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My top 10 Jewish architects

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I practice architecture. Although if you ask my bosses I’m sure they'd tell you that I’m just very good at playing the part. It is true that as a kid I had an extensive Lego collection that caused my mother many stubbed toes. I raided local construction sites for discarded two by fours—they looked discarded anyway—that I would use to fasten a variety of Laugierian Primitive Huts. While I do not dress in all black and do not wear slender framed eye glasses, I certainly have my own tradeMarked (pun intended) fashion quirks. Ninety degree weather is hardly an obstacle for my Patagonia down vest. My dress socks—usually polka-dotted cycling socks—rarely match. I'd like to think that I could easily pick an architect out of a line-up based solely on their stylish oddities.

There are certainly commonalities inside and outside of my profession about what architects do and what defines us as a larger whole. I'm not sure how many times I’ve been told that I must be good at math. I'm not sure how many times I’ve read the terms, 'zeitgeist' and 'vis a vis.' However, the commonality that bridges both of these is the idea that we as architects design and construct spaces that are intended for use by a group of people, a society, and a culture. There is a strong argument to be made that architecture strives to engage and construct the thoughts, feelings, and cultural settings of its period of time.

When I tasked myself to identifying my favorite Jewish architects there was a sense of futility. It is much easier for me to understand architecture, and more specifically an architect through the lens of a period of time, a specific ideology or place. It's much easier to identify something as Scandinavian, Post-Modernist, or contemporary. It is much harder to understand what role heritage plays in a specific individual or work. However, as I began to dig and investigate I got the sense that there was an added amount of importance, pride, and/or brevity to these architects and their works. This is especially true for when they dealt with designing Jewish institutions. With that said, my aim is not to attempt to identify any specific similarities nor is it to identify anything specifically Jewish. This is simply an exercise about listing my favorite Jewish architects with the hopes that you, the reader, may discover for yourself what makes them important to you and to society.

My top 10 Jewish architects (in no particular order): 

Frank Gehry (born Frank Goldberg):
Gehry is one of today's most famous architects. Winner of the Pritzker (architecture's most prestigious prize) and widely considered one of the most important contemporary architects, he changed his name early in his career at the behest of his wife to, presumably, avoid any anti-Semitic views.
My favorite work: DZ Bank in Berlin 

Dankmar Adler:
One of Chicago's greatest architects. He later partnered with Louis Sullivan (another of Chicago's most famous architects) and changed the modern cityscape by using modern steel skeleton structures to express the lightness and openness of modern buildings. He was an important figure within the Chicago School of Architects.
My favorite work: Auditorium Building in Chicago 

My top 10 Jewish architects photo 1 

Auditorium Building 

Richard Meier:
Meier is a Jewish American architect and winner of the Priztker Prize. He is best known for his pure white rational design style. Meier is the only Jewish architect to have designed and built a church for the Roman Catholic Church.
My favorite work: Jubilee Church in Rome 

Luis Kahn:
My favorite architect and arguably the greatest American architect. Kahn is famous for his monumental style of architecture with focuses on pure form and function. He was commissioned to rebuild the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem but sadly politics never allowed his design to be constructed.
My favorite work: The Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, TX 

Daniel Libeskind:
Libeskind is a contemporary American architect. He won the master plan competition to reconstruct the World Trade Center sites following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Among his many famous designs are his three Jewish museums in Copenhagen, Berlin, and recently San Francisco.
My favorite work: Jewish Museum in Berlin 

Peter Eisenman:
Eisenman is a contemporary architect. He is best known for his fragmented work and as a great architectural theoretician. His design for a Holocaust memorial in Berlin created a lot of controversy for its stark and evocative expression.
My favorite work: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial) in Berlin 

My top 10 Jewish architects photo 2 

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (foreground) and DZ Bank (background) 

Marcel Breuer:
Breuer is a famous Hungarian-born architect from the Bauhaus school of design. He is most famous for his furniture designs. While relocating to London in the 30s due to the rise of Nazi party in Germany, he was introduced to one of the world’s leading furniture manufacturers and able to complete and build his most famous chair, the long chair.
My favorite work: long chair 

Moshe Safdie:
Safdie is a famous Canadian architect. He recently completed, The Kauffman Center, in Kansas City to much acclaim. He is best known for, at the ripe age of 24, winning a competition for the World's Fair in Montreal.
My favorite work: Habit 67 in Montreal 

Erich Mendelsohn:
Mendelsohn was a famous German architect whose very expressive works challenged the highly rational and utilitarian works for his contemporaries.
My favorite work: Einstein Tower in Potsdam 

My top 10 Jewish architects photo 3 

Einstein Tower 

Arieh Sharon:
Sharon was an Israeli architect who was integral in establishing architectural style in Israel. He studied under famous Bauhaus architect, Walter Gropius, and started the Bauhaus style of Tel Aviv.
My favorite work: Jerusalem Master Plan of 1950 

8 Questions for Matt Pais, RedEye movie critic, newlywed, and Ryan Gosling fan

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8 Questions for Matt Pais photo 

Matt Pais has a cool job. Make that three of them. You might not know his name, but you’ve probably read his articles in the RedEye on your commute to work. A movie critic for the newspaper, he frequently writes witty, spot on movie reviews, interviews celebs and covers red carpet events throughout the city. He also oversees the Chicago.Metromix.com home page as the Metromix senior producer, digital and is a weekly correspondent for WCIU-Ch. 26’s “You and Me this morning.”

A Deerfield native and still under 30, Matt has already made quite the name for himself in the celebrity journalism world. A recent newlywed, Matt took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our AJYSK questions.
So whether you, too, want to be the next Gene Siskel, enjoy your latkes with sour cream and apple sauce or love Michigan, Matt Pais is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
I must pick something unrelated to movies or music, so I'm going with SportsIllustrated.com.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel to?
Europe. I've been to Spain (still need to go to Barcelona), London and Scotland, but there are a lot of places (next up: Italy) my wife and I want to go.

3. If a movie was played about your life, who would play you?
Ryan Gosling. No resemblance but he's great in everything, so I trust him to make it work.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, dead or alive, famous or not, who would it be?
Pat Tillman and Jeff Buckley.

5. What is your idea of the perfect day?
Waking up to lemon ricotta pancakes at the bed and breakfast my wife and I go to every year in Union Pier, Michigan. Then reading and listening to music on the beach, followed by a bike ride along the country road. Mid-afternoon games, with wine. The world's best buffalo chicken pizza for dinner at Stray Dog Bar and Grill. Ending the day by looking at stars and enjoying the sound of the water.

6. What do you love about what you do?
The challenge of devising fun, unique questions for celebrity interviews. The ability to stretch from print to TV to radio to the Internet. A constant influx of new movies to see (free) and albums to hear (free). No complaints.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Guy ceaselessly pursuing the job I actually do have now.

8. What is your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
Eat latkes. Sour cream and applesauce please.

8 Questions for Kevin Friduss, apartment finder, DU hockey fan, BBYO volunteer

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8 Questions for Kevin Friduss photo

How’d you find your last apartment? Craigslist? Driving up and down streets looking for rental signs? Or maybe you want to one of the many rental companies popping up around the city that specialize in finding people apartments? If so, you might have worked with Kevin Friduss. Kevin, a DU graduate, is a real estate consultant.

Away from work, Kevin, a self-proclaimed, “extreme outdoor enthusiast” can be found at the beach in the summer and on a mountain in the winter. A nationally ranked Triathlete and huge Chicago sports fan, Kevin also has a passion for writing (he just might be the next Oy! blogger) and planning events.

So whether you want to travel the world in a day, enjoy a good grape stomping or need help finding your perfect home, Kevin Friduss is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
After attending college at the University of Denver, I became obsessed with college hockey. My favorite blog is letsgodu.blogspot.com, because it is everything DU sports. If I had to choose the website I use most, it would be Weather.com.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel to?
I would start the day by taking a private jet to the big island of Hawaii where I would have an early golf game at one of the islands most expensive courses. Then I would get on a supersonic jet and fly to New Zealand for some adrenalin-pumping and heart-stopping extreme sports that they have to offer. For lunch, I would board a passing cruise ship for a massive buffet of lobster, shrimp and crab. Because I would be consuming so many calories, I would swim a couple miles back to shore and hopefully be greeted with a solid hour of video games in a private movie theater all to myself with my closest friends. After that, we would fly first-class to Disney World for a night of fun at Epcot and finish off at Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney.

3. If a movie was played about your life, who would play you?
Kevin Costner

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, dead or alive, famous or not, who would it be?
Michael Jackson. He had a profound effect on my life. I would also invite Lucille Ball and get in a grape stomping contest with her.

5. What is your idea of the perfect day?
I would start with an early swim in Lake Michigan, then a run over to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park for some brioche bread and crepes. A picnic in the park would be nice, and then a walk on the lakefront. To top it off, a sushi dinner at Toro, and then a movie.

6. What do you love about what you do?
I get to talk to cool people all day while looking at apartments.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
I have always wanted to be an event planner for major concerts and/or sporting events.

8. What is your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
I volunteer for the Great Midwest Region of BBYO. I love attending events with my chapter based out of Northbrook!

If you're new to Chicago or just looking for a new apartment, you can reach Kevin at KevinFriduss@gmail.com and he'll help you find your next place!

Flamenco’s Jewish ties

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Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre celebrates its 35th anniversary with special performances 

Flamenco’s Jewish ties photo 

Photo credit: Joe Davis 

The Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre (EESDT) recently celebrated its 35th Anniversary during the ten-day American Spanish Dance and Music Festival. The anniversary celebration concluded with three dramatic shows on June 24, 25, and 26 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Now based at Northeastern Illinois University, the EESDT was founded in 1976 by Dame Libby Komaiko, who is the Ensemble’s Artistic Director. In 1983, His Majesty Don Juan Carlos I, King of Spain, presented Dame Libby with the highest honor the country bestows on a foreign national, the “Lazo de Dama” de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica (Ribbon of the Dame) to recognize her accomplishments in advancing the artistic, cultural, and educational values of the Spanish tradition through the arts in the United States.

Dame Libby is also, Jewish. This is actually not surprising, as Flamenco—which is commonly known for its Spanish roots—has long been a fusion of cultural influences. There is a strong Jewish imprint in Flamenco-style dance, as well as Indian, Greek, Roman and Persian influences.

I recently had the opportunity to take in a performance of the EESDT anniversary show. Comprised of fourteen fabulous Flamenco inspired dance performances, the show ranged from pieces with the entire cast to duet dances and solos. Watching the dancers perform, was like watching a vibrant painting unfold before me with invigorating movement and music that enlivened my senses.

After the performance, I spoke with Sara Samuels, another Jewish dancer with EESDT and a native Chicagoan.

Sarah began dancing at the early age of 6 with Lilette Rohe of the Lilette Rohe School of Ballet in Evanston. After high school, Sara decided to travel to Spain to study and fell in love with Spanish culture. Upon returning to the United States, she learned about the EESDT and knew from that moment that she wanted to pursue her dancing career there. Sara began studying under Dame Libby in 1991 and became a Full Company Dancer in 1996. She is now a Principal Dancer and recently was awarded the position of Associate Artistic Director of the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Youth Company. With EESDT, she annually performs across the United States and internationally. She also teaches a variety of classes and workshops on a regular basis.

Flamenco’s Jewish ties photo 2 

When asked about the effect her Jewish faith has had on her dance, Sara noted that since there is so much feeling and so many emotions you can go through in Flamenco to express yourself, “any experience you have growing up is going to influence” your dance. Although she does not credit her Jewish background for impacting her as a dancer overall, she acknowledged that she is reminded of her Jewish culture in some of the music she hears while she dances, particularly High Holiday music.

President Barack Obama wrote a letter to the EESDT congratulating it for celebrating its 35th Anniversary. In the letter he stated that dance can, “build bridges and enrich lives … bringing communities together.” Watching EESDT perform, I saw firsthand how culturally infused and emotionally charged Flamenco can be, as an audience of all ages and backgrounds took in the performance. I encourage others to see it for themselves.

Here is the schedule for upcoming Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater performances:
- Ensemble Español returns to the Harris Theater with Global Rhythms to perform Bolero Saturday, Nov. 26
- Ensemble Español will be featured in Hispanic Heritage concerts at Northeastern Illinois University, Oct. 11 – 14
- Family Holiday Concerts at Northeastern Dec. 13 – 15

For more information about Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre and to purchase tickets for any of their upcoming performances, check out their website at www.ensembleespanol.org.  

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