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A Film Unfinished

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A Film Unfinished photo_md 

This Sunday, May 1, join Birthright Israel NEXT and JUF's Young Leadership Division with support from the Holocaust Remembrance Committee and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for a very special Yom Hashoah screening of award winning documentary “A Film Unfinished.” Estelle Laughlin, a volunteer with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will share her account of living in the Warsaw Ghetto, followed by a screening of the film in which Israeli filmmaker Yael Hersonski exposes a long missing film reel from the Warsaw Ghetto— unmasking new dimensions of the Nazi propaganda effort.

Estelle was just 10 years old, living in Warsaw, when the war broke out.

“My family was a middle class family—holidays and friends and just a normal life where I felt secure and loved and, then of course, Warsaw was the center of my universe,” she said. “And then when the war broke out my world, my peaceful street turned into hell.”

Estelle, whose father was one of the organizers of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, reflected on the bravery and tenacity of the resistance fighters.

“I want to emphasize the heroism that the Jewish people in the ghetto mastered and I think that it probably reflects the fact that Jewish people were in ghettos and were persecuted throughout history, but they’ve always managed to create their own culture…that ability to create our own culture under the worst of circumstances…this is our savior. That it’s not a miracle that we survive.”

In the Warsaw Ghetto, Estelle and her family hid to escape the deportations.

“It’s astounding to think that between July 1942, which was my 13th birthday, when the deportations started and Sept. 1942, 99 percent of the Jewish children in the ghetto were sent away never to be seen again. I was among the one percent of the children who have survived.”

Estelle’s family was taken to Majdanek, an extermination camp, where she, her sister and her mother survived—her father was sent to the gas chamber. The three women were later sent to two different labor camps and were liberated from the Czetochowa camp in January of 1945. To escape pogroms in Poland following the war, they moved to Bavaria in August of 1945 and eventually moved to the United States. She now lives in Chicago.

Today, Estelle volunteers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She speaks about her experiences during the Holocaust not to reflect on “the curse of darkness of the past” but rather “to illuminate the future.” She discusses her story further in her memoir— set to be released next year by Texas Tech University Press.

At Sunday’s event, Estelle wants to emphasize that which gave her the strength to survive.

“I am marveling at the child that I was through the eyes of an old person. Where did I find the resources to survive with love for humanity, with compassion, with reverence for life?” she said. “I think that the compensation for reliving that pain [is] the reward to recognize that the young people, that children are wise,” she said. “That they know the difference between right and wrong, that they make choices and that there is a goodness in all of us.”

This year, in honor of Yom Hashoah, Estelle has the following message for Jewish young adults: “I would like to pass on that in memory of those who lived and died and paid the highest price to live by their values, to understand, to remember that the purpose of remembering all of that is to touch and hold on to the best that is in us so that civilization can progress. That it is not to curse the darkness of the past, it’s to understand and make the future brighter for everyone in this world. That we are all one family.” 

Chicago: A Film Unfinished: A Yom HaShoah Screening and Reception 

The evening begins at 5:30 pm in the Gene Siskel Film Center café and gallery, 164 North State St, where appetizers will be served. The program will begin at 7 pm with Estelle Laughlin, a volunteer with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, sharing her account of living in the Warsaw Ghetto, followed by a screening of the film. 

We did it!

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100,000 thanks to our 100,000 visitors! 

We did it photo 

Last Friday, April 15, Oy!Chicago turned 3! To celebrate, we asked all of you to tell your friends and family to check out Oy! and help us reach our 100,000th unique visitor. And thanks to all of you, we did it! As of today, Oy!Chicago has reached 100,346 visitors!

Thanks for reading and being a part of Oy! over the past 3 years—we couldn’t have done it without you and we look forward to celebrating many more Oy! birthdays!

The Oy! team 

8 Questions for Cleetus Friedman, chef, foodie, improv fan

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8 Questions for Cleetus Friedman photo 

Christina Noel Photography

Cleetus Friedman has had two professional lives. First he spent years as an actor performing improv and in solo shows across the country. Nowadays, the stage for Cleetus is his monthly Supper Clubs. City Provisions is a delicatessen meets catering company with monthly supper clubs where Cleetus and his staff work hard to provide local, sustainable, organic fare to their clientele. In their world of catering they pride themselves that, “With 48 hours notice [they] can do just about anything.”

So whether you love yourself some local, organic fare, spend summer nights outdoors with strangers or look alike for Chris Daughtry, Cleetus Friedman is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
I read the Chicagoist daily. I use Twitter and Facebook to stay on top of things these days. Flipboard on my iPad rocks. I aggregate these [sites], plus wired, uncrate, bon appetite, and more.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
Japan, then Africa. Does the moon count as an answer?

3. If a movie was made about your life, who would play you?
Chris Daughtry— it would be his entry into film from music.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be?
Everyone asks this question and I can never pin it down.
Richard Pryor— one of my biggest comedic influences since I was a kid.
James Baldwin— a literary influence.
Chuck D— one of the greatest lyricists of all time in the world of hip-hop.
Rick Bayless— although I consider rick a mentor and we chat frequently, it would be great to sit down and actually have a few hours to talk and shoot the shit about food, farmers, and the biz.

5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
Lately, my perfect day has been Sundays, hanging out with my wife and kids. It has become so rare that I see them due to my schedule. At work, my perfect day is the farm dinner days. Having a cigar by the bonfire, watching 40 people laugh and party that were all strangers 10 hours earlier is the greatest pleasure.

6. What do you love about what you do?
Everything. I have created a company where I look forward to coming in each day. I can work 80 hours in a week and still look forward to coming back the next day. Every aspect of working with local farmers & producers, to my staff, to our product...it's all about passion and I love what I do.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
A stunt man, car driver.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
Does eat corned beef count?

New Hadassah cookbook brings modern tastes to Jewish cuisine

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New Hadassah cookbook photo 

Take loads of fresh vegetables, small portions of lean meats, a healthy handful of quinoa and other whole grains, add a sprinkling of cumin and paprika, mix with world flavors, and the result is the essence of Leah Koenig’s new cookbook, “The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen” (Universe, $34.95).

“It’s about trying to meld together traditional Jewish tastes with contemporary global palette that we all eat today,” Leah said.

Originally from Oak Park, she has lived in New York City for almost seven years. She writes about food for The Forward and other publications, and also used to edit the award-winning blog “The Jew & The Carrot” for Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization.

Leah embraced the search for great everyday recipes by culling from her own extensive collection and asking family and friends to contribute. The pepper steak recipe on page 152 is her mother’s as is the “Moistest Chocolate Cake,” which was a staple of birthday parties throughout her childhood.

The cookbook is a departure from the Hadassah mold of a collection of members’ recipes. Moreover, traditional fare like chicken cutlets and borscht sits alongside more exotic ingredients like Indonesian tempe, tofu and za’atar.

Divided into eight sections—Breakfasts and Breads; Salads and Spreads; Sandwiches and Pizzas; Soups and Stews; Sides; Mains; Sweets; and Anytime Snacks—the book is full of color photos and useful tips accompany each recipe. The back of the book features several pages of menu ideas, which combine the recipes into meals: a hearty fall dinner or a movie night or a lazy Sunday brunch.

Although most recipes are meant to be prepared quickly by busy home chefs, she tried to avoid limiting herself to the Rachael Ray 30-minute-meal philosophy.

“I tried to select recipes that could be made by a tired person at the end of the day,” she said. “There was a lasagna recipe [that I wanted to include], but realistically, no one would want to make it after work.”

With Pesach coming up, home cooks are likely to scramble to put elaborate fare on the Seder table. But the intermediate days of the holidays are where this book will come in most handy. With recipes like Shakshuka, Quinoa-Stuffed Squash with Pears and Cranberries, or Brown Sugar-Glazed Salmon, Leah offers plenty of dishes for kosher home-style meals during Hol Hamoed—after a few small-time substitutions to keep within the regimens of the holiday.

Leah said compiling the book was akin to a rigorous cooking course; recipe testing played a key role. She shares some of the tricks of the trade in the book, which she hopes will be a point of reference for newer cooks who are less comfortable with the idea of improvisation.

“I’m the type of cook who reads cookbooks more for ideas than for actual recipes. It’s pretty rare that I follow a recipe start to finish without tweaking something or changing ingredients for what I actually have on hand,” Leah said. “I hope people use it as a jumping-off point; find one or two favorites that they make again and again and add to their repertoire.”

‘Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story’ to premiere in Chicago April 14

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Jews and Baseball photo 1 

Ira Berkow

Did you know “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” ranks as the most frequently played song in America after “Happy Birthday” and the “Star Spangled Banner”? And were you aware that a Jewish writer composed the anthem? Impress your sports aficionado friends with his name, Albert Von Tilzer, at your next cocktail party.

The Jewish love affair with baseball is detailed in the new documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (Clear Lake Historical Productions). Written by Ira Berkow, directed by Peter Miller, and narrated by Dustin Hoffman, the film chronicles the impact of Jewish players on the sport and the sport’s impact on American Jews.

In the film, Rabbi Michael Paley, a fan of the game, likens the start of the baseball season to the head of the Jewish year. “We can win this year,” he said, “and otherwise, there’s always next year.”

The film is being released with screenings around the world, including in Chicago this spring and summer.

The Anti-Defamation League will present the Chicago premiere of Jews and Baseball on Thursday, April 14, at 6 pm at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. Berkow, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former New York Times sports columnist, will speak following the screening.

The film will also be screened followed by a softball game at the Holiday Star Theater in Park Forest on Sunday, July 10.

Jews and Baseball photo 2 

Ever since Jews reached the American shores in droves around the turn of the 19th century, we’ve been addicted to America’s great pastime. Back when Jews were considered the “other,” striving to assimilate into society, the baseball field was the great equalizer.

“The film tells the story of an ethnic group who happens to be Jewish who attempt as immigrants to assimilate into America through the focus of baseball,” Berkow said. “This could be the story of Blacks, Latinos, or Italians. Baseball was a way to become more American.”

When slugger Hank Greenberg emerged as the first Jewish superstar in the 1930s, American Jews rejoiced.

Greenberg’s son Steve and granddaughter Melanie are interviewed in the documentary. “It’s easier for Jews now, but I still think when a Jew accomplishes something that a Jew isn’t supposed to be able to accomplish, they’re acting on behalf of their community,” Melanie said. “I [still] feel a sense of pride when I see a Jewish ball player.”
Then in 1965, every Jewish kid and parent alike kvelled when Sandy Koufax opted not to pitch in Game One of the World Series because it fell on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

Paley recalls the excitement as a youngster in watching Koufax, a fellow Jew, on the field. “This piece of perfection, a Jew, not imposing, and like one of the kids in your neighborhood,” Paley said. “…You could say to yourself, if Sandy Koufax, maybe me.”

The film—chock full of game footage, vintage newsreels, and archival and new interviews with players, fans including Larry King and Ron Howard, and historians—documents contributions of Jewish players, from Lipman Pike to Moe Berg, Greenberg, Al Rosen, Koufax, Adam Greenberg, Shawn Green, and Kevin Youkilis, spanning the history of the game. In a rare interview, Hall of Fame pitcher Koufax agreed to be interviewed in the documentary.

A poignant moment of the film follows ball player Adam Greenberg, who continues his attempt to return to the majors after being hit in the head in his first and only Major League appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 2005.

The documentary chronicles the full circle journey of Jews making it America from the nascent days of the game when anti-Semitic slurs were chanted at the Jewish players from the bleachers to today when Bud Selig, a Jew, sits at the pinnacle of the sport as commissioner of Major League Baseball. “Forty or 50 years ago, the thought that a Jew cold be the commissioner of baseball would have been significantly far-fetched,” said Selig in the film. “…That might have been the understatement of the year.”

Berkow, who now resides in Manhattan, grew up a Cubs fan on Chicago’s West Side playing Little League and then high school baseball as a pitcher and first baseman. “As kids, we would sneak into Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park on a regular basis,” he said. “And we would play stickball in the allies on the West Side. All of those memories are part of my heritage. Baseball is part of the romance of growing up in America.”

Tickets for the Chicago premiere of “Jews and Baseball” at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies on Thursday, April 14, at 6 p.m. are available at www.adl.org/jewsandbaseball. For information call Elana Stern at (312) 782-5080, ext. 254. 

“Jews and Baseball” will also be shown in the South Suburbs this summer on Sunday morning, July 10 at the Holiday Star Theater at 340 Main Street in Park Forest. After the show, there will be a community event including a 3-inning softball game at Park Forest's Central Park on Field D. For more information, call (708) 798-1884, email david.m.epstein@earthlink.net, or visit www.c-j-c.org/ 

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