OyChicago articles

TOV connects hot make-up artist to cancer patients at Sinai

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12/20/2011

TOV connects hot make-up artist photo

Makeup artist Eric Holt poses with patient Edith Haskin (center) and her daughter (left) after completing a makeover.

Eric Holt makes his living enhancing and perfecting peoples' appearances. As a makeup artist, he knows that when people like how they look, they can't help but feel uplifted emotionally as well.

Last week, in the spirit of the holiday season, Holt wanted to volunteer his services to women he felt could use an emotional boost-cancer patients. "I really wanted to volunteer my time because I can only imagine just how stressful and depressing the holidays can be for these women in treatment," he said. "As a makeup artist, I also know the transformative properties of makeup and its amazing healing abilities… While it might be just creams, powders, lotions, and potions to some, others can testify that one glance in a mirror, with beautiful makeup on, can do something to the soul that medicine can't."

In partnership with JUF's Tikkun Olum Volunteer (TOV) network, Holt and fellow freelance make-up artist Jacqueline V. Ortega, both Jewish, volunteered at Mount Sinai hospital's event for oncology patients on Dec. 12. The event is run in partnership with American Cancer Society's "Look Good…Feel Better" program, which offers free makeup kits and makeup guides to women undergoing cancer treatment. After the "Look Good… Feel Better" session, where a representative went over the makeup guide with the women, each woman got her own makeover. Holt and Ortega explained make-up techniques while attaching fake eye-lashes, drawing in eyebrows, and splashing on eye shadow.

Lacrisha Alexander was the first woman to get a makeover, and was visibly pleased with her new look. "When I went in, I felt bad because I lost my hair, my eyelashes, and my eyebrows," she said. "I lost everything, but now that I got [the makeover], I feel really good." The makeover gave her a good feeling that she says she hasn't had in a long time, and the event gave her a chance to interact with other people, something she said she enjoys but now rarely experiences. "I stay in the house… I come to chemotherapy and I come back home," she said. "This experience made me want to go out, to travel. I feel young again."

For Lolita Williams, the makeover was a first-time experience with makeup. "I go all-natural, wherever I go, all the time," she said. That may change, now that she has seen what she looks like with makeup on. "I'm looking good," she said. "I am looking better than I did when I came here today. When I went to the bathroom and was washing my hands, I looked up and it was like, wow." Williams was excited to show her new look to her husband, who has never seen her with makeup on.

Of the group, Edith Haskin seemed to react most emotionally to her makeover. She has been battling cancer for more than two years, in addition to overcoming two strokes during that time. Once a woman who put on makeup every day, whether at work or at home, Haskin admitted to feeling disheartened about how she looks. Dealing with cancer has taken a great toll on her emotionally, she said. "Since I was diagnosed, I lost interest in my whole appearance," she said. "I wanted to give up, slip away." The makeover seemed to revive her spirit, and give her new motivation to look after herself. "It made me feel brand-new," she said. "It made me feel good about myself. No matter what we are going through in life, we are still human beings. We are all wonderful and perfectly made, and it just gave me a pick-up."

Yael Brunwasser, director of Volunteer Services at TOV, was responsible for arranging Holt and Ortega's visit to the hospital, seeing an opportunity for JUF agencies to partner in doing a good deed. "When approached by a talented makeup artist who wanted to donate his services, I realized that many of our agency's clients would benefit from his expertise," she said. "It was important for me to illustrate the myriad ways our community can volunteer through TOV. We are the connection point for members of our community to those in need."

For more information about volunteer opportunities through TOV, contact Yael Brunwasser at YaelBrunwasser@juf.org or at (312) 357 -4978. Mount Sinai Hospital, an affiliate agency of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, is an integral part of the broader Sinai Health System.

Late night with Jimmy—and his 2,600 new best friends

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12/12/2011

Late night with Jimmy photo 1

Jimmy Fallon perfoming at YLD's Big Event. Photo credit: Robert Kusel

Jimmy Fallon's everywhere these days.

In the last week alone, you may have seen him interviewed on a talk show; caught him on a commercial; eaten his Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor; heard him deejay the top 40 countdown on the radio; and—oh yeah—watched him host his own late night talk show five nights a week. And next weekend, Fallon returns to his comedy alma mater Saturday Night Live to host the show's big holiday episode.

But this past Saturday night, Dec. 10, Fallon hung out only with us. Check out my interview with Fallon.   

He stopped by Chicago to spread some pre-Chanukah cheer to the more than 2,600 young Jewish Chicagoans at the Young Leadership Division's (YLD) fourth Annual Big Event-the largest event in YLD history. The evening, held at the Sheraton Chicago, kicked off YLD's 2012 Annual Campaign, and featured a performance by Fallon, a comedian, actor, writer, and musician.

Fallon carries on the Late Night legacy, begun by David Letterman and Conan O'Brien, and premiered his NBC talk show Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in the spring of 2009. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Upstate New York, he worshiped Saturday Night Live (SNL) as a kid, which proved prophetic when he was cast on the show from 1998-2004. Later, the Manhattan-based star left the show to pursue film, including movies like Fever Pitch and Taxi.

A crowd as big as a football field

Late night with Jimmy photo 2

The party continues after Fallon's performance. Photo credit: Robert Kusel

The audience watched two videos: one video described the importance of helping those in need here in Chicago and in Israel. A second film conveyed what being Jewish and giving back means to young Chicago-area Jews.

Jason Chess, YLD president, was thrilled with the size of the crowd. "We never expected to sell out the hotel's main ballroom for YLD's Big Event—it's as long as a football field," Chess said. "Among the record sellout crowd, many of them were first-time donors to YLD and JUF—that's very powerful. The JUF message is being spread widely among the YLD generation and the future Jewish leaders of Chicago."

Late night with Jimmy photo 3   

From left: Chess, Fallon, and Sarnoff. Photo credit: Robert Kusel 

Chess introduced Fallon to the stage, along with Jewish comedian/musician Wayne Federman, a surprise opening act. Federman, who has written for Fallon's show, has played comedic roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm and 40-Year-Old Virgin, among others. During his act, Federman explored his Jewish identity and riffed on the branches of Judaism as well as Chanukah gelt dredging up old Jewish stereotypes. Then, he commented on his own topsy-turvy Jewish migration pattern. "I grew up in Florida," he said, "and then moved to New York City, where I worked, and then I'm going to retire to Minsk-I'm doing the whole thing backwards."

Let's have a 'Carwash for Peace'

Late night with Jimmy photo 4

Photo credit: Robert Kusel 

After all, Fallon comes across as a grateful person, who feels privileged to do what he does and doesn't take his success for granted. In fact, during the Big Event show, every now and then he'd call out to the crowd how honored he was to be there. "Thank you guys so much," he'd say. "I'm having such a fun time."

The Irish-Catholic comedian, who once considered becoming a priest, expressed his admiration for the Jewish people, including a shout-out to Jewish mothers. "I want to say thank you to all the Jewish moms I met backstage," he said. "I got offered 10-15 dishes of food-I'm not kidding-in the span of five minutes. It was so awesome and cute."

Fallon interspersed his standup comedy with impersonations, sample "thank you" notes from his book, and musical song parodies, including a kumbaya song called "Carwash for Peace." "Well I'm so sick of all the news on TV," his song began. "All this fighting got me going crazy…let's have a carwash for peace. There's trouble in the Middle East. Put down those guns and pick up a sponge-carwash for peace."

The 30-something married comedian—sorry Ladies!—peppered his act with banter with the audience. "Hey, what do you do?" he asked a guy named Jim in the front row. "Investment business," Jim responded. Fallon nodded and simply replied, "1 percent," referring to the "Occupy Wall Street" news headlines.

Fallon continued his dialogue with the crowd. "There are so many good looking people [here]—there's a Jewish Taylor Lautner," Fallon said, referring to the pretty boy star of the teen werewolf movie phenomenon Twilight. Nowadays, he said, teens appropriately play high school students in movies, but back in the 1970s, actors like John Travolta played roles way too young for their real age. Then Fallon morphed into Travolta in Grease. "I can't believe I'm a high school student…" he said. "I'm going to be late for class because I've got to go get my prostate checked…Rizzo's going through menopause."

In addition to his Travolta, Fallon impersonated a slew of celebrities, including Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Robin Williams, and Adam Sandler. Plus, he did musical impressions on guitar and harmonica of singers Neil Young and Bob Dylan crooning the TV theme songs to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Charles in Charge.

Before the show ended, the comedian tested some material that he may perform on Saturday Night Live next weekend. "Anyone here on Friendster?" Fallon polled the crowd, referring to a bygone social networking site of five years ago-an eternity in the rapidly changing tech world. Then, he tried again: "You guys are all on Facebook, right?" he asked, followed by his medley of songs by current musicians like Cee Lo Green, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber, changing their lyrics to Facebook-related themes.

Fallon's play on teen pop idol Justin Bieber's hit song "Baby," went like this: "I got the invite to your event. I ignored it so you resent. I know I'm on your mailing list. But I don't want to go to your nephew's bris. So I'm a maybe maybe maybe oh…"

And speaking of maybes, maybe he'll play that song next week on Saturday Night Live, but the young Jews of Chicago heard it first.

A special thank you to the Birthright Israel Foundation for their generous support of YLD's Big Event. YLD's Big Event Supporting Sponsors were Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and Associated Agencies, Inc., Eleven City Diner, and The Great Escape. The Event Sponsors were Chicago Apartment Finders, Hub51, JFS Realty Capital, LTD, Paris Club, Steve's Deli, and T-Mobile.

Geja's Cafe: Hats off to the best fondue in the world

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12/06/2011

Kevin Friduss photo

There comes a time in a couple’s relationship when the words “we need to try that place” come up. Even if you aren’t dating, you may see a commercial or pass by a restaurant and think to yourself “wow, I need to remember this." For many of you foodies, you have a list and it’s time that you re-order it and place Geja’s Café in Lincoln Park at the very top.

After experiencing what has been dazzling Chicago for over 45 years, I came to the conclusion that you aren’t a real foodie until you’ve hit this hot spot. Geja’s Café is the ultimate in fondue, with an amazing assortment of fresh fish, meats, and a delectable cheese platter that will make your palette dance with deliciousness. While sitting in a dimly lit room, you’ll listen to the sounds of a live Flamenco Guitarists (weekends), or the soft music of the Spanish country. After choosing a drink from the very extensive wine list and choosing your premier dinner, the fun begins.

Geja’s Café offers prefix type dinners, all for around $40-$50, and come with four courses. First, you’ll start with their famous Geja salad that comes dressed in Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Second, an assortment of fruit and bread to dip in their wonderful imported Gruyere melted cheese that is mixed with white wines, Kirsch cherry brandy, and other spices. Next, along with your premier meal that you choose, you’ll have eight different sauces before your eyes along with a large assortment of vegetables to cook yourself to the temperature that you prefer.

The Geja signature platter is the Prince Geja’s Combination that includes aged beef tenderloin, assorted seafood, succulent Australian lobster tail, Gulf jumbo shrimp, St. George’s Banks sea scallops, and the tenderest of boneless chicken breast. If you are a vegetarian or Kosher, there is also a vegetable specific option for you. After finishing your main dishes, the blue flame is re-lit for the most spectacular dessert fondue of your life. In a dish full of pure melted chocolate fudge, you have the opportunity to dip in your favorites, like, marshmallows, pineapple, banana, strawberries, and pound cake among other items. Along with your premier dinner, you will receive a complimentary cup of coffee to close out the night.

In case you were wondering how Geja’s Café got their name, Prince Geja originated in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh in 697 A.D. The Prince spent most of his childhood on Mt. Tizi in the Atlas Mountains, and when he was older, he opened up an establishment that served the finest wines and cheeses from all over the globe. Now13 centuries later, his legacy is here in the Windy City.

Not only is Geja’s Café a restaurant that you need to add to your list, it’s also a place of special celebration as they cater to anniversarys, engagements, and other special nights. The next time you are looking for a restaurant that is the real deal in Chicago, check out Geja. 

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