OyChicago blog

Sweet Home Chicago

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Home Sweet Chicago photo

View from my window -- oh, Chicago, how I'll miss you...

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?”
Joni Mitchell must have been reading my mind.  Ok – so I wasn’t quite born yet when she wrote it, but she certainly said it right.  I’ve lived in Chicago now for three years.  I’ve been to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.  I’ve meandered through the Lincoln Park Zoo, sunbathed at Oak Street Beach, and mastered the maze of bus lines and El tracks.  I’ve drunken my fair share of beers at the weekly street fests, seen the planes whiz by at the Chicago Air and Water Show, and witnessed the spectacle that is Flugtag – Red Bull’s flying machine contest on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Most of these things happened by accident.  I never woke and said – “I’m going to take advantage of all that Chicago has to offer today!”  But maybe I should have. There are so many things in the city that I've wanted to do and see and just haven't found the time.  I want to picnic and see a free concert at Millennium Park and learn to salsa dance at Chicago Summer Dance in the park.  I want to eat Greek food in Greektown, Indian food on Devon, and Chinese in Chinatown.
As we race toward July 31st – the dreaded date where nearly every renter in town is seeking to move into a new place to call home, or, if they’re lucky, bunkering down for another year in an apartment they love – I begin my countdown to the end of my Chicago residency.  I’m not going very far, just to Evanston, and I don’t intend for this to be permanent.  What’s crazy is that I loved the suburban lifestyle growing up in Cleveland.  LOVED IT.  I never wanted to leave.  Now, a few years later, I’m having mini-van nightmares and wondering how I can have a social life from a whole 13 miles away from downtown Chicago.
Luckily, Evanston still has a beach, a farmers market, a movie theater, a bunch of good restaurants and even a couple of bars!  So, in a handful of days (37, but who’s counting, right?), I’ll be northward bound.  I know I'll still have plenty of opportunities to head south, and I have a few great friends who will lend me their couches to save me a $30+ cab ride home late on a Saturday night.  But in the meantime, I intend to squeeze all the fun I can possibly have into my Chicago experience.  Any suggestions?


Congregation Or Chadash: Continuing to Shine a New Light

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Or Chadash logo

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, I thought I’d share some information about Congregation Or Chadash, Chicago’s LBGT synagogue, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary next year as a strong and vibrant community. Founded in 1975, Or Chadash opened alongside several other gay and lesbian synagogues, such as Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York and Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles. These congregations created a community for members of the Jewish community who otherwise felt incredibly excluded.

Or Chadash started small, as just an ad placed by a University of Chicago student looking to gather other gay and lesbian Jews. It soon grew into a congregation, with a strong tradition of lay leadership, and a wonderful part-time rabbi for most of its years. Rabbi Larry Edwards, a highly respected scholar and educator (as well as a mensch!), is the current rabbi of Or Chadash.

Fortunately, these days, a whole spectrum of congregations have open and inclusive policies toward LGBT Jews, so a question may arise--what are the benefits of being a part of a community like Or Chadash? At Or Chadash, there is definitely a greater emphasis on the specific needs and interests of the community. Rabbi Edwards's sermons address current LGBT issues, and the congregation offers many ways to join the community through social functions, educational opportunities, and other avenues that create the feel of a small Chavurah. I saw this tightly knit community firsthand, when I met with the congregation's group of lay service leaders for an annual wrap-up discussion. It felt like being at a gathering of close friends, all who feel very drawn to this special community.

While Or Chadash is a long standing member of the Union of Reform Judaism, one will find that its membership is incredibly diverse in their backgrounds, a spectrum of those who grew up Orthodox to Jews-by-choice. One will also find variety in the types of services offered, as there is a more traditional Shabbat morning service monthly. It should be noted that Or Chadash's doors are open to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. A recent article in the Forward addresses Why Straight People go to Gay Synagogues and how much they can get out of LGBT congregations.

There are a couple of special events happening in the congregation in celebration of Pride this month. The World Congress of GLBT Jews will be meeting in Chicago, and has invited all those interested to meet its international leadership at a reception on Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m. at Congregation Emanuel (5959 N. Sheridan). On Friday, June 26, join the congregation for their annual Pride Shabbat. There will be a 7 p.m. cookout and an 8 p.m. service, both on the beach adjacent to the congregation. And, look for Or Chadash again this year in the Pride Parade on that Sunday. Last year, they marched alongside a cute little Smartcar!

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