I’d like to use this space to share with you the five books that have changed my life. Please let me know if these books have changed your life, too; and feel free to comment with books that have changed your life!
In the American musical comedy Pitch Perfect, world domination, singing talent, rivalries, friendships, and even a much needed vacation from boyfriends bring the Barden Bellas and other a cappella groups together.
There is a period in every geek, nerd or dork’s life when he or she has to grow up. You still remain a geek, nerd or dork, of course, but growing up sort of happens. Things like meeting a special someone, for example, sort of happen. And unless you meet on the floor of a comic convention admiring each other’s cosplay outfits, the odds you will have to share whatever it is you geek, nerd or dork out over with that person.
Back in the 1980s, I grew up on a steady diet of my favorite TV show, the sitcom Family Ties. I'd imagine what it would be like to be the fifth Keaton child. Don't get me wrong--I loved my own family ties. Still, I dreamed of being the long-lost sister on the show where you could solve a squabble with a sibling or a parent in the Keaton kitchen over hugs, laughs, and orange juice in 22 minutes flat. I envisioned myself knocking on the door to their Ohio home alongside sweet, awkward neighbor Skippy Handelman.
The arrival of Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp came with a feeling similar to that first day of overnight camp: who will your new friends be? What will your new memories look like? Will you find someone special? The possibilities seem limitless, and so was the case for David Wain’s return to the cult classic that launched his career and the careers of so many of today’s biggest stars.
We’re living in an age of unprecedented female talent and, more importantly, widespread recognition for female talent. It is an age in which female protagonists can tell stories from a woman’s point of view on TV, Netflix and the “Silver Screen.”
For months my two daughters have been getting on my back because I was convinced that Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space” contained the lyrics, “All the lonely Starbucks lovers.”
I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home.
I have watched the Oscars since I was a kid, with my mother as a guide. She was the one who taught me how a movie wins because other nominees split the vote, and explained why certain people win or not regardless of how well they acted in a particular movie (e.g. this man is very old and this is his last chance; people thought this woman should have won many times so this is a make-good award, etc.).
Resolutions come and go, but at the start of 2015, I side-stepped my traditional resolutions for a straight-up GOAL – an enormous yet startlingly simple goal to guide my way through 2015; something to hang my hat on whilst wading through my 28th year. Mixed metaphors aside, I promised myself 2015 would be the year dedicated to “Writing More.”
Most American Jews have an incomplete picture of what life is like in the Israeli army. I learned about the Israel Defense Forces through my Israeli summer camp counselors who would dress in their uniforms and run us through pretend drills.
Everyone has their own routines when going to the movies. What time they get there, what concessions they get or where they sit. For me, it’s 12-15 minutes before, I never concede and preferably in a seat. But one thing I always do every time I go to the movies – as you may have guessed from the title of this piece, you astute, attractive reader you – is that I will, without question, stay through the entirety of the film’s credits.
As a fan of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, I jumped at the chance to talk with Piper Kerman and learn more about the real story of the woman whose experiences and bestselling memoir of the same name inspired the show.
I’m back again, for the third year in a row, opening up my Kindle to share with all of you the best of what I’ve read this year. There is something to be said about always being able to access the book you’re reading through an app on your phone or iPad, knowing that you can visit another world whenever and wherever you choose.
By day, Jay Rapoport is a mild-mannered Jewish educator with the title of director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom of Chicago in Lakeview. But this persona is only a mask for his true identity: Jewish rock star.
It took me five years to finally get to another screening at the annual Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. Talk about Zero Motivation. In 2009, I made the mistake of going too heavy for my first CFIC experience when I saw Ronit and Shlomi Alkabetz’s Shiva. Zero Motivation proved infinitely more accessible, especially as a young adult.
"If only I could be more like…" We've all probably uttered this phrase. If only I could cook like, look like, dress like so-and-so-then I'd be happy. Chicago Jewish writer Rachel Bertsche, journalist, editor and bestselling author of MWF Seeking BFF, set out to see if living like the stars really does bring true happiness in her new book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time (Ballantine Trade Paperback Original).
I last visited the subject of Jewish graphic novels in 2009. Well, guess what? They went and wrote more. Also, I found even more that I somehow missed the first time (in my defense, there are a lot…).
In the wake of the tragic loss of Robin Williams, I once again turn to writing and humor as a way to find solace. So thank you for humoring me as I attempt to humor you. I was originally going to write about something more light-hearted. Like how right now I have to be scared of Ebola again. But that’s not happening anymore. Well, the Ebola thing is actually still happening, I’m just not writing about it.
In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood. Had I ever met Robin Williams, I would surely have said it.
What exactly makes a movie Jewish? Does it have to revolve around Jewish characters doing Jewish things? Does it champion Jewish values? Does it need Jewish actors or writers/directors? And what does it even mean to be a “Jewish movie?” Should we even try to label movies as Jewish in the first place?
From infancy to adulthood, Jewish mothers school their children in the art of wooing their future mates, but even the feistiest of Jewish mothers might find it difficult to keep up with the rapidly-changing, multimedia landscape that continues to shape modern, dating culture.
Weather can ruin a lot of things, but it cannot touch the summer movie season. Every year, from the first weekend in May until the second-to-last weekend in August, without fail, summer blockbusters arrive one by one.
There's this scene in National Lampoon's Vacation that gets me every time I see it. Maybe you remember it too. It's the one where the camera pans to the two kids sleeping in the back seat of the Griswold mobile, then to the mom napping on the passenger side, and finally to Clark sleeping peacefully in the driver's seat—the car still in motion.
After nine seasons, Monday night was the last episode of How I Met Your Mother. Ted Mosby’s kids (and countless fans of the show) finally know the full story of how he met their mother.
I know, I know it’s not kosher to review books before you’ve finished them, but when you’re too angry to keep going, that’s sort of a review in itself, right?
James Franco went back to school recently, a place he seems quite comfortable these days. Northwestern University's A&O Productions and NU Hillel brought Franco to speak on Saturday night, March 1, at the university's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
Confession: I cheated at NaNoWriMo. Please do not tell the people who sent my official certificate. They can't have it back, anyway. It's like, permanently stuck on my fridge. Remember NaNoWriMo from Ashley's post? In case your memory needs refreshing, NaNo is a super intense month of nonstop writing with occasional breaks for sleep and food and your job.
Part two of The Hobbit series is in theaters now, so I imagine you are very busy with the finale. After that, however, do you know what you'll be working on next? Because I have an idea for you.
Bestselling author Lauren Weisberger made waves with her first book, The Devil Wears Prada—the 2003 book inspired by Weisberger's experience working at Vogue as an assistant for Anna Wintour was made into a popular movie of the same name in 2006 featuring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.
It wasn't until I lived in Israel as a Masa Israel Journey participant that I first learned any Israeli music. I hadn't been exposed to it before, I'm sad to say, but this was something my friends were determined to change.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Phew, we got that out of the way. I'm thankful for so much. It's been a year full of so, so much change. You know that old cliché/John Lennon lyric, "life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans?" For the first time in a while, I thought my ducks were in a row.
I missed the Animorphs series the first time around. Man, in the ‘90s, you saw those book covers everywhere you went: one kid transitioning into a fly or a bear or a dolphin or some other creature. And there were always two tons of them, right?
“The movie is never as good as the book.” Sigh. I’ve been hearing this for years, and as a huge fan of movies, it’s frustrating. To me, that phrase is about as cliché as “never judge a book by its cover.” Some books can be judged accurately by their covers, just as some movies honor the book on which they’re based.
Jami Attenberg’s new novel The Middlesteins is the story of family relationships and individual obsessions, set in suburban Chicago. Earlier this year the book was chosen as the official selection for One Book | One Community, the Chicago Jewish Community’s Jewish Book Month initiative.
The last thing Peter Gethers’ father ever did on his deathbed was make a joke. Gethers and Daniel Okrent, creators of the play “Old Jews Telling Jokes,”—along with pretty much every other Jew in the world—deal with the sorrows of life by laughing at it. As the writers say, “Life sucks so you gotta laugh.”
As an elementary teacher, I’m constantly reading, though my books of choice may have fewer words and considerably more pictures than yours. At school, the picture books live in the “E” section of the library – which stands for “everyone” (nope, not “easy!”) because that’s truly who they’re for.
Mel Brooks is the greatest man I’ve never met. And I’ve not met a lot of people. Almost a few dozen I think. You see, I’ve always loved movies—and comedy. And if there’s one thing Mel Brooks does well, it’s comedy movies. Growing up, I became obsessed with Mel Brooks. To a point that maybe it wasn’t healthy.
If anyone’s happy that Miley Cyrus has claimed every headline on the Internet this past week, it’s Ben Affleck. Affleck’s casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the forthcoming Man of Steel sequel tentatively titled Batman vs. Superman was the dominant form of our collective social media ire for the entire weekend.
You might be wondering what the most Jewish movie of the summer is this year. Is it the annual Woody Allen flick (Blue Jasmine)? Is it Grown Ups 2 (thanks again, Adam Sandler…)? No, it's Man of Steel. If you don't know what's Jewish about Superman, first, shame on you, and second, I apologize for that, I didn't mean it (mostly). Please allow me to explain.
What do Harry Belafonte (a Caribbean-American guy from Harlem, NY) and Connie Francis (an Italian-American gal from Newark, NJ) have in common with Glen Campbell (a Scottish-American guy from Pike County, Arkansas)? Like dozens of well-known performers, they have all recorded covers of "Hava Nagila," in Hebrew yet!
Sean Altman looms large in the worlds of a cappella and novelty song. First, he's very accomplished and innovative and influential, and even has awards and stuff. Also, he's very tall. Altman is one of the performers at the City Winery's Downtown Seder, March 20 at 6 p.m. (the full list is here).
Idan Raichel, Israel's musical superstar of the decade, arrives in Chicago for two performances in February. Since emerging in early 2003, The Idan Raichel Project has changed perceptions of Israeli music.
One of the most common forms of film is the "bio-pic," short for "biographical picture." It tells the story of a notable person, either in full, or just focusing on one of the most notable parts of his or her story. Naturally, Jews have been among those whose lives have been depicted on screen, but which Jews are depicted has changed, well, dramatically over time.
In the eighth grade, Joel Chasnoff, admits he was the only kid cut from the Solomon Schechter basketball team. This was all the more shameful because “I’d been cut not just from a sports team, but from a Jewish sports team,” he writes in his book, The 188th Crybaby Brigade. But in his early 20s, despite his lack of athletic prowess, Chasnoff—a burgeoning Jewish comedian in New York City—decided to put his comedy career on hold to join the Israel Defense Forces, out of love for the Jewish State.
I first learned of Jonathan Safran Foer in college, when I read his debut novel, Everything is Illuminated, in a course titled, "New Voices in Jewish Fiction." And he was just that—his unique writing style was fresh and the story he told, though fictionalized, reflected a Jewish journey of self-discovery.
Edon Pinchot is the Skokie teen, a freshman at Ida Crown Jewish Academy, who took the country by storm in 2012 on America's Got Talent. He wowed the judges and charmed the crowd with his heartfelt piano renditions of today's hits, reaching the semi-finals-all while proudly wearing his kippah.
These days, it seems like I'm just devouring books. I'm not sure if it's because it's so easy to download new books on my Kindle, or the hour plus each day I spend reading on my iPhone while trying to balance on the El, or the fact that I often can't fall asleep at night, but lately I find myself finishing up to three books in a week.
You know that one house were all the kids want to play after school because they have the best toys? In my case, it was my friend Cara’s house. Her mom, Diane Bronstein, created the best art projects for us to do and she would let us rummage through her art collections. We spent hours in her mom’s jewelry studio in the basement making necklaces and bracelets out of her “extra” beads and playing with art materials that were deemed “too messy” in my own home.
With Chanukah just around the corner, I've been thinking a lot about Chanukah music and one song in particular. It's not just that it's insipid and babyish and cloying and maddeningly repetitious. No, I hate "The Dreidel Song" because it lies. It lies about every aspect of the dreidel— from what it's made of to how you play the game. And it's also supremely poorly written.
Author Mary Glickman was not born in the South, nor to a Jewish family, but her passion, connection, and dedication to both Southern culture and Judaism inspires and informs her writing. Born on the south shore of Boston, Glickman was always fascinated by faith. Though she attended Catholic school as a child and wanted to become a nun, her attention turned to the Hebrew Bible and she began what would become a lifelong relationship with Jewish culture. She later converted to Judaism.
How we spend October 31 can say a lot about us as people. Some of us hand out candy from the front porch. Some of us go wild and hit the town in costume. Some of us go about our day business as usual. And some of us stay up until midnight, furiously outlining the 50,000-word novel we'll start writing when the clock strikes.
When I walked into the lobby and saw house elves, my interest was piqued, but it wasn't until I saw wands and potions for sale and Snape looming that I truly felt at home. No, this wasn't Hogwarts, this was LeakyCon. Recently I had the pleasure of attending this Harry Potter conference named for the series' fictional bar the Leaky Cauldron.
As a Jewish blogger and editor, I always say that the period leading up to Jewish Book Month is one of my favorite times of the year. So many books come across my desk for review—I only wish I had the time to read them all. Each author, each new book, is not just a potential article for my magazine or blog post.
No, it's a not a Jewish holiday by any stretch. But at this point, regardless of its origins, do you know anyone who celebrates Halloween as a religious holiday? As it happens, a surprising number of horror movies from both America and Europe turn out to have Jewish connections. The new film The Possession is about being possessed by a dybbuk, or poltergeist. Reggae-rapper Matisyahu plays the rabbi who performs the exorcism.
In 2006, a group of local film lovers decided to organize an annual program focused on Israeli cinema. Their timing was prescient. After decades of near invisibility, Israeli films were suddenly winning accolades at festivals all around the world, and last year, an Israeli film was a contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the fourth time in five years.
Larry Tye is the author of a new biography of the first great superhero, Superman: The High-flying Story of America's Most Enduring Hero. He has also written Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora. Recently, he flew through Chicago to discuss his new Superman book at both comic-book stores… and also congregations, as much of the book discusses the Jewishness of its super subject.
That’s the way it is, he sighs, and grins at his ability to profit off the stupidity and ignorance of others. He’s happy with the money, he told me so himself, through our translator who herself is a partially broken artist; broken down and beaten into reluctantly accepting the status quo, the way nature must be.
Sometimes, life is so absurd that all anyone can do is laugh, even through tears. Laughter gets Robyn Michele Levy through her days and nights-and her tears. Levy, 48, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about seven years ago. Six months earlier, doctors determined that her father had the same illness. Eight months later, Levy found two lumps in her breast-cancer-that resulted in mastectomy and a prophylactic oophorectomy.
I have two Patti Smith songs in my iTunes library: one is a live performance of "About a Boy" from the 1997 Tibetan Freedom Concert, and the other is a cover of "Don't Smoke in Bed" from the eternally awesomely named Ain't Nuthin' But a She Thing. For most of my life, these and her status as "the Godmother of Punk" were all I knew about her.
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one." This quote from the fifth installment of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series sagely states the reason why many of us are so passionate about reading. We can project ourselves, if just for a little, into the life of a character.
Jewish writer A.J. Jacobs used to be a self-described “mushy, easily winded, moderately sickly blob.” Then, at age 41, while vacationing with his family in the Caribbean, the Manhattan-based writer caught pneumonia and wound up in an island hospital. Getting sick was a wakeup call for Jacobs that he had to take his health into his own hands so that he could live a life of longevity for his wife and three young sons—ages 8 and 5-year-old twins.
One would be hard pressed to find instances of Orthodox Judaism and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) occupying the same sentence. Yet for the women whose stories appear in the anthology, "Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires," reconciling the two is a familiar task.
"The Circus arrives without warning...It is simply there, when yesterday it was not." These are the opening words to what will probably be the next phenomenon in Young Adult literature. Released in fall of 2011 The Night Circus has all the necessary elements to captivate its readers as much if not more than The Hunger Games and its other YA/Fantasy counterparts.
So my friend wrote a book and I'm trying to find a way to write an interesting post that lets people know about this book and makes people want to read it without writing a book report. What I really want to write about is how I knew this friend in a past life, so I'm just going to get this book plug in first and then write about that.
Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis probably never met, but what if they had? With diametrically opposing views on the existence of God, the two intellectual giants would have had a lot to debate. That's the premise of the play Freud's Last Session, making its Midwest premiere at the Mercury Theater in Chicago now through Sunday, June 3.
Because my first post had absolutely nothing to do with Judaism, and Oy! just happens to be a Jewish blog, I thought I'd give a few recs of Jewish-themed fiction novels that I know everyone will love. If you're not very religious, or even not Jewish at all, don't worry, these are novels that all can enjoy, but do have either Jewish characters or Jewish themes.
On August 20, 2010 I experienced a life changing event. I was told to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. "Better than Twilight, not as good as Harry Potter" was the way it was described to me. Being the fantasy book geek that I am, that's all I needed to know. As early as the last sentence of the first paragraph, "This is the day of the reaping" I was hooked.
Life—in many ways—was a Jewish Norman Rockwell painting for Linda Pressman, growing up in Skokie in the 1960s and 70s. Her childhood included all the usual trappings of suburbia of that era-manicured lawns, her beloved banana seat-decked bicycle, and frequent trips to meet the Good Humor truck jingling down the streets of her neighborhood.
Women's rights issues such as abortion and birth control are prevalent in the news these days, but there's one issue in the Jewish community that's not getting nearly as much attention. Beverly Siegel—a producer of award-winning documentaries for commercial and public television, corporate clients, and Jewish organizations—is working to change that.
Jewish music is many things, but fearful it is not. Jewish musicians— like Jewish novelists (Philip Roth), directors (Stanley Kubrick), and comics (Lenny Bruce)— have never been afraid to push the boundaries of accepted norms… or good taste. Some even bend the line until it contorts like a rubber band in a slingshot.
It's writers like Shalom Auslander who challenge us—as readers, as Jews, as human beings. Who take something that seems so cut and dry and complicate it, make us think. His memoir, Foreskin's Lament, about his Orthodox Jewish upbringing and his complex relationship with God, established him as a powerful, controversial, and comedic writer.
Miri Ben-Ari is an Israeli Grammy award-winning violinist who has created her own unique sound by a combining classical with jazz, R&B, and hip hop. Ben-Ari has sold millions of records by collaborating with other world renowned artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West, Jay Z, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, Wynton Marsalis, Britney Spears, Maroon 5, Donna Summer, and John Legend.
Some claim to have had spiritual experiences at movies, but I doubt that anyone with a spiritual crisis would seek advice from a film director rather than a rabbi. Still, rabbis have had rough going at the cinema, with screenwriters and film-makers often taking rabbis to task for being hypocritical, mean, or just plain useless.
Two summers ago, I wrote an Oy! post highlighting my summer reading plans. It's been awhile since then and I just got my latest obsession-the new Amazon Kindle Fire. Now if you remember my last post, I talked about how much I love reading BOOKS- my office at home is covered in bookshelves- and was never going to convert to an e-reader.
Back in September, when young Jewish composer and lyricist Benj Pasek was touring Seattle with his show A Christmas Story, The Musical! -which comes to Chicago in December-he attended Yom Kippur services. After all, said Pasek, he always goes to synagogue on Yom Kippur-and his mom would have been furious if he hadn't. Then, after shul, Pasek wrote Christmas jingles for the show.
Aside from having read children’s books to my younger sister and cousins, and then my own kids, I actually took a class in children’s literature in college, much to my parents’ joy. Also, there are tons of lists about which books to read to your kids, but no lists of the ones not to.
For Jewish readers of all ages, books about the Holocaust and World War II have always been popular, both in fiction and non-fiction. Given the magnitude of those historical events, and the particular importance that their memories hold for the Jewish people, it makes sense that so much literature is dedicated to them.
Here is my list of the top 25 movies set in the greater Chicago area… and which of their creators or stars is Jewish. Please feel free (like I have to say this) to disagree with my choices, which are listed alphabetically. I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove— but can I just say: “Wow, that’s a lot.”
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.
As early as 1923, the movie East and West depicted the stereotypes Chasidic and more modernized Jews had toward each other. In her earliest known film role, Yiddish acting legend Molly Picon portrays an assimilated American teen visiting her family in the Old World.
“Have you practiced your cello yet?” It’s a question, but growing up it was the answer to my questions about watching T.V., playing at a friend’s house, having a sleepover, you name it. Some days I responded with a groan, other’s a happy “Yep! Can I go now?”
White Noise, the new raw rock musical, isn’t Mary Poppins—that’s for sure. Don’t expect your usual romp at the theater. An original musical, White Noise, opening in Chicago at the Royal George Theatre in April, is gritty and provocative and explores in-your-face issues of bigotry and hatred.
Pitom is a Jewish quartet with short beards and long talent. They take their name from the fragile tip of the etrog (that lemon-like fruit used on Succot), but their music is anything but delicate. The band’s most obvious musical influences are grunge, heavy metal, and punk.
Israeli artist Netally Schlosser never set out to change the world or anyone’s life. She’s not a humanitarian or a selfless do-gooder. But her work in a small patch of green in one of the seediest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv is challenging her in ways that other artistic projects never have.
Growing up in Milwaukee, Michael Dorf fondly recalls Passover seders with his family. His father would lead, adding supplemental readings with writings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and texts on black slavery, applying the lessons of freedom from Egypt to relevant current humanitarian issues.
This past Chanukah, we all gathered around the warm, flickering glow of our… computers. We were mesmerized by The Maccabeats, and their catchy, clever, a cappella version of Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite,” which they re-cast for Chanukah as “Candlelight.” To date, their video has had more than 4.5 million views on YouTube.
It’s not that hard to be a Jewish artist, or even an artist creating Jewish work here in Chicago; however, being a proud strong Jew at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is harder than one would expect—it’s not so hip to be religiously affiliated at art school.
While talking with 20-year-old Yali Derman, I wondered how it was possible that someone so full of life has had to fight so hard to survive. A two-time cancer survivor, Yali spoke with poise, elegance and maturity beyond her years about her time at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and how she used her creative talents to help her combat illness and now is helping other children do the same through her handbag collection.
It was 1997, my senior year of college, one of the scariest times in my life. I felt like I was supposed to suddenly become someone successful. My brothers had graduated several years before me; one went on to work at a big accounting firm, the other to medical school.
Every genre has its "without whom," as in "...without whom this music would not exist, at least not as we know it." Jazz has Louis Armstrong. Folk has Pete Seeger. Blues has Robert Johnson. And modern Jewish music has Debbie Friedman.
Can you name two past Jewish Supreme Court justices with last names beginning with the letter “F”? Did you know the comic strip X-Men was created by Jews? And for the most random Jewish fact you’ll read today and probably this decade...Bet you didn’t know the Q-Tip was invented by a Jewish guy who thought the cotton apparatus would aid his wife cleaning hard to reach places?
The first decade of this millennium saw a spate of Holocaust movies. The first hit Holocaust film of the 2000s was certainly The Pianist, which came out in 2002. For his performance as a concert pianist hiding from the Nazis, Adrien Brody won an Oscar— setting the record for youngest Best Actor and becoming the first to beat out four previous Oscar winners nominated alongside him.
What happens at the Big Event stays at the Big Event. To invoke an overused, yet fitting phrase in this case, those words came to mind while watching comedian/writer/actress Sarah Silverman perform her funny, crass, and sometimes controversial stand-up act on Saturday night at the JUF’s Young Leadership Division’s (YLD) third annual Big Event, held at the Sheraton Chicago.
I have been performing most of my life. There are few things I won’t do to get a chance at holding the microphone and having a moment in the spotlight. For the last four years I have been a part of an Improv Comedy Team in Chicago. A group of us put together a team as we were finishing classes together at IO Chicago.
America’s gone mad for Mad Men. I admit that I, too, have gone mad. My madness for the show has been one of anger, love, resignation and finally—ambivalence, and love, still. The show leaves me with more questions than answers, and somewhat ambivalent, because I think the show echoes and mirrors back to us much of the “post-feminist” era ambivalence our generation faces today.
In my line of work, I deal with helping people find their Jewish identity all of the time. In my personal life I struggle with finding "the one." It's no wonder that "This is Where I Leave You" stayed on my brain for several weeks. Plus, I was lucky enough to meet the author, Jonathan Tropper, at a reading of the paperback in Chicago.
Art sometimes has a mind of its own. And in artist Judith Joseph’s case, her art decided to take on a life of its own, as it has evolved and emerged as a 3D, interactive exhibit called The Owing Project. This exhibit invites art viewers to “become participants in a dialogue about the personal, spiritual and societal issues around debt and owing,” according to Joseph.
There are lists of Jewish movies, and lists of Jewish music. But I haven’t seen any lists of Jewish movie music— music in the soundtracks of Jewish-themed movies— so I made my own. Rather than limit myself to a “Top 10,” I decided to go with another Jewish number: 18.
It’s summertime in Chicago: the perfect time for grillin’, chillin’, and One Tree Hillin’. Okay, so I’ve never actually seen One Tree Hill, but it sounded good. Summertime is also the perfect time for great music; and anyone who’s ever seen an outdoor concert knows that certain music just sounds better this time of year.
Every year since 2000, there has been at least one American comedy with a Jewish theme in the theaters. There has never been a decade with more, or more obviously Jewish, material on display on the big screen.
Now that hockey season is over (woohoo Blackhawks!), The Real Housewives of New York concludes tonight, Team Motorboat crossed the Avon Breast Cancer Walk finish line last Sunday and I have no more weddings till the fall, it looks like I’m finally going to have some free time! (At least until I leave for Israel in three weeks.)
Those of you who’ve read my columns before are likely aware of two things: a) I could probably use a Valium every so often, and b) I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. My career consists of writing, directing, and performing music and comedy— mostly at Chicago’s Second City theater. And my most recent show, “Rush Limbaugh! The Musical” has proven to be not only my most satisfying, but also my most controversial. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Perhaps, the Canadians have young Jewish women figured out better than anybody. Recently, I have become enamored with the show, Being Erica—so much so, that it made my highly selective DVR list a couple weeks ago.
February is African-American History month. And the history of American music is a story of blacks and Jews working in, literally, harmony. Even back in the earliest part of the 20th Century, African-American singer Paul Robeson performed spirituals alongside Yiddish folksong, while the first racially integrated ensemble was led by Jewish bandleader Benny Goodman.
Just saw Avatar at Navy Pier’s Imax theater…LOVED IT!! Wow!! As I watched, I kept thinking about how this movie is totally Jewish. In fact, I think that the movie is so darn Jewish that Mr. Cameron should send a big fat royalty check (to the tune of 1.34 Billion) to JUF. That would be so great! (In the meantime, don’t forget to make your JUF donation this year!)
Have you ever not watched a television show because you identified too much with it? When I watched Sex and the City in my 20s, I really enjoyed storylines of older single women in the dating scene. Now that I’m the same age as Sarah Jessica Parker when the series started, I no longer find it (as) funny and kind of depressing.
Becca Willens respects her roots. Growing up in a small Jewish community in Petoskey, Mich. – where hers was one of five Jewish families in town – Willens learned to cherish community from an early age. Now a senior studying costume design at Columbia College, Willens translated her understanding of community into an installation displayed at Spertus Museum. The piece is a response to Spertus’ “What Does It Say to You?” exhibit.
Chanukah music does not begin with “The Dreidel Song” and end with Adam Sandler. There is plenty of great Chanukah music out there suitable for adult tastes. It’s just a little hard to find… until now. So here they are— the Top Ten Best Chanukah Albums for Grown-Ups.
Jews are some of the most famous novelists, and Jews also are some of the most important people in the superhero-type comic-book world. So it’s no big surprise that Jews are some of the most famous, most important people in the genre that conflates the two: graphic novels. What’s surprising is that so many Jewish graphic novelists have focused on Jewish experiences for their subject matter.
Whenever my husband wears a kippah – an admittedly rare occasion – he dons a colorful crocheted circle swirling in blues, yellows and browns. Kippot like his are the work of a handful of Mayan women in Guatemala, who have partnered with MayaWorks, a Chicago-based organization to produce beautiful fair-trade ritual objects, purses and clothing. The colors on my husband’s kippah were chosen by the women of San Marcos la Laguna, a small village on the shores of Lake Atitlan.
Mitch Albom has done it again. With his newest book, Have a Little Faith, he has beautifully penned a book that is insightful, touching, and highly memorable. This is the first non-fiction book Albom has written since his, now classic, Tuesdays with Morrie, notably one of my favorite books of all time. Like his earlier book, Have a Little Faith centers on a figure who Albom had a previous connection with in his life, who then plays a later role as a "teacher of life."
Have you seen the new Coen brother’s movie A Serious Man yet? For me, watching A Serious Man was like reading Portnoy’s Complaint for the first time. I found it wickedly funny at times and just plain wicked at others. Though I mostly liked it, I kept thinking how mortified I would be if anyone besides me were to learn of this story, given that it is so bleak and so unfavorable to the Jewish community and Judaism in general.
Years ago, in acting class, James Sherman met a fellow student actor who worked for an escort agency, where he pretended to be someone’s Jewish boyfriend for an evening with her parents. A Chicago Jewish playwright and now a screenwriter and director, Sherman never forgot about that silly ruse the actor had told him about. Years later, Sherman wrote a play called “Beau Jest,” a romantic comedy stemming from the escort service plotline coupled with some of his own issues with his parents.
Spencer Tweedy is a pretty cool kid—and not just because his dad is Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco, an alternative rock band based in Chicago. Though he’s only 13, Spencer already has several significant accomplishments under his belt. He started playing the drums at age two, started his first band at age six and now plays with the band Tully Monster. On his 13th birthday, Spencer was dubbed “boy genius” by Rolling Stone magazine after he got to perform a killer drum solo Madison Square Garden during a concert featuring Wilco and Neil Young—not your typical bar mitzvah celebration, but pretty awesome.
With the High Holidays fast approaching, it must be noted that perhaps the most culturally significant contribution to popular music has Jewish roots. No, I’m not referring to Matisyahu, whose dominance in the vast world of Jewish rap is pretty much unparalleled. (No offense meant to early 1990’s rap legends “Two Live Jews” and their smash hit “Fiddling with Tradition”. Any of you who think I’m making this up need to get to iTunes immediately, and spend .99 on “Mertyle the Matchmaker”.)
I am an incredibly avid reader of fiction, but when I venture into the land of non-fiction, I am usually looking for a book that I can relate to in some way. Thus grew my interest in the debut book of Eddie Sarfaty, a fellow gay Jew. Okay, so Eddie, a comedian who has a steady gig in Provincetown, Mass, is really nothing like me, a cantor. But hey, I did go to Provincetown once for a day, and I loved it!
Although I’m a writer myself, when it comes to reading for pleasure, I tend to dabble in the chick lit section of the bookstore a bit more than a girl should really admit. But hell, give me sunshine, a beach and a pastel paperback and I’m as happy as a clam. Lucky for me, there’s one author in the chick lit section who manages to fill her pink-covered pages with substance, humor (even some Jewish humor), life lessons and a little girl talk.
I think we all have moments when excitement hits us so hard that we’re rendered speechless, and we can’t synthesize any of the thoughts and feelings running through our heads into coherent responses.
The moment President Obama clinched the election, he made that famous pledge to his two daughters—as well as to billions around the world—to get a puppy for his family’s new home.
“Chicago is like the mother country of improv,” says Eli Galperin, one of the founding members of Altermania, an Israeli improv group hitting town April 14 as part of the Chicago Improv Festival. The annual event, this year dubbed “One World, Many Laughs,” will feature 90 ensembles from 11 different countries.
I remember first hearing Max Quinlan’s beautiful voice when he was just a little boy, singing in Buffalo Grove community theater productions. Growing up, both of our moms were active on the Village Arts Commission, so we often found ourselves on stage or backstage together.
You don’t meet a lot of Jews named Christopher Campbell. Well, actually, Christopher Campbell is no longer Christopher. He’s now Yisrael Campbell, but he journeyed on a long and spiritual road to arrive at his new identity. Back in the 1960s, Campbell was born into a Philadelphia Catholic family, to an Italian mother and Irish father. As Campbell describes it, “I’m the first-born son of a manic-depressive Italian woman and a pathologically silent Irishman. That makes me wildly emotional…in a very quiet way.”
In 2005, Lisa Alcalay Klug wrote two articles about being Jewish. One for the San Francisco Chronicle about how cool it is to be a Jew in the Bay Area, and another for The Forward about eight nights of Chanukah kitsch. “These two stories had something essential in common: a pride in being Jewish, an embrace of kitsch and a reverent irreverence—an irreverence based on a real love of being Jewish. When I thought of a concept to encapsulate that, the word Heebster lit up in my brain like a neon sign,” Lisa says.
In October 2007, Joel Stein was sitting in the parking lot in Old Orchard, waiting. Alone in the car, he started to laugh — the word sadorachmonesism had popped into his head. Using the root word rachmones (pity, sympathy) he created a new noun: sadorachmonesism. Defined as: the act of your mother telling you that you look “a little thick” in your new dress, then handing you her credit card to go buy something “more flattering.”
For the last 11 years, Jeff Ruby has worked his way up the totem pole from fact-checking restaurant hours and addresses and being hazed with assignments to review Rainforest Café and Hard Rock Café – “the amphibian and guitar beat” – to his current position as Senior Editor for the magazine, not only writing about food and dining, but also penning a monthly column called The Closer about, well, whatever he wants.
There was an extended pause in the conversation when I asked my husband, Joe, if he would like to join me at a dance performance last Saturday night. I have dragged my poor jock husband to countless musicals and plays, but never to a dance show. I could see the images swirling through his brain – scantily clad men slithering on the floor in a bizarre interpretive dance – and braced myself for the “no.”
Whoever said you can’t have your cake and eat it too has not been in the shoes of T.J. Shanoff. He is passionate about his work, has never had a day job, owns a home in the city he loves, travels the world and has a flexible schedule. Jealous? So what does he do? Apparently, it’s complicated.
Former Lakeview resident Matthue Roth has always been a writer, spending many of his early teen years running home after school to write science fiction stories. His new novel, Losers might not be about outer space, but the story of a Russian Jew named Jupiter Glazer’s struggle against loser-dom does have elements of a stranger in a strange land.
In Allison Amend’s debut collection of short stories, Things That Pass for Love, (OV Books), released this week, no matter how far removed the character is from the author, there’s a little bit of Allison in everyone she writes about.
The number one movie at the box office last week starred a talking dog. If you’re looking for something a little more…human…starring talking people from around the world, check out The 44th Chicago International Film Festival, playing in the Windy City from Thurs., Oct. 16- Wed., Oct. 29. This year’s festival, presented by Cinema/Chicago, features special appearances by international actors and directors along with a line up of more than 175 films total—116 feature films, 38 short films and 18 documentaries from around the globe.
In a Chicago gym locker room, a little girl, maybe three years old, climbs aboard a giant scale. To her, the newly discovered apparatus is a toy with no other purpose than fun. She jumps up and down gleefully and calls for her mother to come witness her game. Her mother exclaims, “That’s great, honey,” and lifts her daughter off the scale and steps onto it herself. Immediately, the mother’s demeanor changes, she frowns, and drops her head down. Then, she gets off the scale and her daughter climbs back on it, this time imitating her mother’s actions, dour face and all.
As a little girl, Elizabeth Gelman’s daughter would describe everyone by the color of clothes they were wearing. She would say, “That purple lady over there is talking to that green man.” Like the little girl, children often learn how to classify through this sort of exercise. But somewhere along the way in society, as children grow into adults, differentiating between people sometimes morphs into stereotyping.
Joanna Rudnick doesn’t wake up every morning thinking, “today’s the day I will get cancer.” But the documentary filmmaker does live with the knowledge that she’s more likely to develop cancer than other women her age, in part because of her heritage.
I began painting Judaic themes after my experience in the 2004 South East Asia Tsunami during which I was holidaying in Thailand. The Tsunami opened my eyes to a whole new world of humanity--it was incredible to witness firsthand everyone coming together to help each other. After surviving the Tsunami, my connection with God grew stronger, enabling me to express my passion for Judaism by creating traditional, Judaic art. I am hopeful that my paintings and artwork will inspire others by creating a positive light of energy in their homes.
I’m an avoider. My solution to the circumcision question (to cut or not to cut) is: I’ll only have girls. I am sure that this impractical resolution will result in a family of boys. I would never even have been thinking about this question had it not been for Chicagoan Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon’s film, Cut. And he would never have been thinking about this issue if not for the time, at 15-years-old, he served as the Sandek, the person who holds the baby during the ritual, for his cousin’s bris in Jerusalem. He was appalled when the Mohel leaned over the baby and came up with blood on his beard.
My three days in the Bay Area deviated slightly from the Hemispheres magazine recommended itinerary. No dim sum in Chinatown, no inline skating through the Golden Gate Park. I headed west last month for one reason: to connect with my big brother.
It’s 9:30 p.m. on a sticky July evening and I’m standing outside Lillstreet Art Studio in Ravenswood. I’ve parked the Prius I’m borrowing from a friend and I’ve used my iPhone to call local artist (and old friend) Rebecca Zemans and let her know I have arrived.
“I believe that theatre is an art unlike any other because it asks for a type of bravery that is scarce in this world,” says Dan Dvorkin, one of the founders of Two Lights Theatre Company. Named for Five for Fighting’s “Two Lights,” a song that speaks of this type of courage and bravery, Dan and his co-founder, Becky Leifman, are themselves the Two Lights, or two bright ideas, behind the new company.
If your brain is turning to mush from too much US Weekly and your eyes are tired from too much online reading, it might be time to hit the beach, or even the couch, with a book! If you’re in the mood for something Jewish, look no further than The Jewish Book Network, an organization of the Jewish Book Council, it sends Jewish authors across the country to promote their work.
Over the past year, while walking or running under the Bryn Mawr underpass at Lake Shore Drive, I’ve admired the sparkling colors and tiles, wondering who was responsible for this gorgeous mural. Then, a few months ago, my friend Orit mentioned that she was hiring teens to create another mural for the Bryn Mawr underpass.
… indicates a continuation, a sign that there’s more to say, more to come. And for Adam Blair and his band Dot Dot Dot, that couldn’t be more true. From the band’s inception, things moved fast. The Chicago-based power pop-rock band played to 1,300 people at its third show. Within five months Dot Dot Dot landed a spot on Fox’s reality TV competition, The Next Great American Band and released a CD.
I draw inspiration from lost roots, genealogy, old urban and farm architecture, residential history, sociological photography, the Midwest at night, resistance fighters, people that get me in the gut, ghosts, and music that settles somewhere between my sternum and abdomen.
Local comedian Mike Tureff originally turned to comedy in high school with an ulterior motive—to get girls. “I don’t think it’s so much that I realized I was funny as that I realized I wasn’t good looking enough to get girls without being funny,” he says.
Ravinia is about to be blessed with reggae’s most unlikely rising star: an Orthodox Jewish beatboxer who skipped out on his senior year of high school to follow the hippie jam band Phish. Born Mathew Miller, Matisyahu (the Hebrew version of "Matthew,” and the name he adopted on becoming observant), certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical reggae profile.
A hipster is not simply a skinny musician in tight pants and Chuck Taylors with a PBR in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A young Jewish professional is not always a well-dressed, curly-haired, no-nonsense woman. And an artist is not always a tormented waif with a crazy haircut and a half sleeve tattoo. I don’t fully fit into any of these subcultures, but they are all a part of me.
On January 2, 1948, Golda Meir stood, unexpected, before Chicago’s Council of Jewish Federations to appeal for the financial support necessary to arm the Jewish forces fighting for an Israeli state. Today, actress Janet Ulrich Brooks stands on the stage of Pegasus Players’ production of Golda’s Balcony, reenacting this pivotal moment in Israel’s history. “I have no speech,” she says, giving voice to Meir’s historic words. “I’ll tell you what’s in my heart.”
When Annie Coleman takes the stage in her cowboy boots and bright red lipstick instructing people to form squares for ”Dip the Oyster,” some couples fall right into place, secure in their knowledge that a square is composed of four pairs and that your position at the dance's start is "home." Many of these confident types are rockin' cowboy hats.
Inspiration struck Chicago novelist Amy Guth while she was touring the country to promote her first novel, Three Fallen Women. Encouraged by the camaraderie she found at various small-press literary and book festivals and readings nationwide, she wanted to create a similar experience for writers in Chicago. “My experience with literary festivals has been so positive,” she says. “Writing is such a solitary thing to do. It’s easy to forget that there are other people out there working and hoping for the same things.” The Pilcrow Lit fest was born.
Joey Garfield says he thinks in pictures. And lucky for us, he makes a living sharing those images with the world through his documentary films. After directing a documentary on graffiti art, Garfield realized he could make films about more stuff he liked. Like beatboxing.
Emil Sher’s adaptation of Karen Levine’s book records the real life experiences of a Czechoslovakian family’s life under Nazi occupation, a history that might have been lost were it not for the efforts of Japanese school children sixty years later, and half a world away.
Growing up in Kfar Saba, Israel, Idan Raichel was attracted to music at a young age. After serving in the Israeli army, he worked as a counselor at a boarding school for immigrants and troubled youth. The school was home to many young Ethiopian Jews who introduced Raichel to Ethiopian folk and pop music.
Joe Goodkin, founder of Chicago-based Quell records, is your regular renaissance guy. In addition to holding down jobs as a paralegal and guitar teacher, he plays in bands, runs a record label and travels to local high schools performing his original folk opera based on Homer’s Odyssey.
Gleacher Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive
Thursday, February 18, 2016 | 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
The Center for Jewish Genetics in collaboration with Hillels of Illinois presents The Business of Genetics, an interactive discussion on the globalization of research and development for rare diseases. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to interact with corporate leaders from Pfizer, who will touch on the scientific, business and medical aspects of the development and marketing of Elelyso (a new treatment for Gaucher disease) in collaboration with their Israeli biotechnology partner, Protalix. The event includes a networking reception with refreshments following the program.
For more information, contact
KarenLitwack@juf.org. There is no cost to attend this event, but space is limited. Register at
Pre-register for your free Birthright Israel adventure this summer or next winter with Shorashim to fly from Chicago, travel with others from the community, and spend all 10 days with Israelis your own age! Learn more @ israelwithisraelis.com.