The Oy! Team
Stefanie Pervos Bregman photo_th

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.

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Libby Ellis has been writing and editing professionally for about 10 years. Her career highlights include: Interviewing Joan Jett, getting to stand on Wrigley Field and Soldier Field during the same week and visiting a Canadian vineyard owned by a member of Bob Marley’s family. She earned her MA in Writing and Publishing at Emerson College.

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When you look at Steven's experience and skills on paper, he either comes across as a multi-talented superstar or someone who doesn't know what the heck he's doing in life. To some extent, both are true. Steven is originally from Deerfield, Ill. He got himself a journalism degree at the University of Missouri, which is a great place to do that sort of thing, but it matters little when you graduate at the onset of a recession like he did.

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After studying commercial photography and graduating from Ohio University, Lindsey Bissett threw a dart at a map and ended up in Chicago. She began working at a theatre where she rode horses and danced with fire to make ends meet. With scorched fingers and an aching back, Lindsey left the horse theatre business and now works as the Associate Production Manager for JUF News.

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Esther grew up in the wilds of Appalachia, where the next closest Jewish community was in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She came to the big city and graduated from the University of Chicago in 2006 with a degree in “dead literary boyfriends.” One thing led to another, including figuring out (after several false starts) that nonprofit work made her truly happy, which led her to her current position at the Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders.

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Gabi Bronstein is a 2012 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison honors program with a double degree in communications and history, and a certificate in European studies. She currently works for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and volunteers with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

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Eric Burgher is a Chicago native and founder of Sweet Home Sports, covering all things Chicago sports. Eric is an adjunct faculty member in the theatre department at Columbia College Chicago, and a Music Specialist for JCC Chicago.

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It is only fitting that Blair Chavis is an Oy! contributor, as "oy" is one of the most frequently uttered words in her vocabulary, according to her co-workers, friends and family. Blair is an Editor at Prime Publishing LLC, an online publishing company. She edits and managing several lifestyle Web sites. She also does freelance reporting on the side.

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Caryn grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is happy to now call the city home. She is a proud graduate of Colgate University where she received her bachelors in Peace and Conflict Studies. Caryn spent her four years in Hamilton, New York as a member of the Colgate Jewish Union, Student Government, Greek life and much more.

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Dana Fine, owner of Dana Fine Acupuncture, LLC in Northbrook, is a board certified acupuncturist and herbal medicine practitioner. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University, and a Masters of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine. Dana grew up in the northern suburbs, but her heart belongs on the South Side with the White Sox. Just like her big brother, Rabbi Jeremy Fine, she loves connecting Judaism to just about anything especially Chinese medicine! She is currently writing a book connecting the two! Find out more about Dana at www.danafineacu.com.

Jeremy Fine_th

Jeremy Fine is currently the Assistant Rabbi at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul Minnesota. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Even though living in Minnesota, Jeremy is a Chicago guy through and through. He loves deep dish and The Chicago White Sox. His blog www.thegreatrabbino.com combines his two passions: Judaism and sports. He's really excited to be a part of the Oy! team. If you have any questions or comments email him at info@thegreatrabbino.com.

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Laura Frankel is the former chef and founder of the Shallots restaurants. She has training and extensive experience in both savory and pastry kitchens. After starting a family, she began maintaining a kosher home and found that there was nowhere in Chicago serving the quality of food that she knew she could offer. She opened her first restaurant in 1999 offering kosher fine dining with a produce-driven menu. She opened Shallots NY in 2000 in Mid-town Manhattan. In 2004, she moved her Chicago restaurant to Skokie and created Shallots Bistro.

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Kevin Friduss is currently a Licensed Real Estate Consultant at StudentSpace. He graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in Communications and a minor in Theater. As an extreme outdoor enthusiast, you can find him on a mountain in the winter and on a beach in the summer.

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A transplant from Cleveland, Ohio, Rachel has lived in Chicago for over five years and is in denial of the fact that she’s essentially a permanent Midwesterner and will never actually escape the perils of winter for a warmer climate. Rachel recently left her nine to five gig as Director of Volunteers and Outreach at The ARK, and she is now entering the world of stay-at-home mommyhood with baby Colin Harrison, born in May 2012.

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Mila Furman is a chef, blogger, writer, recipe developer, food coach, new mom, wife and all around busy bee. Born in the former USSR, she grew up in Chicago and quickly developed an affinity for the culinary arts. Her Ashkenazi roots frequently influence her kitchen creations. She graduated from one of the top culinary schools with a degree in culinary arts and a BA in Hospitality and Restaurant management. Having worked all over Chicago in a multitude of kitchens, she boasts a well-rounded recipe repertoire. Read more of her story and keep up with her many shenanigans at www.girlandthekitchen.com.

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Neil was grew up in Wichita, Kansas and after high school he spent two years studying in Israel and then went onto Yeshiva University. He is a parent, a husband, a learner, a blogger, a bike rider, a punk music listener, a consumer of iced coffee, and a self-cultivator. In 2006 Neil, his wife, and three kids moved to West Rogers Park. He is a commercial real estate consultant.

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After graduating from Skidmore College with a Bachelor’s Degree in political science and history, Cheryl tried to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a bat girl for her beloved Cubs. When that failed to pan out, she decided to chase her second love—writing. She’s the Marketing Manager, Social Media and Outreach Communications at JUF. Before joining the Federation, Cheryl worked at a public relations firm in the city on consumer, B2B and non-profit accounts.

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Originally from Detroit, Andy Kirschner lived in Chicago for about 10 years after college and currently finds himself just outside Washington, D.C. He has had several job titles throughout his career, including knife seller, recruiting manager, bagel-maker, life coach, tour guide, career counselor, Birthright Fellow, trade officer and PresenTense Coordinator. Currently, he combines all of those skills at 100 Reasons to Win, where he coaches and trains professionals to replace excuses to fail with reasons to succeed.

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Born and raised in Buffalo Grove, Ashley’s been a little here, there and everywhere but is a Chicago girl at heart. She currently works at Prime Publishing in Northbrook as an editor for a food website. She’s a proud Illini (graduated with Bachelor’s in Media Studies in 2009), a dedicated Francophile, a music lover and a writer always.

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After four glorious years under the sheltered wing of higher education, Jessica is beginning her first tentative steps into the real world. While her room will probably continue to be adorned with UW paraphernalia, she’s excited to start living in a city with buildings taller than four stories. She’s beginning an internship for the summer, which she hopes and prays will turn into a full-time position in the fall. When not writing, Jessica enjoys reading, embarking on culinary misadventures, and traveling whenever she gets the chance.

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Ron Krit has been personal training clients for over 10 years! His philosophy centers on making fitness fun so you look forward to working out and getting healthy.

Lia Lehrer photo_th

There are some things in Lia’s life that she finds so irritating that they’re actually funny – like “honor roll” bumper stickers, doctor’s office waiting rooms, and the font “Curlz MT.” And then there are other things that make her really happy – like frozen meals from her mom, unique kitchen gadgets, and a website that keeps track of which TV episodes she’s watched. Sometimes funny, sometimes sentimental, Lia uses her love of writing to attempt to make a tiny difference in the world – or at least make you chuckle.

Jessica Leving photo_th

It’s been a winding road back to Chicago, but after spending the first half of her 20s in places as diverse as Boston, Nashville, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Jerusalem, and even Auckland, New Zealand, Jessica has finally returned to the city she calls home.

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Adam Daniel Miller is a self-proclaimed writer and comedian of sorts having performed professionally for six months once. He has also written a multitude of short stories, 10-minute/one-act plays, two full-length plays and many various other bits of writing.

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Voted #1 Skydiving Rabbi of 1997, Josh joined the Peace Corp in 1998 working with Indonesian youth in Russia for three years. After realizing there wasn't much hope (nor population to work with), he moved on to write English textbooks in Japan for native Dutch speakers. After years of meaning and monotony, he decided it was time to settle down and get a job, so he took over a decade off to study in the illustrious Yeshiva University and a number of Israeli yeshivas (post-doc Judaic studies sites). While meditating in the Rockies, he met his wife-to-be, Laura, who knocked some sense into him and continues to keep him grounded, down to earth, and changing diapers.

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Annice is an Evanston raised, vegetarian grazing, liberal, red mini van driving chick who lives with a(n almost) vegan husband, 4 nutty kids and 2 rescue dogs in the rockin' burbs of Glencoe (where the party never ends!) She has made exactly zero dollars since earning her Masters Degree in Counseling because she popped out a kid right after graduation and then couldn't figure out how to stop doing that. (Which is no doubt just silly since she volunteers at a birth control clinic in Northfield and teaches sex ed and HIV/AIDS prevention in Englewood.)

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Marcy grew up in the flat plains of Midwest suburbia, in Jewish Country— Highland Park, Illinois. She currently lives in the artist colony of Nahlaoot, Israel with her husband. Their mission is to fill up on Jewish education and skills in order to bring it back to America and help out the Jewish communities there.

Jeremy Owens photo_th

Jeremy grew up in the rice fields of Stuttgart, Arkansas (the rice and duck capital of the world) but claims naturalized citizenship in Chicago. He came to the Windy City a few years ago to earn his MFA in acting at Roosevelt University and in spite of the cold has yet to leave. In his free time Jeremy hosts and produces an ongoing live-lit show known as You're Being Ridiculous.

Lauren Schmidt photo_th

After growing up in Wilmette, IL, Lauren traveled to Washington DC to attend the George Washington University for the past four years. She graduated this year and although she had a blast in the District, she is very excited to be back in the Midwest, working for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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Cindy Sher is managing editor for JUF News, 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).

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Born and raised in Chicago, Ari Moffic Silver is a Jewish educator and foodie that has his finger on the pulse of Chicago’s Jewish education experience, and also its dynamic, delectable, dining destinations! Now residing in Glencoe with his wife Ashley and baby daughter, Emma, Ari teaches third grade at Solomon Schechter Day School.

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Imagine a man with the charisma of Cary Grant, the audacity of Marlon Brando, and the brilliance of Laurence Olivier. That’s George Clooney. I’m more… Jason Alexander. I was born in Cleveland in 1970, but entered Northwestern in 1988, moving to Chicago permanently (so far) in 1994… so there is some hesitancy as to where I’m “from”. I have three gorgeous, genius children— two of grade-school age, one of each major type, and a brand new baby boy. I have a wife who is prettier, smarter and more athletic than me. And we have a puppy who is just plain ridiculous.

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Brought up in bumping Minneapolis, Jacey moved to the big city about a year ago—give or take a few steps in between. She has lived in Uruguay, Argentina, Israel and the ever so exotic Madison, Wisconsin—but not in that order. Although life has taken her in many directions, she is currently working in fundraising for the Jewish United Fund—saving the world one dollar at time.

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Stacey Ballis is the author of four novels: INAPPROPRIATE MEN, SLEEPING OVER, ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT and THE SPINSTER SISTERS. She is a contributing author to two non-fiction anthologies; GIRLS WHO LIKE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS and EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME.

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As the assistant regional director of Chicago's Anti-Defamation League, Jenna Benn works to advance the missions of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry through legislation, monitoring extremist groups, advocating for Israel, responding to acts of discrimination and providing anti-bias training programs for schools.

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Rachel Bertsche is a journalist in Chicago and the author of the upcoming memoir, MWF Seeking BFF (Ballantine). Before leaving New York for the Midwest, Rachel was an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine. In addition to O, she’s written for publications including Marie Claire, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Teen Vogue, Outside, Fitness, More, Women's Health, Chicago Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, Ocean Drive and Field and Stream.

Sydney Bucksbaum photo_th

Sydney Bucksbaum has finally decided to stay put for once. After moving around and living in five different places in her twenty years of living, she discovered her passion for the city, and is here to stay in Chicago...that is, until she graduates.

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As a little girl, Jane Charney never dreamt of becoming a professional Jew. She wanted to be one of the three musketeers or, at the very least, Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. Story-time was a favorite pastime, can you tell?

Abby Cooper photo_th

Abby Cooper grew up in the wild and crazy suburbs of Minnesota (no, she does not have an accent; she also does not think ice fishing – or really anything having to do with ice – is fun). She actually does have a little bit of an accent, but she wasn’t kidding about the ice. Ice is some scary stuff.

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A native Philadelphian, raised Methodist, with childhood ambitions of becoming President, Karen never dreamed she’d find herself living in Chicago, Jewish and married to a Rabbi, and working for JUF. And that was just the last three years of her life.

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In her life outside Oy!Chicago, Sarah Follmer works on the grants team at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Prior to that, she worked for the Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders, sold and shelved books at a co-op bookstore, and built herself a small pet-sitting empire. Sarah is a proud graduate of both the Chicago Public Schools and the University of Chicago.

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Karina Grudnikov is a former News/Marketing Staff Writer for JUF.

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Amy is a true "Chicago Girl"—Go Hawks! Born and raised in Northbrook she is a 2010 graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana where she received her B.A. in Food Science Human Nutrition. She continued her education at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley. There, she received not only her culinary education but a self-guided education in wine. After working for many different restaurants around Chicago such as Charlie Trotters and Sunda, she currently can be found working as a cook at Balsan in the Waldorf Astoria.

Abby Halper_th

Hailing from the land of snow and Purple Rain (Minnesota), Abby Halper moved to Chicago two years ago upon graduating from the University of Kansas. Forever dancing to the beat of her own drum, Abby's interests include humming on the way to work, collecting sunglasses, creating culinary masterpieces, being a "gym rat,” looking for the best deals while shopping, avoiding germs at all costs, and quoting sports movies from the early 1990's (The Sandlot, Little Big League, Rookie of the Year, and of course, the Mighty Ducks Trilogy). Abby's third grade teacher described Abby as "a social butterfly with the most mischievous smile" she had ever seen.

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Dan Horwitz was most recently the Rabbi and Director of Immersive Learning for Moishe House. A rabbi, lawyer, violinist and Detroit sports enthusiast, Dan possesses an unparalleled passion for Jewish life, learning and peoplehood. Prior to joining Moishe House, Dan was a transactional attorney with a large Detroit area law firm.

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Alyssa Latala is a full-time mom and part-time Marketing Communications Manager at a small family foundation. She lives in suburbia with her husband Joe, baby Ben and cockapoo/troublemaker Ruby.

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Aaron Levine is the Teen and Campus Programming Coordinator at JUF.  Before working there, Aaron spent six years working for Camp Young Judaea Midwest and graduated from Michigan State University College of Agriculture with a degree in Environmental Economics & Policy.

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Sharna Marcus is the Director of Education at Shorashim and frequently travels between Chicago and Israel. Since she was 18, she has been a journalist, teacher and now director at a not-for-profit. Recently, Sharna was a Project Incite fellow and has created a successful learning platform called Classroom to Classroom.

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Jonathan graduated from Indiana University in 2004 and has been steadily losing maturity ever since. When he's not reading fantasy novels or catching up on DVR, Jon makes his living as a treasury bond trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, but finds it difficult to focus while daydreaming of playing golf on the coast of Oregon or drinking Cruzcampo in Sevilla.

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Dana cringes when instructed to write bios, "short and fun". She has lived in lots of places that start with vowels, including Ann Arbor, Arad (Israel), Evanston, Urbana, Indianapolis, and Iowa City. In fourth grade, she bragged because she was Jewish, left handed and had AB+ blood. In fifth grade, she shut up. Yesterday she did Pilates, drank steamed soy milk, schlepped the girls to Sunday school, and tried to fly a kite. Tomorrow she hopes nobody wakes her up at 4 AM with bad dreams about camels or monkeys. Like Chai and Sarah, Dana is a grants person at the Jewish Federation—planning, allocating, pushing papers and fixing the world.

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T.J. Shanoff is a native Chicagoan, and has been a member of The Second City since 1997. Credits there include: The Second City National Touring Company (director), Rod Blagojevich, Superstar (composer/lyricist), Jewsical: The Musical (composer/lyricist/director), Sex & The Second City (composer/lyricist), An Evening with Martin Short (musical director), and Songs of the Second City (musical director).

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Abby Sher is a writer and performer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her memoir, Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying was published by Scribner in October, 2009. It got a nod from Oprah and won ELLE Readers’ Prize, Chicago Tribune’s Best of 2009, and Moment Magazine’s Emerging Writers Award.

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Taron is not as old as he looks in this picture. He is much, much older! As a rabbi at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates, Taron has married about 30 people, but has buried many more. (sad!) To date, none of his couples have divorced. Taron likes to believe that this is on account of the amazing pre-marital sessions he has with each couple, but knows deep-down that it might be for other reasons.

Michelle Well photo_th

Michelle was raised in Highland Park, IL and always one to welcome change, headed down South without missing a beat! She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, loved every moment of it, added the word “ya’ll” to her daily vocabulary and graduated in May 2006 with a bachelors of arts in communication studies and Spanish and a minor in political science. 

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Sam and Erica Weisz were wed in 2009 and haven't looked back. Erica is excited to be teaching elementary school, where her passion is in creative writing and working with English language learners. Apart from practicing dentistry at Libertyville Dental Associates and Dental Salon in Chicago, Sam has tried to stay true to his Jewish roots, studying and attending classes.

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Chai is an artist, writer, cellist, yogi, partner, mother, and person trying to stay balanced, enjoy life, and give back. She is currently painting and writing as much as possible in between play dates and toddler dance parties.

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