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Double Chai Check-In: Rabbi David Russo is committed to Jewish engagement and social justice in Chicago

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Double Chai Check-In: Rabbi David Russo photo

As his third year at Anshe Emet Synagogue comes to an end, Rabbi David Russo has seen firsthand just how much a Jewish community can grow in a short time. Honored as one of the 2013 Double Chai in the Chi, Russo continues to enhance Jewish engagement in Chicago both in terms of involvement and also social justice.  

Russo has been influential in the growth of two prominent lay-led, traditional, egalitarian minyanim in Lakeview: Rose Crown Minyan and Lakeview Minyan. Rose Crown Minyan meets Saturday mornings at Anshe Emet. Russo provides a rabbinic presence and encourages those involved to take on more significant leadership roles.  

“I work with the community to try and train people in what does it mean to take a more active role in the community,” Russo said.  

Lakeview Minyan meets one Friday night a month at Anshe Emet for a service followed by a potluck dinner. Despite struggling a few years back, Russo said the minyan now pulls 50-100 people each time.  

“What’s nice is that it’s also diverse,” he said. “There are a lot of young adults who go but there are also families who go.”  

Beyond fostering Jewish community, Russo has played a large role in expanding Anshe Emet’s commitment to social justice in Chicago. Na’aseh, the synagogue’s social justice committee, has become increasingly active in the community. Russo works with volunteers and helps the group craft its vision of tikkun olam. The committee balances direct service projects with actions plans for creating systemic change.  

Russo also continues to sit on the board of ONE Northside, formerly the Lakeview Action Coalition. Anshe Emet hosted an assembly earlier this year that brought more than a thousand people together including various public officials, such as Governor Pat Quinn. ONE Northside focuses on creating both immediate change and political action aimed at long-term change on issues related to violence, education, housing, economic justice and more.  

In terms of rabbinical duties, Russo’s role has also been shifting. Although he will remain connected to youth programming, he said he’s excited to take on more traditional clergy responsibilities including working with b’nai mitzvah students on their journey to become a bar or bat mitzvah.  

But the biggest change of all came this March, when Russo and his wife, Rebecca, welcomed their first child, Natan.  

“[Natan] is hilarious,” he said. “We just have a lot of fun hanging out together whether it’s taking walks … also thank God he likes shul. We take him everywhere. He’s such a joy.”  

Russo’s colleague at Anshe Emet, Rabbi Abe Friedman, was just named to the 2014 Double Chai in the Chi list. Celebrate all the honorees on Aug. 7 at YLD’s WYLD in Paris party. Register here.

Presenting Chicago's third annual Jewish 36 under 36 list!

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Presenting Chicago's third annual Jewish 36 under 36 list! photo 2

From founders of innovative nonprofits, to socially conscious business leaders, to Jewish professionals paving the way for the Jewish future, this city is full of young entrepreneurs, humanitarians, educators and social activists striving to make the world a better place each in their own unique way. Take a look at the list!

Think About Tomorrow

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Think About Tomorrow photo

Summertime Chi has finally arrived. It’s gorgeous outside, there are more street festivals this weekend than I know what to do with, and I have a laundry list of goodies I can’t wait to get from the Lincoln Park Green City Market. I have so much to think about today (mostly what rooftop I’m going to go sit at after work and enjoy this weather from), why do I need to worry about tomorrow?

One in four— that’s why. One in four is why I need to think about tomorrow, why I need to take steps today to prepare for life 5 to 10 years from now, and why you should be doing the same thing.

One in four Jews is a carrier for one of 19 life-altering Jewish genetic disorders. Being a carrier means that although you might be completely healthy with no family history of disease, your future children may be at risk, and the only way to find out is to get screened. A simple saliva sample can provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions for your future, and it is never too soon to plan for tomorrow, no matter how far away it may seem.

The Center for Jewish Genetics is leading the nation when it comes to carrier screening. The Center is the first community screening program that is exclusively using an advanced DNA sequencing test that allows you to be screened from the convenience and privacy of your own home, with just a small saliva sample. A short live-webinar provides you with the education and genetic counseling you need to understand carrier screening, what your results could mean, what your future options for a healthy family if you are found to a carrier, and can answer any other questions you may have. Then, before you know it, a saliva kit arrives at your front door. One short webinar, one small saliva sample, and you can arm yourself with potentially life-saving information. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

So today, tomorrow, whenever you’re sitting outside soaking up the summer weather enjoying the moment, take a minute to stop and think about tomorrow, because it’s going to be here before you know it.

To register for one of the Center’s upcoming programs please visit www.jewishgenetics.org/register. For more information please contact Alyssa Cohen at alyssacohen@juf.org or (312)357-4946.

18 Ridiculous Jewish Items You Can Buy on Amazon

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Chai List photo

Shopaholics, rejoice! In case you haven’t heard, Amazon recently launched an awesome charity initiative that will totally justify all those unnecessary late-night impulse buys. Just select your charity of choice (like, say, JUF) at smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of all qualified online purchases to your designated beneficiary.  

To get you started, here’s a handy list of completely ridiculous Jewish stuff for sale on everyone’s favorite online retailer! Just tryto resist buying a “Midrash Manicure” kit…


1. Haikus for Jews - $10.32

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From the product description: “These chai-kus (so called because of their high chutzpah content) are certain to amuse.”


2. Jewish Star Latke Cut-Out - $12.99

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Be the star of your Chanukah party with the most Instagram-worthy latkes in town.


3. Oy Vey Sticky Notes - $5.73

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For to-do lists that will really make you kvetch.


4. Fiddler on the Roof “Do You Love Me” Karaoke Track - $0.99

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It’ll take your anniversary party from a nine to a ten.


5. Moses Ten Commandments Bobblehead Doll - $19.95

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This biblical collectible instantly disapproves of any golden calf! 


6. Jewish Silly Bandz (24) - $6.50

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Show your Jewish spirit like it’s 2009 all over again! 


7. Kosher Kurls leave-in “schmear” aka conditioner - $35

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The bottle says it all “Oy Vey! Believe me, if you’re Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chassidic, Sephardic, Black or White, you’ll ‘kvell’ for this product that has no ‘chazerai’ (junk) and leaves your hair looking and feeling like a ‘Mensch!’ What a Shayna Punim!”


8. “Midrash Manicures” - $19.99

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“Torah at your fingertips!” 


9. Related: “Hassid” Black Nail Polish - $7

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Or—umm—if you prefer a slightly more traditional look … 


10. Bamba iPhone Case - $10.99

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Show your post-Birthright Israel longing for Israeli snack foods. 


11. Chanukah-themed Teapot - $15.99

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Because, you know, tea is a really critical part of any Chanukah celebration. 


12. “Kosher” dog bone plush toy - $7.74

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Funny, I can’t seem to find the hechsher anywhere … 


13. Baby Kippah with STRINGS - $6.90

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Am I the only one who has never seen this before? Genius.  


14. Matzah Holder That Totally Looks Like Bacon - $99

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I mean, amiright? 


15. Star of David Charm Necklace … with a Dolphin - $5.97

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Am I missing something? Was Flipper Jewish?


16. Guns N’ Moses T-Shirt - $11.99-12.99

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Straight from Charlton Heston’s wardrobe.


17. Hand Painted Jewish Goose Egg with “Mazel Tov” Scroll - $32.99

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An eggcellent gift for any Jewish occasion. 


18. Talking “Nanny” Doll - $29.95

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We recommend cutting out the voice box before giving this to small children.


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