Stefanie Pervos Bregman, founding editor and blogger-in-chief
A Badger through and through, Stefanie graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Jewish Studies and recently got her masters in professional Jewish Studies at the Spertus Institute in Chicago. She makes her parents very proud by putting her degrees to good use as the Manager of Digital Communications at JUF and the Associate Editor of JUF News.
When she’s not writing, sleeping or being a professional Jew, Stefanie indulges in the following: dancing, Portillo’s chocolate cake, Nookies crunchy French toast, Pinot Grigio, sunshine and mind-numbing reality television.
A happy newlywed, Stefanie lives with her husband, their in-unit washer dryer and a Roomba named R2-D2.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
The face of American Jewry is changing, thanks in large part to the efforts of this country’s younger members of the tribe, who are finding new ways of expressing their Judaism that don’t always line up with the traditional values of existing Jewish institutions.
Since I left the security blanket of college about two years ago, my life has been full of change. I moved back home to the suburbs and got my first real job, and when I could no longer stand the suburbs, I moved out to Lincoln Park and started a new job. I went from in a relationship, to single, to in a relationship, both in real life and on my Facebook profile.
In true Jewish geography fashion, my mom’s best friend Linda introduced me to her other best friend Roberta, who then introduced me to her son, Matt. And though Matt and I never had the chance meet in person, his story—as told through his mother and his own writing—will remain close to my heart forever.
“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.
For the Cohen family of Buffalo Grove, athletic ability of Olympic proportions runs in the family. Aaron Cohen, first alternate on this year’s Olympic Judo team set to compete in Beijing this month, follows in the footsteps of his father, Irwin Cohen, who competed in Judo in the 1972 Olympics, and his uncle, Steve Cohen who competed in the 1988 Games.
Growing up, I didn’t really think anything of the way my socks were put away, each pair bundled together into a perfect ball, arranged in rainbow order (yes, people wore colored socks back then) in my top drawer. In my closet, clothes were arranged by season and color and every hanger and seam faced the same direction.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Mean Girls” with Lindsay Lohan, you know it’s not easy being a teenage girl these days. On top of the social pressure to look a certain way, there’s the desire to hang out with the right crowd, find the right boyfriend and get good enough grades to get into the right college. And, between ages 9 and 16, girls start to mature both physically and emotionally--much earlier than their male counterparts.
Five and a half years ago, Linda Zelda Neiman was a stay-at-home mom, doing lots of volunteer work and baking and cooking up a storm in her Lincolnwood kitchen. When she felt ready to go back to work, she opted not to go back to her old job in computer science and instead to follow her passion for sweets, opening Zelda’s Sweet Shoppe in Skokie.
So here’s something they probably don’t teach you in Hebrew school: According to Judaism, sex (of all shapes, sizes and positions) between a husband and wife is not only kosher, it’s a mitzvah!
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.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are probably best known for creating ice cream flavors with tastes and names like no others—favorites like Phish Food, Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, to name a few. But what you might not know about these two longtime friends and business partners is that since co-founding Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in 1978, they have created a company with a long history of social activism and a community-oriented approach to business to back up their sweet, rich and tasty ice cream.
Let’s face it—Jewish mothers can sometimes be a royal pain in the ass. But despite their neurotic, overprotective, passive aggressive tendencies, they are also the most loving, supportive and accomplished women around. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, some of us here at Oy! wanted to share our thoughts, experiences and memories about our real life Jewish moms.
I stumbled upon Elisa Albert’s The Book of Dahlia at Borders one day, looking for some light reading to bring on a girls’ weekend to Vegas. And while I didn’t get light reading by any stretch of the imagination, I did get hooked–on Albert’s dark, witty prose and the bizarre way she managed to turn life—and death—on its head. The book’s main character, Dahlia, is a brash, uninspired, bitter, underachieving 29-year-old when she finds out she has terminal brain cancer. As I read, following Dahlia as she hurled toward death, I found myself snickering at parts—it seemed at once both the wrong and right thing to do—and crying at others.
To say that David Gergen has done it all when it comes to American politics and public service would be an understatement— his bio includes Presidential adviser, commentator, teacher, editor, public servant, best-selling author and TV news personality.
I caught up with Gergen in a recent phone interview prior to his visit to Chicago May 18 to speak at a JUF Women's Division event. I was curious to hear his take on the first months of the Obama administration, his opinion about his daughter's conversion to Judaism and what it was like to serve both republican and democratic presidents.
Last July, I wrote A Tribute to Matt, an article that celebrated the life of Matt Lash, a 2007 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law. Matt died April 30, 2008 at age 27 after a seven and a half year battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. As I wrote a little over a year ago, though he only lived in Chicago for a short time, Matt left a lasting mark on the people he met here, both through law school and his Birthright Israel trip.
You know that episode of “Friends” where Monica’s about to move in with Chandler? When she turns to Rachel and with a look on her face that says both I-can’t-wait-to-live-with-the-person-I-love and I-can’t-believe-I’m-going-to-live-with-this-slob-who’s-going-to-leave-the-toilet-seat-up, whines “I have to live with a booyyyyy!?”
I get it now.
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.
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.
This summer, JVibe, the magazine for Jewish teens, gave out its first-ever “18 under 18” awards honoring extraordinary teens, and two of those special teens hail from the Chicago area—not too shabby! Oy! caught up with one of the local award-winners, 18-year-old Ethan Barhydt, recognized for his work as an advocate for the people of Darfur, before he begins a whirlwind year of internships and travel to East Africa.
I’m not sure when or how or why, but at some point in the past few years, I got old—and so did my friends. Now before you start rolling your eyes or getting ready to smack me (because most of you are older than me), hear me out. I don’t mean old in a literal, over-the-hill, clock is ticking, eggs are drying up kind of way. I just mean, at some point along the way, most of the people I know started acting less like children and more like grumpy old adults.
This Wednesday night (Nov. 4) Chicagoans will have the rare opportunity to get a glimpse into Israeli culture—free of charge! Three former contestants of “Kochav Nolad/A Star is Born” Israel's version of "American Idol" will perform “Israel: Sing it!!! A Concert Honoring Yitzhak Rabin's Legacy of Peace and Tolerance.”
It’s almost time to watch the candles burning bright in the menorah, but it’s more important than ever that Chanukah doesn’t burn a hole in our pockets. If you’re looking to do something meaningful (and cheap) for your family and friends this Chanukah, take a look at some of these great ideas and volunteer opportunities...
As the holiday season is really all about food, I thought it would be funny if I attempted to cook a traditional Shabbat dinner for my boyfriend Mike and wrote a blog post making fun of my inevitable failure. Lucky for me (and for Mike), this isn’t a story of failure at all.
You might already know that getting involved in JUF-sponsored programs and activities is a great way to give back, volunteer and get connected to Chicago’s Jewish community—but did you know these programs are also great places to find love? I know from firsthand experience—my fiancé Mike and I met while both working at JUF. Here are three couples—one dating, one engaged and one married—who met their besherts (destined) while participating in three different JUF-sponsored programs.
More than 10,000 spirited people came together at seven different locations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area Sunday for Israel Solidarity Day featuring the Walk with Israel. The event, which celebrated Israel’s 62nd anniversary, featured six-kilometer walks, the festive beats of the King David Drummers, along with other entertainment and food at each location.
On the very cold night of January 25 at 9pm, outside the Planetarium overlooking an unobstructed view of the Chicago skyline, a sweet, handsome young man got down on one knee and proposed to his shocked and freezing girlfriend.
Chicagoans are well-represented in Washington, D.C. these days. Last week, Chicago’s Jewish community was no exception, as 36 members of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) made their voices heard in the capitol—and I got to tag along.
The mood in Chicago’s Federal Plaza was bittersweet last night, as more than 500 Chicagoans gathered to show support for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The crowd was somber, noting Shalit’s years in captivity, but also hopeful and prayerful for his safe return to his family.
While watching The Ten Commandments in the week following Passover (my fiancé Mike’s tradition), we discovered something of biblical proportion—we share the same Hebrew names as Moses and his wife! Mike’s Hebrew name, not surprisingly, is Moshe and mine, Tzipora.
Laura Klibanow and her mom have been baking her cousin Libby's mandel bread recipe for as long as she can remember. For years, everyone who tasted it told them—"you have to sell this!" Finally, they decided it was time to share this delicious cookie with the world and named the company Libby & Laura, as a tribute to Libby, who passed away. Their mandel bread is unique—it is baked only once, not twice—making it softer than most mandel bread and biscotti.
As someone who is constantly (and mostly unsuccessfully) trying to set up her single friends, I was excited to meet Barbie Adler, a real, live matchmaker. As I toured her office, where words like LOVE, AMOR, and KISS ME are literally written on the walls in big wooden letters, it became clear that Barbie is not your traditional yenta.
Jay Leno needs no introduction. After years of working his way up in the standup scene, the comedian became a household name when he took the reins of NBC’s The Tonight Show in 1992. This March marked the beginning of his 18th season as host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
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.
You might say Shalom Klein was born to schmooze. In fact, within hours of our interview, I already had several emails from Klein connecting me to people I should know. It’s this passion for networking and entrepreneurial spirit that makes Klein so successful at what he does.
There’s a new Bear in town—and he’s Jewish! Gabe Carimi, former co-captain and star offensive lineman of the Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers was the Chicago Bears’ number one draft pick in 2011.
In early July, on one of the happiest and most perfect days I can remember, I got married! After a year and a half of wedding planning and events—including showers, a bachelorette party, an auf ruf, a wonderful and warm wedding and an amazing honeymoon—suddenly, it’s two months later, it’s all over and I’m left with a sky high pile of thank you notes to write and a quickly fading tan…Oh yeah, and a new, caring, handsome and kind husband who I adore.
We’ve all heard the stereotype that Jews just aren’t that good at sports—particularly a sport like football, where size and aggression matter. But two Jewish players—Gabe Carimi and Adam Podlesh—have joined the Chicago Bears this season and three Jewish college students from Chicago’s North Shore will be playing on Ivy League football teams this year. Take that, stereotype!
On a chilly October night, 100 women from JUF’s Young Women’s City Council (YWC) got the inside scoop from four women who are living their dream: working for Oprah Winfrey. On Oct. 18 at the Hotel Palomar Chicago, YWC offered the opportunity to spend an evening with four producers.
Since I got engaged almost two years ago, I've been taking cooking lessons from my grandmas, who I call "Nana." In addition to teaching me to make some of my favorite recipes from growing up, these lessons are also intended to make me less inept in the kitchen now that I'm a married lady (though this is still yet to be seen). But most importantly, these lessons provide invaluable Nana bonding time.
I thought about the flickers of light that were brought into our lives and what I would dedicate each candle to this Chanukah. So, in no particular order, here is my Lights of Chanukah 2011 candle lighting ceremony.
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.
I have a love-hate relationship with my to-do list. I still keep my tasks for work written down on an old fashioned notepad-for some reason, it's much more satisfying to actually cross something off with a pen, rather than just deleting text from the notepad application on my iPhone.
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.
I'm writing this post fresh off the plane from a trip to Vegas. And despite how the old saying goes, this time, I hope what happened in Vegas won't stay there.
There is something so special about a reunion with your group of girlfriends. This past weekend, Sari, one of my dearest friends from college, came to visit. Most of us girls live here in Chicago, so Sari coming in made us complete for a short while.
“Bialy…is that Italian?” Um…not so much. “Bialy…that’s like a bagel without a whole in it, right?” Yes, random girl on the street, that’s close enough. Bialy is also the name of my 13-week-old five-pounds-big Bichon poodle puppy.
Recently, while on a girls' trip to Orlando with my mom and sister, we pulled out the vintage 1998 Disney World park passes that in true Disney fashion, magically still had two days left on them. So we put on our mouse ears and ventured back in time to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Two years ago, Tziporah Gelman weighed almost 300 pounds and knew she needed to make a change, so she stepped into her first Zumba class at her local gym. Today, Gelman is a Zumba instructor, in great shape and changing the lives of Jewish women in the community for the better. It was love at first dance move, when Gelman took her first Zumba class.
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."
Alison Levine has made it to the top, both literally and figuratively. Born with a life-threatening heart condition, Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome, that prevented her from driving a car or walking up a flight of stairs, today Levine climbs mountains and the corporate ladder. Thirteen years after her initial diagnosis, Levine had surgery that changed her life. As one of the most experienced female mountaineers in the country, she has climbed peaks on every continent. In 2010, with her successful expedition to the top of Mount Everest, she became one of the few climbers to complete the Adventure Grand Slam—claiming the Seven Summits and skiing to both Poles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While he was growing up in Glenview, Judaism and Israel remained two separate conversations for 26-year-old Scott Frankel. "Israel was intimidating for me, primarily because I hadn't yet had an understanding or relationship with Israel. Then in college I saw a study that concluded that as each new generation of American Jews continues to pass, there's a greater disconnect with Israel. When I saw this, I realized it was time for me to begin to understand what my Jewish identity consists of, and Israel's place within that."
There's no Oy! without you. Libby, my co-founding editor, and I wrote those words on the About Oy! page over five years ago, in April 2008, when we first launched Oy!Chicago. (I guess technically, there's no Oy! without yo!, but I digress).
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.
In this world, there are people who save things and people who don’t—and I guess some people who probably fall somewhere in between. I am a “don’t save things” kind of person—it’s in my genes.
Recently, my dear friend and I celebrated her 30th birthday. Twenty-nine had included some of the happiest times of her life—getting married to an amazing guy—and yet was also one of the most difficult years of her life as she battled breast cancer.
"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’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.
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.
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.