OyChicago articles

Local entrepreneur goes green with eco-friendly hanger designs

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Local entrepreneur goes green with eco-friendly hanger designs photo 1

One day, Chicago entrepreneur Adam Hyman was looking at the entangled wire hangers stacked perilously high on his shelf closet and decided it was time to dispose of them. Moments later, they were a jumbled mess on his floor. Wanting to do the environmentally responsible thing and recycle them, Hyman couldn’t find a metal recycling container and ended up taking them back to the dry cleaners.

It got him thinking. With all the environmentally-friendly products readily available in today’s market, shouldn’t there be a cardboard hanger that could go out with the daily newspaper and other junk mail?

And so the idea for TreeHangers was born.

“I’m sort of a “go for it” type of guy,” said Hyman. “I subscribe to Hillel’s maxim, “if not now, when.” There’s nothing I enjoy more than the creative endeavor in whatever capacity it may be, and I was energized by the possibility of developing a new product from concept to commercialization. I resigned from my sales job and went full speed ahead with my idea.”

Local entrepreneur goes green with eco-friendly hanger designs photo 2

Designed to provide eco-conscious consumers and retailers with a durable, sustainable, and visually appealing alternative to traditional garment hangers, the patent pending, stylishly simple, uniquely earthy hangers are made from recycled paper, soy based inks, and all natural glues.

“The amount of waste produced from the disposal of consumer products is staggering,” said Hyman. “By producing the hangers from recycled paper, we promote the conservation of our namesake.”

Hyman’s advice to others looking to follow their entrepreneurial dreams is do your research and find a mentor. “Most entrepreneurs, I’ve found, have very generous spirits and are more than willing to share their knowledge, offer advice, and even open up their network to you.”

He also stresses the importance of learning to deal with rejection and setbacks. “…See them as part of larger process, a process of growth and development. There are many insightful and inspiring books to cultivate this. One of my favorites is Failing Forward by John Maxwell,” said Hyman.

There is no typical day for this new entrepreneur.

“I usually have a set agenda on my calendar for the day, several things I want to accomplish to keep the momentum,” said Hyman. “I check to see if any orders came in. I could exchange e-mails with my manufacturer about shipping or logistics. Often, I have meetings set up with prospects, but sometimes this is all done online. I do a great deal of networking, attending Chamber of Commerce events and those of other business oriented organizations. There has been a lot of shipping of samples to retailers. Last week, I visited several Whole Foods to meet with the buyers of their Whole Body department. And then, there are days spent researching prospects or potential business partners. It really varies.”

Giving back to the Jewish community also occupies a good chunk of his time. Hyman recently participated in a JUF Hurricane Sandy Relief Mission to New York.

“At the risk of sounding falsely magnanimous or grandiose,” said Hyman. “One of my dreams is to eventually have the capacity to give back substantially to the Jewish community and the community at large. This is really the ultimate vision for any business endeavor I undertake and one of my prime motivators. I’ve got a long, long way to go before reaching that mountaintop, but that’s the goal. For me, I suppose you could say that it all boils down to tikkun olam and I try to find ways through business, in whatever modest capacity I can, to participate in that.”

For more information and to purchase your own TreeHangers, visit http://www.tree-hangers.com.

Passover 2013 at Chicago's Best Restaurants

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Passover 2013 at Chicago's Best Restaurants photo

Joe's Prime Steak, Seafood & Stone Crab (60 East Grand Ave.) is inviting guests to enjoy their classic Passover Dinner on Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26 from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. Guests will begin their meal with homemade Gefilte Fish with Red Beet Horseradish, followed by a Bib Lettuce and Chive Salad with Chopped Liver. Non-meat eaters aren't left out as Suzy Friedman's Vegetarian Chopped Liver will be offered as well. And since no Passover is complete without traditional Matzo Ball soup, Joe's will be serving theirs before offering the choice of either Herb Roasted Chicken, Braised Brisket of Beef or Wild Alaskan Halibut en Papillote. Up for the sharing are delicious side dishes including Potato Pancakes and Ginger Glazed Carrots. Topping off this Pesach feast is the Chocolate Macaroon Pie. The price is $45.95 (plus tax and gratuity) per person and reservations are required. Guests are encouraged to call (312) 379-5637 for more information and to reserve their spot.

If cozy bistro dining is more your style, Mon Ami Gabi (2300 N. Lincoln Park West) is also serving up dishes for Passover on Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The multi-course menu includes timeless favorites like a Seder Plate with Artisan Matzo Crackers, Matzo Ball Soup, Homemade Gefilte Fish, Suzy Friedman's Vegetarian Chopped Liver and Chopped Liver with Eggs and Onion. Main course offerings include Slow Braised Beef Brisket served alongside Potato Pancakes with Applesauce. Ending things on a sweet note is the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Fruit Compote. The price is $36.95 per person and $15.95 for kids 12 and under (plus tax and gratuity). If you'd rather entertain at home without the stress of pulling off a perfect meal on your own, then simply pick up one of Mon Ami Gabi's Passover carry out platters! No mess, no hassle, and all the traditional delicacies are included. Carry out orders must be placed by Thursday, March 14, at 5:00 p.m. Guests are encouraged to call 773-348-8886 to make their reservation or place carry out orders. Both locations are Lettuce Entertain You.

If you aren't in the city, there are several deli's like Max's, Max and Benny's (2 locations), or The Bagel (2 locations), however I suggest gathering your family and friends around a table at Glenview House to feast on traditional Seder favorites. Chef Grant Slauterbeck will feature a 3-course unleavened Passover Tasting Menu including his twist on celebratory dishes eaten during the week-long holiday.

3-Course Passover Tasting Menu:

First Course:
Chicken and matzah ball soup

Second Course – choice of:
Lemon and olive roasted chicken or
Sweet brisket served with potato kugel and red cabbage

Third Course:
Apple and cherry crumble

The Passover menu will be available Monday, March 25 through Tuesday, April 2 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for both lunch and dinner. $35 per person, not including tax and gratuity.

If you know of other Passover favorites that are serving up your favorite dishes, please comment on this article.

Second Annual Feed Chicago helps more in need

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Second Annual Feed Chicago helps more in need photo

"Giving back to the community through volunteer work is not a noble deed," said Eryn Bizar, a site leader for YLD and TOV's Feed Chicago, "it is just simply the right thing to do."

Eryn's words were put into action on Sunday, March 3, when more than 130 young adults volunteered throughout the Chicago area. In just one day, more than 15 projects were completed at 13 different organizations and hundreds of lives were touched. From sorting food donations to cooking meals and decorating cupcakes, young adults from around the Chicago area showed that- together-the younger generations can make a difference.

Last fall, in response to the rising interest in volunteer efforts, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago's Young Leadership Division and the Tikkum Olam Volunteer Network decided to act. Last year alone, 4,900 Jews received daily and/or weekly food assistance from a JUF agency. A whopping 522,614 meals, food bags, and grocery cards were provided to those in need through JUF. Feed Chicago was launched in the fall to provide a way for the young adults to volunteer and see the work of JUF first hand. This second time around, the young Jewish community made an even bigger impact.

"The cooperation, teamwork, and sheer enthusiasm of the group were contagious," said Caroline Musin Berkowitz, director of Volunteers and Outreach at The ARK. "We value our partnership with TOV and JUF."

"It means so much to see other Jewish groups coming together in a spirit of Tikkun Olam," said Amir Zadaka, who hosted a group of volunteers at the Jewish Relief Agency. "We are looking forward to the next time we can partner!" 

And he is not alone. Chicago Chesed Fund, Sarah's Circle, The Center for Enriched Living, and other organizations are all excited to host more volunteers from YLD and TOV.

"The volunteers should pat themselves on the back for a job well done," said Matt Gaines, YLD Board member and co-chair of the event. This was just one day. Imagine what young adults can do over the course of a year!

To learn about more opportunities, visit www.juf.org/yld and www.juf.org/TOV.

Caryn Fields is Campaign Associate of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago's Young Leadership Division.

‘From the Diaspora’

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From the Diaspora photo

While he was growing up in Glenview, Judaism and Israel remained two separate conversations for 26-year-old Scott Frankel.

"Israel was intimidating for me, primarily because I hadn't yet had an understanding or relationship with Israel. Then in college I saw a study that concluded that as each new generation of American Jews continues to pass, there's a greater disconnect with Israel. When I saw this, I realized it was time for me to begin to understand what my Jewish identity consists of, and Israel's place within that."

So after graduating college in 2009, Frankel took off to Tel Aviv with his camera in hand. While working at a documentary production company, he decided to create a film of his own.

"I wanted to create an original film that accomplished three main things: First, I wanted to tell a story that was non-political--to present a story from Israel that might be unknown to many, and framed in a fresh and creative style. Second, I wanted to capture this moment in time. Israel is very young--only 65 years old--and as it continues to develop, I wanted to take a snapshot of early 21st century life. And last, I wanted to understand what it means to be a Jew today, and the importance of Israel to that definition."

Over the next 10 months he shot more than 65 hours' worth of interviews with eight young Jews from six continents and "From the Diaspora" was born.

Oy!Chicago talked with Frankel, who now works for the iCenter here in Chicago, about his film and what it taught him about Israel, Jewish culture, and identity.

Oy!Chicago: How did you find the olim (immigrants) featured in the film?
Scott Frankel: In Tel Aviv, it's so easy to meet people. Chatting in line, or at the coffee shops, on the beaches, and hearing different dialects and accents all over the city…I was naive to how the Jewish communities and culture that existed around the world, and even though their stories were so much different than mine, there was a common thread that strung across them all.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during this process?
Something that has been significantly strengthened is my understanding of the community of Judaism. Everyone has their own practices and customs and culture and beliefs, and no matter what they are there's this underlying connection that can't be described, only felt. The magnitude of this was something that was known to me, but not yet understood until my arrival in Israel. And now it's in the forefront of my life, no matter where I am.

On your website, you say this is "a documentary unlike any other about aliyah (immigration to Israel), Judaism, or Israel. How so?
"From The Diaspora" is less a story about aliyah, and more a story about Jewish identity. Aliyah makes a great narrative spine because it's a big decision in one's life. It inherently forces one to dig deep to answer difficult questions about who they are, what they want with their life, and why it all matters. Aliyah is an entry point into a journey of self-discovery, and that's what this film is really about and why it's very different from other films surrounding aliyah.

What's next for you?
Now comes the film's distribution. "From The Diaspora" is a launching pad for discussion, and the goal is to host screenings and discussions in circles around North America and overseas. Bringing together Israelis and Americans, parents and children, students and educators, etc. I have some ideas about a 5 year follow up with the characters, and also perhaps a new group spanning 8 new countries, but one step at a time...

What else should we know about the film?
Before heading to Tel Aviv and starting this project, I was indifferent about Israel…But this experience has really opened a world of new understanding and conversation for me. I realized that my indifference was the biggest threat to Israel, and I hope to open some doors for others like me. Documentaries are a medium that have always spoke loudest to me, so I'm hoping to empower others to continue exploring through their own lenses.

For more information, including where you can order or download your copy today and how to book screenings and discussions, visit www.fromthediaspora.com.

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