Cindy Sher, contributing blogger
Cindy Sher is managing editor for
, the monthly magazine of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Cindy has been on staff with JUF News for nearly 8 years. Highlights of her time at the magazine have included interviewing such luminaries as Elie Wiesel and Jon Stewart and comparing latkes to hamentaschens (seriously).
Originally from Minneapolis, Cindy graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in June of 2000.
She previously worked in the editorial departments of television stations including WCCO-TV and Hubbard Broadcasting in Minneapolis and WBBM-TV in Chicago.
In the wintertime, she wonders why she didn’t settle in Maui and do the Jewish journalism thing there. In the summertime, she loves everything about her chosen home of Chicago, including getting her butt kicked in beach volleyball.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl to send in video describing herself. Boy dates girl on YouTube, where he has the viewing public vote to decide whether boy and girl should continue dating.
Prayer helped U.S. Army Armor Company Commander Johnie Bath through tough times in the Iraqi war zone. Though limited food options made it hard for him to keep kosher and he wasn’t able to practice the Hebrew that he had been learning back home, he often chanted prayers, particularly the Shema, a Jewish prayer pledging allegiance to God.
Last year, Ted Perlstein was having drinks with friends, a couple who had recently tied the knot. While sipping beer, the newlyweds griped about the chore of writing their wedding thank-you notes. Hearing his friends’ post-nuptial grievances got Perlstein, a Jewish Chicago-based entrepreneur, thinking about the act of sending greeting cards. “This process should be something that you look forward to,” he thought. “It should be fun.”
Only once have I been asked if I killed Jesus.
The girl, a ninth-grade peer of mine at the time, with chutzpah enough to ask me this question, hailed from a small, Jew-free Minnesotan town. When I mentioned in passing to her that I was Jewish, the next words out of her mouth were, “Didn’t the Jews kill Christ?”
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.
“That was the summer of 1963 when everybody called me Baby and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before The Beatles came, when I couldn’t wait to joint the Peace Corps, and I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman’s.”
These are the opening lines of the film “Dirty Dancing,” in which Frances “Baby” Houseman—a 17-year-old Jewish idealist—vacations with her family at a resort in the Catskill Mountains, where she discovers standing up for what she believes, the healing power of dance, and love.
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.
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.
Whether you’re discussing politics on line at Starbucks or surfing headlines online at your desk, you’re sure to encounter the names Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin hundreds of times between now and next Tuesday. But understanding the presidential election in a Jewish context is harder to come by and not something that you can learn about from the mainstream media.
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.
For the CheekyChicago.com founders, it was food at first sight. Erica Bethe Levin and Jessica Zweig had become fast friends after bonding over their shared love for food. In March, Zweig had dined at a new Chicago restaurant the night before and was gabbing to her friend and co-worker, Levin, all about it the next day on the job at the gym where they worked.
From age four, Halstuk acted as a young sous-chef to her mother, Marla Templer, helping her to prepare the mandel bread, a dessert often called the Jewish biscotti. And when Halstuk was away at Jewish summer camp, Templer would ship her daughter a bag of the goodies. “It would be 90 degrees and I would make the mandel bread last for four weeks hidden under my bed. I guess that’s kind of disgusting,” jokes Halstuk.
Once upon a time in a land called Chicago, a mutual friend fixed Brooke and Sean up on a blind date. While the two did not fall in love, they became dear friends. Years later, Brooke fixed Sean up with a woman named Cynthia. They fell in love and married. Meanwhile, Brooke met another man named Mike. They, too, fell in love and got married this past summer. And, everyone lived happily ever after.
Aaron Nunez-Gross is a Jewish Mexican-American man; he’s a city boy, yet was raised in the country too. He’s a about to graduate college, still finding his way in the world, but he’s also a guardian to his 17-year-old younger brother and a role model to other young people. He dances Flamenco and listens to Sephardic music; and he’s passionate about so much—about science, theology, politics, and peace in Israel.
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.”
As the Consumer Smarts correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show” and former host of the consumer affairs show “Steals and Deals” on CNBC, Janice Lieberman had been living an exciting life with a successful career. Yet, she was missing a loving husband to share it all with, which made the rest of her life seem a little less fabulous. “I was single for way too long and I was going nowhere with my dating life,” she said. “I had the perfect job and the perfect everything, but when you come home to an empty house, the job doesn’t seem so exciting.”
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 Jewish filmmaker Harold Ramis’s filmography reads like an encyclopedia of great comic movies of the last 30 years. He is the brains—either writer/director or both—behind some of the most often quoted and referred-to film comedies of recent decades like “Animal House,” “Meatballs,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Ghostbusters,” Groundhog Day,” and “Analyze This.” A Chicago native and a Chicago’s “Second City” alum, Ramis returned to the Windy City years ago from Hollywood to live closer to his parents, and now lives in Glencoe.
When comedy takes center stage in Chicago from June 17-21 for TBS Presents A “Very Funny” Festival: Just for Laughs Chicago, Jewish Chicago comedian Susan Messing will be at the ready with her unique brand of uncensored improv comedy.
A poll* finds that 78 percent of people surveyed, between ages 20 and 39, know the name of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s daughter, but only 45 percent of those same people know the interest rates on all their credit cards. Young people need to learn to be more financially literate, according to Beth Kobliner, a Jewish personal financial expert living in New York City and a former staff writer for Money Magazine.
David Telias was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, but has traveled back and forth between Israel and Uruguay his whole life. At age 10, he made aliyah with his family for one year. “In those days, I did not understand why we did this, but I never could get it out of my mind,” he said. “It was the first time I asked myself what it means to be Jewish.” From that day forward, Telias felt a deep connection to Israel. His story is a familiar one within the Jewish community of Uruguay, a person with allegiance to Uruguay, but a strong tie to the Jewish homeland as well.
Cindy Russo, age 16, attends ORT’s Belgrano campus, one of the two ORT technical high schools in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Students choose a concentration after three years of school, with choices from mass media to electronics to music. Russo--one of more than 4,000 students who attend the schools--has selected the management track and is interested in furthering her studies in business when she graduates next year.
Years after Joe lost his wife—Marc’s grandmother—of 54 years, Joe came to his grandson for advice on how to start dating again. Both men were living in Chicago at the time, Marc in Lincoln Park and his grandfather in a nearby retirement community. They would hang out with the ladies at Joe’s complex and Marc would offer his grandpa pointers.
In this season of reflection, as we look back on the past and look forward to a fresh start in the Jewish New Year, Cindy Sher offers first date tips to guys. Then, Jewish Chicago single guy David Cohen responds with a few dos and don’ts of his own for the ladies.
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.
Around the time that Jewish writer Jillian Straus turned 30, she noticed a lot of her friends complaining to her about their relationship troubles for hours over the phone. Like her friends, Straus says she, too, didn’t have a clue how to find love, despite her parents’ 40-plus years of being happily married. She felt that her busy career and social life entertained her for much of the time, and yet she felt lonely. “The girls on “Sex and the City” would sneer at me if they knew,” she writes in her book. “The feminist in me did not want to let myself fall prey to the specious belief that I couldn’t be happy without a man in my life.”
Starting at age 8, Andy Samberg used to sneak out of his bedroom late on Saturday nights to watch WWF wrestling. But wrestling was only on once a month, so most Saturday nights he would watch “Saturday Night Live” (SNL). “I became obsessed with SNL and fell in love with it,” Samberg recalled. “From that point on, I wanted to figure out how to craft my life to lead me to [a career] at SNL.”
Next year, I will celebrate my tenth anniversary at JUF News—the monthly magazine produced by JUF—my first and only job after college. Who says people of my generation can’t commit?! My career at the magazine started in the summer of 2000, mere weeks after tossing my graduation cap in the air and embarking on life on my own. At that time, the world was beginning to turn topsy-turvy, just before the latest intifada in Israel erupted.
When I think of the Jewish pastry rugelach, I usually picture my late, silver-haired Russian Jewish grandma—or at least someone’s Jewish grandma—flattening dough with her rolling pin in her cozy kitchen. But Leon Greenberg, a low-key, middle-aged guy from Great Neck, Long Island, doesn’t look or act anything like my grandma. He dubs himself “The Rugelach Man,” and makes rugelach as delicious as that of any grandmother I know.
Many Jewish kids have Hebrew school teachers who make Israel come alive inside their classrooms. Joel Chasnoff, originally from Evanston and now a Jewish comedian, was one such Jewish student. At Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School, back in the second grade, his Israeli teacher, Ruti, helped forge Chasnoff’s early connection to Israel.
I wish I could recruit for a new best friend in town. My closest friend Lauren just moved out of Chicago this winter and returned to her hometown of Miami with her husband and toddling daughter to live near Lauren’s parents. She’s my best friend of 15 years so whoever you are, New Best Friend, you’d have big shoes to fill—literally. Lauren wears a size 11.
Last year, I won a dress in a raffle. The gown happened to be designed by my favorite designer, one that I don’t typically buy from because… well…her clothing costs almost as much as my monthly rent. As I approached the auctioneer to claim my winnings, I contemplated the perfect occasion to wear the dress. But as I looked at my prize up close, I saw the dress wasn’t my size. So I tucked it away in my closet and let it gather dust.
Here’s a question to pose to people around your Shabbat dinner table this Friday night: If you could invite anyone for Shabbat dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
E.leaven owner serves up family recipes and New York style bagels—voted the "best bagel" in Chicago. They say the key to a top notch bagel is in the water.
Now I know what “going viral” really means. My dear friend, Gabrielle Birkner, who I met in college at Northwestern, once told me in passing that Paul Rudd deejayed her bat mitzvah back in 1992 before he was a star. I didn’t think much of it (in fact I thought she was kidding) until this video landed at my computer yesterday afternoon, sent to me by a friend of mine who doesn’t even know Gabi, who is now a sophisticated web editor at “The Jewish Daily Forward” in Manhattan.
When Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was a child growing up in Ghana, the other kids wouldn’t play with him because he had a deformed leg. But Yeboah wouldn’t let them burst his spirit. The boy, who came from a destitute family, got a part-time job shining shoes and earned enough money to buy a soccer ball to loan out to the other kids, also too poor to afford one. Yeboah told them they could use the ball on one condition—that they let him play soccer with them.
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.
My family rang in the Jewish new year at a friend’s home. After we chanted the blessings and before we sat down to eat our meal, the host asked each of the guests to take turns saying what we were most thankful for in the past year.
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?
Back during the women’s lib movement, Marjorie Gelb was part of the first generation of professional women that were climbing the career ladder. She was a fulltime working lawyer, a wife, and a mother of two. She wanted a fulfilling career, but she still desired to put high-quality food on the table for her family. In fact, Gelb identifies herself as a gourmet, defined by the French as “someone who likes to eat good things.”
Siblings Brad and Danielle Weisberg were checking out a dating website one day last year. When Brad left to run errands, their mother, Barbara, also in the room at the time, asked if she could sift through profiles for him in his absence. By the time he returned a couple hours later, Barbara had jotted down a list of 10 Jewish women’s screen names for him to contact.
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.
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.
When Jewish author Bruce Feiler was five years old, he was struck by a car while riding his Schwinn bike, breaking his left femur. More than 30 years later, he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in that same femur. Whether the accident and his illness were related or mere coincidence, he will never know.
Is he or she “the one?” If you’re, well, human, you’ve probably asked that question about a past or present mate at some point in your courtship. What if you could conduct a scientific experiment to test the answer to that universal question? In the new quirky romantic comedy film, Losing Control, (A PhD Production)—which premieres in Chicago in June—Samantha Bazarick (played by Miranda Kent of TV’s Campus Ladies) tests just that.
I love graduation season. That might surprise you considering most people dread attending graduations—the bleachers, the sweat, the boredom, the caps. But work with me here.
It’s been two decades since my bat mitzvah. How did that happen? It feels like yesterday, well maybe not yesterday, but last week for sure, when I was up on the pulpit chanting the Torah portion in my poofy floral dress.
When I was a freshman in high school, a fellow Jewish kid in my class—a guy with a tendency to tease tall girls like me—approached me at the start of the school year and gave me a great big hug.
Recently, I was walking down the streets of downtown Chicago, reveling in one of those perfect balmy afternoons when, out of nowhere, a strange man grabbed me from behind.
I recently read my 3-year-old nephew one of my favorite books from my childhood—as much a treat for me as for him. The book, appropriate to dig up in time for Jewish Book Month this month, is a cherished Yiddish folktale called It Could Always Be Worse, by author Margot Zemach, about a poor shtetl man who thinks life can’t get any harder than living in a tiny one-room hut with his wife and many children.
Have you ever seen the YouTube clip of late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon impersonating singer Neil Young—with Bruce Springsteen as himself—singing a duet of Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair? If you haven’t, this article can wait. Go watch it and then come back…
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.
Jimmy Fallon's everywhere these days. In the last week alone, you may have seen him interviewed on a talk show; caught him on a commercial; eaten his Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor; heard him deejay the top 40 countdown on the radio; and—oh yeah—watched him host his own late night talk show five nights a week. And next weekend, Fallon returns to his comedy alma mater Saturday Night Live to host the show's big holiday episode. But this past Saturday night, Dec. 10, Fallon hung out only with us.
A couple of years ago I read the book 29 Gifts and I still think about the book to this day. It's the true story of Cami Walker, a 30-something newlywed, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, who was feeling sorry for herself. Amidst Walker's depression, a medicine woman recommends that Walker give away a gift each day for a month as a way to get outside of her own headspace.
I guess you could say standing up in weddings has become an extra-curricular activity of mine by default. I'm a bridesmaid about as often as people change their clocks for Daylight Saving and Standard Time—about twice a year.
At a recent family dinner, my 6-year-old nephew said the words that perhaps every 6-year-old kid has said at some point in their young lives. "It's not fair," he objected.
Let's say the world was your (Jewish) oyster…where in the world would you like to travel to—Israel, the Galapagos Islands, Wilmette? We posed that question to Jewish Chicagoans with the travel bug.
When I was in junior high, my family hosted a woman in our home who was in town for a weekend speaking engagement. She was in her 70s at the time, blonde, and wore tailored skirt suits. Warm and gentle, yet strong, she reminded me of my grandmothers.
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.
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.
It was the summer solstice. My friend and I had just left the Western Wall when we happened upon hundreds of people lining the streets of Jerusalem at sunset holding hands, dancing, and singing "Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu)," an Israeli song, sung in Hebrew and Arabic, that's come to symbolize a call for peace.
You ready for a clean slate? We Jews are lucky to get a chance to start over every fall as the shofar sounds a wake up call in each of our lives. With the changing leaves, the crispness in the air, and new Justin Bieber Trapper Keepers in the back-to-school aisle comes a promise for a fresh start in 5773.
The leaves are falling, the sukkahs have come down, and TV's fall lineup is in full swing. Today, housewives, matchmakers, and weight-loss contests dominate the airwaves, with just a few scripted shows sprinkled in between, but that's not how it used to be.
Remember when we were kids and we looked forward to our birthdays with gusto, crossing the days off the calendar as The Big Day grew closer? When our only worry on that day was how much birthday cake frosting we could stomach? Then, somewhere along the way—after we reached birthday milestones like the ones allowing us to legally drive, vote, drink, and rent a car—birthdays took on a bum rap.
For the fifth year in a row, Young Leadership Division's (YLD) Big Event was the place to be for young Jewish adults in Chicago this past Saturday night. A whopping 2,400 young Jews came together to support the Chicago Jewish community and the Jewish United Fund, celebrate Chanukah together, and watch entertainment by standup comedian and Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari as well as young local Jewish singer, Edon Pinchot. YLD's Big Event, held at the Sheraton Chicago, kicked off YLD's 2013 Annual Campaign.
I'm an early riser and always have been. Even as a teen, and now in my not-so-teen years, when people my age relish sleeping through breakfast, my circadian rhythms are less like my peers and more like my 89-year-old grandpa, who grabs his morning coffee and paper at dawn every day.
My late grandma Tessie was the ultimate optimist. Growing up a poor, Jewish girl in famine-stricken Russia, around the time of the Russian Revolution, my grandma and her family could often scrounge up little food other than onions, which they'd fry up and eat meal after meal.
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.
Growing up, my friend and I—the youngest representatives from each of our families and tasked with singing Ma Nishtana ("The Four Questions") every Passover—would spend a good portion of the pre-Seder festivities each year practicing the song together. We loved the holiday and took our role in the seder seriously, striving to get the questions just right—and we would have just died of embarrassment if we messed up.
I'm packing up, getting ready to move on out after more than a decade of living in the same building. You've been there. You're standing in your home—a dot in a sea of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and duct tape—enveloped in a tornado of possessions strewn across every piece of furniture and floor space as far as the eye can see. You've got to decide what to take with you, what to give to tzedakah, and what to give to the garbage man—and you've got like a day to do it. Sound familiar?
Like most people of the female persuasion—and maybe even some guys too—I had been painting the picture of life with my future beshert for a long time. In fact, I had started painting that picture way back when I was a little girl, when my medium of choice probably would have been Crayola finger paints.
This is a letter to my future twin step-daughters, age 9, and my three nephews, ages 8, 5, and 2. Dear Kids, Thank you for being you. Thank you for making me happier every time you smile, sneeze, laugh, dance, tell me a joke with no punch line, and find magic in the mundane things I take for granted like a train, the produce aisle of the grocery store, or even dirt.
Cawker CIty, Kan. claims the world’s biggest ball of twine. Kenosha, Wisc. is home to an actual cheese castle. And in Leicester, Vt., you’ll spot a statue of a giant gorilla holding a Volkswagen Beetle. Only in America.
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.”
All this talk about Sukkot, which we just celebrated, got me thinking about dwellings and homes—especially this year. See, I’m moving into a new apartment, but the lease hasn’t started yet. Unlike our Jewish ancestors who wandered in the desert for 40 years, I figured I’d be wandering for a little less—about two months—the gap between my residency at my old place and my new place.
If you’ve visited any water cooler frequented by Members of the Tribe lately, the subject of the first day of Chanukah landing on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1888—and the last time for another 70,000 years—was bound to come up.
Castle Chicago, 632 N Dearborn St
Tuesday, December 24 | 8 p.m. - 4 a.m.
It's Christmas Eve, what else are you going to do? The groups that brought you the best Xmas Eve Parties in Chicago over the past 10 years have finally teamed up for one huge event: The Official Matzo Bash 2013 - The Chosen Knight.
BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE: http://matzobash-juf.eventbrite.com
Every time a ticket is purchased from this link, $5 will be donated to the JUF!
Projects run from November 17, 2013 - January 5, 2014.
Give thanks by giving back this holiday season and volunteer through TOV's Winter Mitzvah Mania. Sign up today!