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8 Questions for Shira Vardi, body worker, dance fanatic, social worker

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Shira and her sister, Orit, tasting sweet blossoms from a bush on her grandparent’s kibbutz

Shira Vardi lived in Israel until she was ten, grew the rest of the way up in Madison, moved to New York City to take part in Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps, and is now finally a Chicagoan looking forward to summer festivals and fun times by the lake.

Avodah was just like the Real World (well, sort of), living with 7 roommates while learning about Jewish history, culture, religion and learning to create effective social change. Now Shira gives back to her community in many meaningful ways. Studying to be a Feldenkrais practioner, Shira helps others to increase ease and range of motion, improve flexibility and coordination, and rediscover capacity for graceful, efficient movement. She also offers support and counseling to seniors every day as a social worker.

Missing the Israeli weather, food and her family, Shira recently looked into the idea of making Aliyah and was quickly reminded of the forward Israeli culture. Someday, Shira may call Israel home, but for now she is loving Chicago, running along the paths by her work that remind her of Madison and discovering new parts of a vibrant city without the constant buzz of the big apple.

Wherever she goes, she finds the best places to dance – Salsa, Swing, Belly, Charleston, Israeli, African, you name it, and you’ll find Shira and her look alike sister, Orit, dancing up a storm. So if you need a dancing partner, want to explore new places, or love helping others, Shira Vardi is a Jew you should know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
aridanielshapiro.com Great science-based radio stories by my friend Ari that occasionally get aired on NPR!

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
I would road trip through the Northwest and Southwest U.S., do a 10 day hike to Machu Pichu, spend a week of nostalgia in Paris, attend a West African Dance intensive in Guinea, experience Ashrams and chaos in India, go mountain hiking in Thailand, spend family time in Israel, and do it all accompanied by lucky friends!

3. If a movie were made about your life, who would play you?
My sister, because she looks just like me.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? Where would you eat or what would you serve?
I would invite Mia Segal, an 80 year-old Feldenkrais teacher living in Israel with a twinkle in her spirit, and my maternal grandmother, who died when I was four. We'd have a picnic lunch by the lake and eat Shwarma.

5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
The perfect day would be biking with my sister and friends to the lake and reading, playing Frisbee, and grilling on a sunny, summer day. Then we would happen upon a drum circle where we dance our hearts out. Can you tell I'm ready for summer?

6. What do you love about what you do?
I love my co-workers and the in-synch feeling when a client feels heard. I work for the North Shore Senior Center and do case management, supportive counseling, and elder abuse investigations for seniors living in the northern suburbs. My service area includes Maine Township and Deerfield, so I am out and about a lot.  I find the work most satisfying when I am able to help seniors and families come to terms with changes in their needs and find solutions that are safe and satisfying. This often involves providing supportive counseling to the senior, working as a team with doctors and other professionals, offering support and education to the family, and helping to provide concrete services.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
I’d do private practice therapy, Feldenkrais, and some sort of teaching. Feldenkrais is a method that uses verbal instructions, imagery, and gentle touch to teach people to move with more freedom and ease. Students learn by noticing differences in ease as they do different combinations of movements. I'm still training in this method, but I just started teaching classes to my co-workers, and find it really fun to set up a learning environment where people can explore their possibilities of movement. Because I am not showing people a 'correct' way to move, but rather giving instructions and having them find the movements themselves, the results are more individual and less predictable. For example, after doing a lesson exploring movement of the shoulder blades and folding of the chest, a coworker found me the next day and told me that she slept better the previous night. So, you just never know.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? In other words, how do you Jew?
Running the Chiditarod a few weekends ago and pretending that it was a big Purim parade. Also, Israeli folk dancing at Northwestern.

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