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Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation now available!

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We wanted to let you know about a very exciting new book: Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation, a collection of personal essays and memoirs from Jewish 20- and 30-somethings from across the country.

Edited by Oy!Chicago blogger-in-chief Stefanie Pervos Bregman, the anthology features many of your favorite past and present, Oy! bloggers including: Blair Chavis, Sharna Marcus, Rivka Nehorai, Rachel Friedman, Rabbi Taron Tachman, Paul Wieder, Chai Wolfman, Abby Sher, Libby Ellis Lowe, Stacey Ballis and Alyssa Latala.

Actress and author Mayim Bialik had the following to say about the anthology:
"At once confrontational, comforting, and hilarious this is the definitive 'Who am I? and why am I?' book for Jews of our generation. I can only hope to one day contribute to a collection this rigorous, this touching, and this important for the question of our identity as Jews."
— Mayim Bialik, Ph.D., author of Beyond the Sling

Each contributor brings a unique perspective as they tell their self-defining Jewish story. In his essay, “Shomer Negiah in the City,” Matthue Roth tackles the conflicted and sometimes hypocritical nature of the modern Orthodox dating world. In “To Be a Jew in the world” Stacey Ballis makes the Passover Seder her own. “My (Jewish-Interfaith-Lesbian) wedding,” by Chai Wolfman explores the challenges of same-sex and interfaith relationships today. Other essay topics include JDate, connection—or lack thereof—to Israel, issues surrounding conversion, and the seemingly impossible task of defining what it means to be a young Jew in America today.

However it is that we young Jews express ourselves Jewishly, I‘m certain that every Jewish 20- or 30-something has an interesting story—and maybe all we need is the opportunity to tell it.

For more information about where to buy the book, the contributors and how you can share your Jewish story, visit www.livingjewishlybook.com or at www.facebook.com/livingjewishlybook.

Building abilities awareness in the Chicago Jewish community

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Building abilities awareness photo

A congregant with special needs reads Torah on Shabbat.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan authorized a Presidential Proclamation, designating March as "Developmental Disabilities Awareness" month.

In light of the former president's national initiative, the Jewish community is now taking the lead in realizing a vision of heightened sensibility toward those with mental and physical disabilities. Keshet, a non-profit organization dedicated to personal, religious, and communal growth for the developmentally disabled, is introducing "Abilities Awareness Shabbat," a program geared toward Chicago area synagogues, temples, and shuls, to be held on the first Shabbat in September as a way to launch into the High Holiday season.

Abilities Awareness Shabbat is concurrent with a similar program instituted by Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook. Recognizing the need for inclusion in the community, the synagogue planned a hands-on Rosh Hashanah service based around accessibility for disabled members. Featuring easy entrance and exit to the synagogue, a picture-based prayer book, and opportunities to touch the shofar, participants will worship together in an accessible, inclusive, and sensitive environment.

Soon after Beth Shalom conceived the service, its staff contacted Keshet's Leventhal Professional Development Center, drawing attention to its efforts to showcase awareness of disabled congregants. Leventhal, which produces a growing corps of educators and professionals to teach methods for working with the special needs population, drew further inspiration from Beth Shalom's Rosh Hashanah program in creating Abilities Awareness Shabbat.

Rabbis are the target educators for the September service. They are urged to foster a discussion about the acceptance of individuals with developmental disabilities and their right to feel welcome in synagogues, temples, and shuls in the Chicago area. "The rabbinical community of Chicago is very accessible, caring, and addresses a variety of community needs," said Susan Levin-Abir, director of Strategic Development at Keshet. "We appreciate its incredible commitment and generosity of spirit in helping create an inclusive environment for those with special needs."

Keshet will give rabbis free consultation and information on how to provide abilities awareness for the Shabbat service, but they can choose how to participate.

In addition to communicating to congregants the need for acceptance of the disabled in the sermon, rabbis may reach out to families and invite parents of a child with special needs to speak at the service about being part of the synagogue and what it means to their family. Encouraging members to start a buddy group, through which a family with a disabled child is paired with another family and go to synagogue and attend community events together, is a great way for rabbis to start a trend of inclusion. For parents with special needs children unable to sit through an entire Shabbat service, rabbis can create an option for them to attend part of the Shabbat ceremony and participate in activities outside the sanctuary for the remainder of the time.

Abilities Awareness Shabbat will be educational for congregants who have felt uncomfortable in the presence of disabled individuals during services or seen them as a disruption to the flow of worship. "Synagogues need to think consciously about addressing being comfortable around people with disabilities," said Rabbi Michael Balinsky, executive vice president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. "It's a moral obligation for congregations to face and do."

Though primarily a rabbi-driven affair, Abilities Awareness Shabbat needn't end with the sermon. Congregants are encouraged to start dialogue targeting acceptance of the developmentally disabled that transcends the one September Shabbat service. Keshet will also provide opportunities for synagogue members to volunteer at area non-profits servicing people with special needs. This is an activity they can take advantage of in September and throughout the year.

Abilities Awareness Shabbat opens the door for Jews to recognize that developmentally disabled individuals are able to fit right in to their communities.

"Jewish tradition shows that its people are accepting and understanding of all God's creatures," Balinsky said. "When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, people of all types were present. This is why embracing people with disabilities to include them in the synagogue is a defining commitment."

Abilities Awareness Shabbat will be held on Saturday, Sept. 1. For more information about how to be involved, visit www.keshet.org/content/rabbis-abilities or contact Susan Levin-Abir at (847) 205-1234 or susan@keshet.org.

Keshet is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The Chicago Board of Rabbis is a partner in serving our community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

City Winery comes to Chicago

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City Winery comes to Chicago photo 1

Michael Dorf, CEO and Founder of City Winery in New York, is bringing his popular concert venue and winery to Chicago's West Loop.

"Chicago's [a great] if not better, a city for what we want to do," Dorf said. "There's an incredibly passionate food and cultural scene here. I'm constantly amazed at how veracious people eat and drink."

City Winery comes to Chicago photo 2

The new, 33,000 square foot Chicago facility, which opens mid-August, is located at 1200 W. Randolph Street. A former refrigerated food distribution warehouse is being transformed into a contemporary winery producing more than 20 in-house wines, a restaurant and bar serving small and large plates meant for sharing and wine pairing, private event spaces, an outdoor event space and a performance venue that will seat 300 with beverage and dining service.

"This is our 2.0," Dorf said. "We learned a lot in NY...Everything [in Chicago] is improved."

For example, City Winery Chicago will feature a tap wine system, where some of their wines will skip the bottle and go directly from the barrel to the glass, a green and efficient way to serve wine. In addition to their in-house wines, City Winery Chicago will also have a wine list of over 400 different wines from all over the world.

"We will bar none have the largest selection of Israeli wines in Chicago," Dorf said, noting that the wine industry in Israel is "exploding." "We're very proud of Israel's wine industry."

According to Dorf, 15 percent of the wine produced at City Winery Chicago will have OU Kosher certification. They also have a special Shabbos tank with a timing system set to work on fermenting without being touched. Though they won't have kosher food as an option on their regular menu, they will have the ability to bring in wrapped kosher food upon request.

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In addition to an eclectic mix of some respected names in pop, rock, jazz, blues, and world music, the concert lineup for City Winery Chicago also includes many Jewish and Israeli musicians and artists like Asaf Avidan, an Israeli-folk musician and David Broza, an Israeli singer-songwriter and guitarist. Jewish Comedian Lewis Black will officially inaugurate the venue with a five-night engagement Aug. 15-19. Music, spoken word and comedy will be presented 20-25 nights per month.

There will also be a weekly Sunday Klezmer Brunch, a popular event at City Winery in N.Y., which joins musical performances by local klezmer bands like the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Jutta & the Hi Dukes and more, with a menu of schmears, scrambles, and Nova Scotia salmon. The first Klezmer brunch will take place Aug. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

City Winery Chicago's Jewish inspired lineup stems from Dorf's love of Jewish music.

"I can't help that part of my DNA," Dorf said. "I've been a music promoter for 25 years and somehow early on I got really into Jewish music. I love Jewish music. I've always felt a connection to the lineage through the cultural parts of what we do."

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.citywinery.com.

Jewish Book Award finalist 'One More River' selected for this year's ONE BOOK/ONE COMMUNITY

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Jewish Book Award finalist 'One More River' selected photo

Following the success of last year's debut ONE BOOK | ONE COMMUNITY initiative, JUF News and Spertus are thrilled to announce the book for 2012. This program, a celebration of Jewish Book Month and the power of Jewish books, selects one book for the greater Chicago Jewish community to read and explore together.

This year's book is Mary Glickman's One More River, a finalist for the Jewish Book Award in Fiction. In this suspenseful story, Mickey Moe Levy and Laura Ann Needleman are in love. But in order for Mickey Moe to wed the spirited girl of upper crust Southern Jewish society, he must uncover his father's murky past and prove his pedigree. Set in Mississippi in the 1960s, One More River delves into themes of race, class, and Jewish life in the American South.

The story of Jews in the South is an important one. When Jews came to America from Eastern Europe, not all settled in cities in the North. Some chose a life in the South, often working as merchants and becoming an active part of small-town communities. It's been said that at one time a Jewish family lived in every small town, with synagogues dotting the Bible Belt. However, Jews faced (and continue to face) challenges in areas less familiar with non-Christian ways of life. In Southern social hierarchy, as recently as the 1960s, Jews were situated somewhere between African Americans and white gentiles. The target of anti-Semitism, many eventually left for bigger cities. But Jewish culture took root and remains.

Join us on a literary journey with One More River as our guide to the wonder-filled experiences of Jews living below the Mason-Dixon Line. A Readers' Guide will be available online and a series of related programs-including several opportunities to meet author Mary Glickman-are being scheduled for November and December in Chicago and the suburbs.

Visit spertus.edu/onebook for more information.

Double Chai in the Chi

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Presenting Chicago's first ever Jewish 36 under 36 list! From innovative rabbis, to cancer survivors now helping others cope, to restaurant owners striving to make Chicago healthier, this city is full of young Jewish leaders, 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!

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