A Bay Area transplant, Josie A.G. Shapiro spends her days as the Membership and Program Director at Temple Sholom of Chicago. She helps members connect to the things that interest them, whether that might be spiritual discussions with rabbis or social gatherings like sushi Shabbat. Her goal is to make sure newcomers—40% of new members are in the 20s and 30s— feel comfortable calling Sholom Chicago home.
So whether you like fish on Fridays, remember all the words to your camp songs or enjoy entering contests, Josie A.G. Shapiro is a Jew You Should Know!
1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was really shy and my teacher nicknamed me Miss Mousey. I had a fantasy of growing up to be a clown because they make people happy—well, not everyone. Some people are scared of them. But I took some clowning classes and wasn’t physically coordinated enough. Since then, I have wanted to own my own B+B— a Bed + Bistro. Breakfast is too early and dinner is more fun anyway.
2. What do you love about what you do today?
In terms of my professional life, I have way outgrown Miss Mousey! I do a lot of schmoozing and I enjoy meeting new people talking to them about what makes them tick in terms of their Jewish identity. My job is all about building connections for people, helping them find what they are looking for.
I also love making up recipes and entering contests that have a restrictions of some kind, like you have to use a certain brand of products or meet a time constraint. I like figuring out ways to move within the rules and come up with something unique and original.
3. What are you reading?
I’m reading everything by Geraldine Brooks. Right now I’m reading The People of the Book . I’m also reading Anne-Marie McDonalds— The Way the Crow Flies . It is deliciously dark and takes place in a 1960s Air force base in Canada. I read Fall On Your Knees about a month ago. She has a real sense of humanity. It’s that moment when you’re reading and you’re like, “Yes I know that feeling! Yes I know that one too!"
4. What’s your favorite place to eat in Chicago?
I am a food fanatic, so I love food adventures! My friends and I took the Amtrak to Kansas City for BBQ weekend and ate BBQ three times a day. In Chicago, I love Marigold, an upscale Indian place with a great wine list. And I really like Demera, an Ethiopian place across the street from Marigold. Basically, I like any restaurant I can walk to.
5. If money and logistical reality played no part, what would you invent?
If money was no object I probably should want to invent something that could help do good in the world, but all I can think about is how much I hate to fold laundry and how much clean laundry is piled up at home, and how neat it would be if there was a dryer that sorted and folded clothes after they were clean.
6. Would you rather have the ability to fly or the ability to be invisible?
Invisible. The mouse in me likes to be silent and observe.
7. If I scrolled through your iPod, what guilty pleasure song would I find?
I don’t own an iPod… I know, I Know. I like singing old camp songs, I just unleashed my whole repertoire on the husband on a car trip;. He turned off his iPod and listened graciously.
8.What’s your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago—in other words, how do you Jew?
Since I work in a synagogue and I am a professional Jew, you can find me at temple on most Friday nights. My favorite Jewish phenomenon is when I see people from Sholom’s Jewish community when I’m out walking around the neighborhood. It makes me feel like I’m in a small little shtetl and like I know people in the city, which is pretty cool for someone, who has only been here for four years.