can make money for it too. So we give non-profits a vehicle to raise money in different capacities.”

The end goal that Afterlight Events is striving toward is  to partner with all the different Jewish not-for-profits in the city and to help them raise money, while having every Jewish person in the city come together at these events and have a great time.

“We have a lot of different events that we’re going to be planning in the next couple of years,” the group said. “If anyone has any interest in allowing us to help them raise money just let us know! We’ll be happy to work with you creatively.”

*Afterlight Events is a group of professionals in the Chicago area, and preferred to keep their names confidential.

“It’s not really about us, it’s about what we do,” the group said. “People are not going to come to a party because certain people are there. People are going to come to a party because we’re raising and donating money, and we’re having a good time.”

It’s not too late to get your tickets to The Matzo Bash 2010: Christmas Eve Gala
Enclave, 220 W Chicago Ave on Christmas Eve from 8 p.m.-2 a.m.

Tickets include:
­• ­Complimentary cocktails from 8-10 p.m.
­• Complimentary hors d'oeuvres & treats
­• Complimentary admission to the after party
­• JJ the DJ spinning all night long

Get your tickets through Oy!Chicago here.

A to Z

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26 Reasons to love being Jewish


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Can you name two past Jewish Supreme Court justices with last names beginning with the letter “F”?

Did you know the comic strip X-Men was created by Jews? And for the most random Jewish fact you’ll read today and probably this decade...Bet you didn’t know the Q-Tip was invented by a Jewish guy who thought the cotton apparatus would aid his wife cleaning hard to reach places?

You’ll learn these facts and others in the new coffee table book For the Love of Being Jewish: An A-to-Z Primer for Bubbies, Mensches, Meshugas, Tzaddiks, and Yentas (Triumph Books), a fitting book for the holiday season, which lists from A to Z the many reasons to love being Jewish.

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The book, written by local Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Am Shalom in Glencoe, and colorfully illustrated by Mark Anderson, explores key concepts of the Jewish religion and heritage through the lens of culture, history, ethics, and values—like Exodos, ner tamid (eternal flame), and tzedakah (charity, justice), and notes Jewish celebrities like Mel Brooks, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Sandy Koufax, Golda Meir, and Moses. The book is one in a series of For the Love of ______ books that have been published by Triumph Books, including For the Love of the Cubs and For the Love of Golf.

Each page, corresponding with the letters of the alphabet, is the basis for a short rhyme, accompanied by a colorful cartoon as well as terminology, quotes, and factoids starting with that letter.

While the book is whimsical and humorous, it also examines the weightier topics that come with 5,770 years of Jewish history. “The challenge was to make sure it wasn’t all fluff,” Lowenstein said. “The Holocaust had to be in the book, Zionism had to be in there. I wanted to make sure that these types of concepts—the seriousness of Judaism—were not [treated] in a light matter.”

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The book opens with a Mark Twain passage from an 1898 issue of Harpers magazine. He writes: “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race…[The Jew’s] contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers…All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

Lowenstein replies to Twain’s inquiry. “What is the secret of the Jews’ immortality?” he said. “How come this small people continues to survive and thrive year after year? The secret is perseverance, determination, and the chutzpah of the Jewish people.”

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Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein

We're giving away THREE copies of For the Love of being Jewish! Tell us why YOU love being a member of the tribe below. Make sure to leave your email in the comment form (it won't be displayed) so we can contact you if you win. If you don't win, and want to pick up the book on your own, check out  ForTheLoveOfBeingJewish.com  and click on purchase.

Secrets of a Jewish Mother

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Oy!Chicago gets real with Jill Zarin of the Real Housewives 

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of Bravo’s Real Housewives series. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s something about those women that makes you just want to keep watching. My favorite cast is definitely the Real Housewives of New York City, which includes Jewish housewife Jill Zarin, known on the show for her big heart—which shows in her devotion to her family, friends and her philanthropic work—and her big opinions—which sometimes gets her into trouble.

On Sunday, Jan. 23, Jill and her sister, Lisa Wexler, an award-winning talk radio host and the creator and executive producer of The Lisa Wexler Show, will speak for the first time in Chicago about the book they co-wrote with their mother Gloria Kamen, who currently writes the “Ask Gloria” column on BravoTV.com. The program, presented by Ida Crown Jewish Academy, will take place at Saks Fifth Avenue in Highland Park. Jill and Lisa will speak together about their book,  Secrets of a Jewish Mother: Real Advice, Real Stories Real Love (Dutton)  released last April, and answer questions about the Real Housewives show, followed by a Saks discounted shopping opportunity.

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I had the opportunity to talk to Jill before her visit about Jewish mothers, Real Housewives and not-so-real friendships:
Oy!Chicago: What can we expect at the Ida Crown Jewish Academy event in December?
Jill Zarin: We wrote a book called Secrets of a Jewish Mother that came out in April. The paperback version is actually coming out March 1 and with that we’ve added a chapter dedicated to bullying. The book is geared toward anyone—male, female—you don’t have to be Jewish to read the book and you certainly don’t have to be Jewish to be a Jewish mother as we all know, although it is so much more fun when you are. And we talk about everything like friendship, dating, education, marriage, career, money and my favorite chapter, probably parenting.

[At the event] we’ll talk about the book, we’ll read from it, we do a little quiz at the beginning which is ‘are you a Jewish mother?’ where we ask you 20 questions that sort of warms up the crowd.

What do you hope people will get out of it?
Laughs…and it’s a very relatable book [with] some very good wisdom and advice. What’s great about the book is that you can go to any chapter and pick something up about it…it’s the cycle of life interspersed with some comedy.

What would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from your Jewish mother?
Well my mother gives me advice every day, something as minimal as like ‘don’t forget your sweater, it’s freezing outside’ she loves to say to me, so I don’t know if there’s particularly one piece of advice.

And best advice you’ve given as a Jewish mother?
Well I’m definitely not done yet and Allyson’s still cooking—although she’s 18 now she might be almost medium well, I don’t think she’s well yet. I do think that whatever I have been doing is working because I think she’s a very well-adjusted, happy, loving, caring person. And what I love most about Ally is the heart she has—my daughter has a heart as big as the ocean.

Obviously being Jewish is a big part of your identity and your book. How and why does being Jewish influence what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I think that culturally what I love about the Jewish faith is that we really focus on family and tradition. And it’s those two things that make us happy and secure. Like my mother said in the show, life goes from Passover to Rosh Hashanah and back to Passover again. It’s always these traditions that make us feel part of a culture and loved and important and special.

Watching you on the show, people feel like they know you—like they are one of your girlfriends. Is that weird for you? Do you think your fans know the real you based on how you are portrayed?
Yes and no. I think overall, yes. I think that I’m not perfect, I think that I have a big heart and sometimes that gets me in trouble because I sometimes might put expectations on people because I would do [something] and they disappoint me. Overall I think that the show really does at the end really show who we are. There might be inaccuracies with particular stories or facts, but I think the overall impression is probably correct.

In your chapter on friendship, you mention your relationships with all the cast mates on Real Housewives—are any of them true friends or “front-row” friends as you call them in the book? How difficult is it to maintain true friendships with people you are filming a TV show with?
It’s very hard on a reality show because you don’t know what they’re saying behind your back, and sometimes you say and do things on the show because it’s good TV, or sometimes you’ll say something and they’ll edit it [so] it’s not really what you meant. It’s hard to not get mad at someone when they say something behind your back but you have to know that you all signed up for this TV show. So, it is hard, but I think at the end of the day clearly LuAnn is my longest friend on the show and I adore her. And I do think we will be lifelong friends—will she shift from the front row to the orchestra? Absolutely…I definitely think some of the girls are in my front row right now, will they stay there? Who knows. Only time will tell.

Last season, we saw your friendship with Bethenny [Frankel] unravel.
You know, it was edited in such a way that you don’t really know what I really did behind the scenes, there’s a lot that didn’t play on the show—a lot. I’m not going to get into specifics—but there was a lot of reaching out from Bethenny to me off camera and vice versa, but when the cameras were up you would never have known that. For example, she sent my daughter a birthday present last year right in the middle of filming, a big beautiful present—why? I found out on camera that day she just bashed me and said she never wanted to be my friend again—wouldn’t you call that a mixed signal?

I’ve heard that filming is underway for the fourth season of RHONY—how is that going? Will we be seeing more of your mom and sister on the show?
Yes. You will see Gloria, you will see Lisa. We’ve already filmed together and it’s going to be great. This season I think people are going to really be happier and it’ll be back to what it was. Which is fun, with a little drama.

What’s next for you?
Oh my goodness, glad you asked! I have a new line of bedding at Bedbathandbeyond.com which is doing really, really, really well, so I’m very happy. Prices for the set start at like $179 for a full decorator, gorgeous bedding comforter set. Beautiful. The other thing I’m working on is I have a shapewear and legwear line coming out hopefully in spring. I’m excited about it because all my girlfriends are trying them on and loving them asking me for more, so that’s a good sign. It’s very organic—you know I was in the hosiery business for about 15 years, so I feel like I’m going back to my roots, coming home.

Do you have any Chicago connections? Anything you like to do while you’re here?
Oprah!? Isn’t everybody connected to Oprah? I feel like she’s my friend. I’ve [was in Chicago] 15-20 years ago, so it’s been way too long, I’m really excited. It’s a beautiful city. But I’m excited, can’t wait!

To order tickets or learn about sponsorship opportunities, please call 773-973-1450 or go to  www.ICJA.org .

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