OyChicago blog

Jewish Sports Update - July 2014

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06/30/2014

david blatt

New Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, who recently coached Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The Cleveland Cavaliers decided to draft Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 pick, but they are waiting to hear whether King James would be willing to come home. In either case, the man who will really need to help this team get to the playoffs is their new head coach, former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt. This is a great moment in Jewish sports. Blatt is the only current Jewish head coach in the NBA. Former NBA Head Coach Lawrence Frank is hoping to catch on as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers.

In baseball, pitcher Jason Marquis, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, has signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, while former White Sox player Kevin Youkilis’ Japan playing days have been cut short due to injury. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar was sent back down to Triple-A after having a temper flare when he was pulled for a pinch hitter. On the good side, Ian Kinsler is making a strong case for the All Star game with a .308 batting average and 10 HR for the Tigers.

In this year's MLB draft, it appears there were six Jewish ball players taken including Michael Fagan, Julian Brazilli, Nate Irving, Bradley Wilpon, Keith Weisenberg, and Kyle Ruchim. Ruchim played for Northwestern and Irving for the Virginia, which made it to the College World Series final last month.

At Wimbledon, Camila Giorgi (Italy) lost to Alison Riske in the second round, Michael Russell lost to Julian Reister and Duda Sela (Israel) lost to Mikhail Kukushkin. In Doubles, Scott Lipsky's team and Jonathan Erhlich's team were barely beaten. So there goes a Jewish Wimbledon!

In NFL news, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman has gone on the record backing quarterback Jay Cutler saying he is bigger and stronger than last season. Trestman will have fellow MOT Brian De La Puente on his offensive line this season.

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Interjections! With A Jewish Past

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06/27/2014

Interjections! A Jewish Past photo

Hey! Remember the Schoolhouse Rock video about interjections? These are expressions like: “whoa,” “yow,” “ouch,” “oh,” “hooray,” “aww,” “eek,” “rats,” “darn” and “wow.” Or even “oy!” as in some blog or other.

There is a whole book of them, called Zounds! by Mark Dunn, and I recently rediscovered it on my shelf. Leafing through it, I found a surprising number of fairly common ones such as “oy” that stem from Hebrew, Yiddish, and Yinglish. Well, maybe not all that surprising, considering the number of movies, TV shows, stand-up bits and songs with Jewish writers. Anyway, here some English interjections with— gevalt!— a Jewish history (linked to songs, bands, movies, TV shows, etc. that use them). 

There are lots, so rather than overwhelm you, here are letters “A” through “H” for starters. Stay tuned for the rest.  

A-H  

Abracadabra

This magical mumbo-jumbo is probably from the Aramaic (the language of the Talmud and the Kaddish) for “I create as I speak,” with the vowels changed to make it rhyme with itself.  

Aha!
It predates Chaucer, but was popularized by Jewish comics to the point of being able to stand alone as a punchline: “Waiter, taste my soup.” “All right… where’s the spoon?” “Aha!” Dunn says: “In Yinglish, [it] expresses emotions from subtle understanding to triumphant exultation.”  

Ai-yi-yi
Dunn: “Found in both Spanish and Yiddish … from stopped-dead-in-one’s-tracks to anguished regret and dismay.”  

All right, already
It means, “I still disagree, but will go along to stop your kvetching.” Dunn: “First heard in the Bronx …  since the late 19th century, but did not become really popular until after WWII.”  

Amen!
We Jews respond to a blessing with this word, which comes from the same root as the Hebrew word emunah or “faith.” But everyone uses it to mean, “Indeed!” or “And how!” Dunn: “According to the Talmud, the word is to be enunciated with power and conviction, thus helping to open the doors of paradise.” Amen to that!  

Gesundheit
A response to a sneeze, it means “good health.” As it happens, almost all cultures respond to sneezes with a verbal get-well card. It may have been one of the earliest forms of a public health policy!  

Gut Shabbes
On Shabbat, it means, “hello.” But what about the rest of the week? Dunn: “a sarcastic or ironic affirmation or statement of incredulity.” He compares it to “Good grief!” (A more emphatic version, which means something else, was coined by no less than the Hebrew Hammer).  

Hallelujah
Found throughout the Psalms, it is a compound word: hallel, meaning “praise,” plus one of the Holy Names. A holiday prayer comprised of Psalms, called “Hallel,” and the great rabbi Hillel also take their names from the same root word. Dunn: “Used both within and without the house of worship to express joy or jubilation.” (OK, we’ll link to the sad Leonard Cohen song, too.)  

Hip-Hip-Hooray
This was coined not by Jews, but by our haters. “Hep! Hep!” was a cry used to round up goats, and so by goons— calling themselves “Hep Hep Squads” to initiate pogroms. There was even one international “Hep Hep Riot” in 1819: “The attacks on Jews and Jewish property spread from there to the whole of Germany … the rioting reached as far as Denmark and Poland.” This is not from Dunn, but the Jewish Virtual Library. (Dunn traces “Hip” to “Hep” also, but relates it to the jazz usage— as in “hep-cat”— and “hooray/hurray/hurrah” back to “huzzah.”)

Hoo-ha!
This is not the Al Pacino catchphrase from Scent of a Woman. It is a Yinglish catchall. Here, Dunn cites Yiddish linguist Leo Rosten as finding “no fewer than 17 meanings: surprise, envy, scorn, confusion” and also “Oh, big deal!” “Like hell,” “Imagine that,” “Don’t be silly,” and “I don’t believe it.”

Hoshanna
“Save us, please!” is the literal meaning of this pleading prayer, found in the above-mentioned Hallel. A cycle of Hoshanna prayers for Sukkot culminates in Hoshanna Rabbah, the “Great Hoshanna,” in which all seven of these are recited while circling the bimah with the lulav and etrog. Then the word showed up in the gospels, and then in Christian liturgy and song. Now, Merriam-Webster has it as any “cry of acclamation and adoration.”

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Seeking Jewish Community

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Building a Jewish social life after college

06/26/2014

Jessica Korneff photo

I once read that the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 15 percent of the campus population is Jewish — meaning that about every sixth bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived student you bump into on the street is statistically a Jew. Outside of Israel or Brooklyn, this is about as good a ratio as it gets.

Overall, UW had ample opportunity for me to meet lovely Jews from either the suburbs of Chicago, the suburbs of Milwaukee, or the suburbs of New York — a fact that causes my elder relatives to curse at me for not grabbing the first Jewish boy I met by the throat and conniving him into becoming my husband.

Despite this apparent gold mine of fellow MOT, I didn’t take to Jewish student life right away. I didn’t have any Jewish friends, and crowded Shabbat dinners intimidated me, even with the glowing promise of four-course meals. In fact, I didn’t find a Jewish niche in Madison until I traveled across the globe to Jerusalem, ensnared a couple of fellow Badgers into my friendship, and then sheepishly forced my way into their Jewish circles back at school — all in all, it was a process, and a lengthy one at that. 

Because of this, leaving my comfortable and warm nest at Madison was doubly painful when I realized I would have to recreate my Jewish social life from scratch. After years lingering outside the Hillel building like a bashful pup, finding a new Jewish community seemed almost as daunting as the dark and morbid job search. 

As much as I would love to escape to Israel again and find more friends to fling open the doors to Jewish social life, I realize this is neither a mature nor feasible approach. So, I’ve thought about where I can turn to:

1. My local, suburban synagogue. A logical choice, as it’s close in proximity and I already have several connections there. The flip side of this particular coin, however, is that these decades-long connections have seen me progress through each painful, awkward stage of puberty — essentially, hefty chunks of my life that I’d like to slough off like a heavy winter coat in June. Sitting at Shabbat dinner alongside the ghost of my sulky, sweater-clad 16-year-old self is definitely something I was hoping to avoid. Forever.

2. A Jewish interest group. Unfortunately, I’m sorely lacking in hobbies, which is another, separate issue I should probably confront.

3. The city Chabad house. But here we encounter the same problem that tormented me and countless other college freshmen – how do you muster up the courage to make the first fateful step to enter?

The simple choice here is just to stay at home. I’m not all that religious, and in all likelihood would not feel a moral vacuum at neglecting services. Most of the friends I’ve ever made have not been Jewish. I can barely even mumble along to a prayer. 

Yet, I still find myself drawn to the idea of community.

Long, long ago in biblical times, Abraham was known for being quite the party host. He would famously drop whatever he was doing (herding, chatting with God, etc.) to scrounge up a meal and clear some room for every traveling nomad approaching from the horizon. As one of the fundamental characters in our religious history, even his core tenet was the mitzvah of hospitality.

From a spiritual point of view, Judaism has always been community-based. Throughout the Torah, we’re constantly reminded that we are never alone — we have a responsibility to help others, and have a network of people with a responsibility to help us. From its emphasis on finding a life-partner, to glorifying not just the study of Torah but also its teaching, Judaism is fundamentally centered around community.  Ultimately, as humans, we cannot thrive if we’re utterly alone, and Judaism seems to take this fact into account. An enormous chunk of our religion is based simply on bringing people into the fold.

Whether it’s to find a Jewish soul mate, experience gloriously never-ending meals, or to reflect on spirituality, everyone has a different reason for wanting a Jewish community. And while the practice of hosting weary travelers is a little less applicable now than it was in Abraham’s day, the idea remains.

For now, I’m not exactly sure how my Jewish community life will pan out. What I do know, is that while I probably don’t qualify as a “weary traveler” and am not a nomad, there’s an empty seat at a Shabbat table out there somewhere, and I’m determined to find it. 

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Being a Tourist in Your Own City

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5 Things on My Summer 2014 Bucket List
06/25/2014

Being a Tourist in Your Own City photo

Waiting in bumper to bumper traffic, our car creeps towards O’Hare. It’s the first weekend of summer, but it doesn’t feel like it. We are collecting my little sister (though I don’t know if I can call 24 “little”) from the airport after her Birthright Israel adventure. As she sleepily launches into her trip details, the better part of me intently listens while the daydreamer within wakes right up. Hearing her recall little moments at the Wall, at the beach, in the desert, stirs my memory in that particular way. Suddenly, six years ago (the time of my Birthright trip) feels much closer. I feel the weight of old fond memories come to the surface in my mind. And all of a sudden, the travel bug bites.

After a begrudgingly long winter, summer is finally here! When anyone from out of town asks about Chicago, the phrase “amazing summer city” comes out of my mouth more often than not. As I write this, I peer over my balcony onto the Chicago River. Even without Rahm’s supposed plan to light up the river to turn it into an otherworldly tourist attraction, it’s so perfectly pretty. I’ve lived next to the river for two years and never once has the view of the twinkling Marina City Towers gotten old. I am a Chicago girl, born and raised. But sometimes, wanderlust tugs at me with great urgency.  

I find myself thinking of a new journey to take or wondering why I haven’t hopped on a plane in a while. I fixate on the possible logistics of another trip to Europe, to Asia – anywhere. But, like I said, summer is starting up in these here parts. Maybe it’s time to channel some of that travel-hungry energy into discovering (and rediscovering) my home city. So I’ve put together a mini bucket list for the summer comprised of places I’ve been, places I want to go and places I look forward to checking out for the first time.

1. Events at Millennium Park
Easily the number one perk of living in the Loop is the proximity to Millennium Park. I’ve been enthralled with the park since my first visit, dating back to high. It’s chock full of tourists, locals and fans of bean-shaped architecture alike, and the mixture allows for some of the best people-watching in the city. One of the key attractions of the park in the summer is its fantastic lineup of free concerts (“Downtown Sound”), featuring acts spanning many different genres like My Brightest Diamond, Joe Pug, Maps & Atlases and a whole host of other fantastic acts. Another series I want to check out is “Millennium Park Presents”, a showcase of theater, symphony music (what is the Pritzker Pavilion if not a magical venue for a little night music?), dance and other fine arts spectacles. Full schedule here.  

2. The Low Line Farmer’s Market
For the past two years, I’ve called the Loop home. Later this summer, I’m moving up to Lakeview and I’m definitely ready for the change of pace. The other day, I was taking a walk in my new hood and noticed a little farmer’s market just under the Southport stop, the Low Line Farmer’s Market. Do I secretly want to make friends with all of the vendors and carry home flowers every Thursday from my neighborhood market, European-style? But of course. 

3. Concert at Northerly Island
The summer after graduating college, it felt like every few weekends or so my friends and I would make a trip to Northerly Island to see a show, my personal favorite being John Mayer circa 2009 or so. The years have flown by and I haven’t made it back in quite some time. While the summer lineup is definitely college-friendly (ahem, Dave Matthews Band), the view of the city from the FirstMerit Bank Pavillion is simply stellar. Watching the sunset over the skyline while listening to live music—that’s what I call a quality summer night in Chicago.

4. Adler Planetarium
Talk about a tourist attraction with a view. The Adler Planetarium building and its surroundings jut out into the lake, and the view from the front lawn is just priceless. Looking up at the “stars” in the auditorium, daydreaming about the world around us is a fun experience that’s slightly different from the every day. A trip to the cosmos is needed sometimes, just to get away from it all, don’t you think?

5. Trying New Restaurants
Chicago’s catalog of new and exciting restaurants is robust, to say the least. Finding the newest place for this great dish or another can be a fun summer game. Little incentives help, like A La Card. I bought A La Card last year on a whim at a craft fair or fest. It’s a deck of cards comprised of 52 restaurants, each with their own $10 gift certificate – quite the steal. At 20ish bucks (I believe I bought my deck on sale), it’s incredibly worth it. So, I will hit the city with my A La Card deck and take advantage of the great independent restaurants the Chicago has to offer. I can’t wait!

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Lemon Parmesan Asparagus

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06/24/2014

Lemon Parmesan Asparagus photo 1

Most of the time, dinner in our house needs to be quick and easy. Like most other supermoms out there, my days are long and I usually have about a two-hour window to cook and prep for the week.  

That being said, I do my very best to keep our meals high in protein and loaded with healthy, nutritious veggies.  Asparagus is one of those veggies that I absolutely cannot get enough of. When I take a pan of this lemony asparagus out of the oven, I usually munch on it until I realize that I have consumed half the pan myself and have ultimately become a vegetarian for that night.

This asparagus is super versatile! In the cold months I roast it in the oven for a few minutes, and in the gorgeous summer weather, I throw it on the grill for a quick sear along with some chicken or steaks and ring the dinner bell (or in my case, text the hubby to get his dinner on).

Lemon Parmesan Asparagus photo 2

Lemon Parmesan Asapargus
By Girl and the Kitchen

Ingredients

1 pound of asparagus 
juice of one lemon 
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
2 tablespoons garlic powder 
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese as desired

Instructions

1. Just grab your asparagus, which is typically tightly bound with rubber bands, and place it on a cutting board. You are going to want to cut off the woodsy ends. To know where that is, just take an asparagus spear and hold two fingers on one end of the asparagus and two fingers (from the other hand) on the other side, now bend it. Where it naturally snapped is the woodsy end. Use that one asparagus as a measuring point for the rest of the asparagus and cut off the woodsy ends. You can discard those, unless you are planning on throwing them into a soup for flavor.

2. Wash the asparagi (hmmm is that a word?) thoroughly and then towel-dry it. Place it into a roasting pan (a foil pan works perfectly fine). Drizzle olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

3. Place it into a 400-degree oven for 5-7 minutes or grill it on high for about 5-7 minutes. It should be tender to the bite but not mushy.

4. Now is the fun part! Take some good nutty Parmesan cheese and grate it all over the asparagus. Make it as cheesy as you want... 

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Potluck Missed Connections

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06/23/2014

Potluck Missed Connections photo

There’s a section of Craigslist called Missed Connections. In that section, people can write classified ads to others with whom they shared a glance on the subway, or shared a quick chat in the parking lot, but weren’t able to get contact information.

For example:

Walgreens-Broadway & Waveland
We both happened to be looking to purchase the same item, chatted in line for a bit. Tell me what we both bought. Maybe a coffee?

I’m not sure how many people really make use of this section, but it gives me an idea.

We need a website for Potluck Missed Connections.

Do you ever go to a potluck meal, eat something delicious, and then never discover who brought it or what it was? That happens to me surprisingly often. I need this website to connect with strangers with whom I have shared the bond of food.

Broccoli Cheese Quiche
I met you at the Friday night dinner at Sarah’s house. You were a broccoli cheese dish cut into small squares. Were you a quiche? Were you made of mozzarella cheese or cheddar? Who made you?

Flourless Chocolate Cake
You and I shared a wonderful evening at the synagogue’s women’s seder. I’ve had other flourless chocolate cakes, but none like you; none as light, fluffy, moist, and chocolaty. Who could have brought you? Message me the flavor of rugelach that were placed next to you and I’ll know it was really you.

Noodle Kugel
You came highly recommended to me when I visited your home synagogue, while I was in from out of town. Topped with a cinnamon crumble canopy, it was love at first bite. Do I have to join your Minnesota synagogue in order to see you again?  

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Not For Sale

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06/20/2014

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was sweet on the name Jake. I have loved that name ever since dreamy high school senior Jake Ryan discussed his growing affection for flat-chested freshman Sammy Baker Davis Junior. In my world, after “Sixteen Candles” there was nothing but love for a sweet boy named Jake. However:  

“There are so many boys named Jake nowadays.”  

“Don’t you have a nephew named Blake? Blake and Jake? I don’t know about that…”  

And some just simply said,  

“I don’t like it.”  

Well who asked them? Apparently I did. Because many people seem to think when you share something, you are in turn, asking for an opinion.

While I will admit to ultimately not having a son named Jake, I will also argue I didn’t completely chicken out. Having kids named BJ (capital B, capital J – no periods), Ryder, Phoenix and Fray (last name Moses-Rosenthal no less), clearly people could have had a plethora of opinions. But, I waited to share our name choices until it was too late. Not a word until the ink on the birth certificate was dry. Anyone who offered an opinion after that was going to look like, well, a complete jerk. And so, this is why I have been keeping a super-secret, Scooby Doo mystery-reveal all to myself. But I’m ready now! I’m ready to pull that rubber mask off of Old Man Jenkins.

No, I’m not having a baby. I’m having a kitchen! And it’s about time. As my family has gotten bigger, my kitchen has gotten undeniably smaller.  Two melted cabinet fronts (a result of my overly enthusiastic cooking of Ethiopian food) have mocked me for years.  And finally, I’m rehabbing! And it ain’t gonna be beige.

Not For Sale photo

In my kitchen fantasy, (I know it’s a fantasy because it’s clean), I have room, I have light and I have … oceanic teal cabinets with bead boarding. Yup. Oceanic teal. And the deposit is down. No turning back. Come July 7, the fantasy will be realized.  

But when the kitchen demo started, mum was the word. I took the “don’t share the name till it’s born” position.  

“So? What are you doing?”  

“Kitchen.”  

“…?”  

“…”  

I have heard a lot of “resale value” talk when it comes to kitchen rehab. Neutral colors, “inoffensive” (again read neutral) backsplash tile, white walls. But this was not to be the destiny of my fantasy kitchen. My fantasy kitchen would be a kitchen for me. Not a kitchen for just any person who walks through my home with a realtor.  

I chose red, blue, green and yellow backsplash tile (it’s recycled from reclaimed toilets. For real!); my kitchen walls will be yellow and I’m painting the corner built-in red. And although my kitchen might quite possibly be a neutrally dressed realtor’s worst nightmare, I’m OK with that – because it’s mine.  

Feeling nostalgic while writing this, I looked up some bio information on the actor who played Jake Ryan. He has two kids. Their names are Zane and Scarlett. Sounds to me like Jake wouldn’t have a neutrally decorated kitchen either. Maybe I can have him over for dinner sometime…    

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Almond jOy

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06/19/2014

Almond jOy photo

Have you ever seen an almond and thought that G-d was with you? Or that the little brown beauty was a sign of a divine presence?    

In this weekend’s Torah portion, Korach, Aaron’s staff sprouted almonds. In Numbers 17: 23, “And on the following day Moses came to the Tent of Testimony, and behold, Aaron's staff for the house of Levi had blossomed! It gave forth blossoms, sprouted buds, and produced ripe almonds.” The fast growth of the almonds proved that G-d intended that Aaron become a high priest. Almonds were the sign? Almonds?  

According to Rashi, almonds blossom quicker than any other fruit (Yes, almonds are considered fruits, called drupes!) and that is why almonds were chosen as the fruit that connected Aaron to G-d. I have a different take on it, however. Maybe almonds were chosen because they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients, and that the almond itself was the miracle, rather than the time it took them to blossom. That Aaron was able to produce something so healthy so quickly was a sign that G-d was with him.  

Almonds are a great source of biotin, magnesium, and vitamin E. Biotin helps control your blood sugar and keeps your skin looking healthy. Magnesium also controls blood sugar, but is more widely known as a mineral that protects our bones and fights inflammation. Vitamin E, which makes up 40 percent of the nutrients of an almond, is an antioxidant and helps fight heart disease.  

Another way that almonds help fight heart disease is through the fat they contain, but it’s the good kind of fat--monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats help lower your LDL cholesterol, which is your bad cholesterol.  

In recent years, almonds have become more and more popular. We find them in salads, covered in chocolate, and as an ingredient in the crusts on chicken, fish, and meats. Adding almonds to your food is smart. About 23 almonds have 6 grams of protein which, along with magnesium, can help make your body stronger.  

Almond milk is an excellent substitute for people with dairy allergies. Not only is it delicious and nutritious, but it can help reduce the stomach aches that some people get from dairy products. If you are allergic to any type of nut, be careful and consult with your doctor before switching to almond milk, but if not, go nuts. Pour almond milk in your cereal, use it in your smoothies, or make ice cream with it.  

For years people jokingly asked health professionals if there was anything high in fat, delicious, and easy to find that they could eat to stay healthy. There is no need to kid around anymore – we have almonds. They are found at every grocery store, and if eaten raw, which is the healthiest way, they are always kosher. We don’t need Aaron to make them quickly; stores have them right at our fingertips.  

Aaron’s staff sprouted almonds and everyone was amazed. People instantly knew that Aaron had some sort of connection with G-d when they saw a cluster of almonds. We should feel the same way. Every time we see an almond we should thank G-d for making something so little and perfect for us to nosh on.                   

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DIY Pizza

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06/18/2014

DIY Pizza photo

Living in Chicago is difficult. Well, yes, there is winter, but aren’t you past that by now?  We have bigger issues than a silly Polar Vortex. I’m talking about the various (mostly unspoken) rules that pit us against each other. Each of these “Chicago Commandments” and how you approach them says a lot about the kind of Chicagoan you are. Are you for the Cubs or Sox? Do you secretly put ketchup on hotdogs? How do you feel about the Blue Line? What about a playoff beard?  

These little idiosyncrasies are endless, but the king of them all will get a true Chicagoan riled up faster than the Crosstown Classic. I dare you to ask this question to a group of people:  Where do I find the best pizza?

It sounds innocent enough, but if you ask that question you’re likely to find yourself in a wrestling match. When I’m asked where my favorite pizza comes from, I like to throw gasoline on the fire by saying that I prefer making my own. I know. Who says something like that? Who do I think I am, Gwyneth Paltrow? What a disgusting and revolting thing to say. I make my own pizza. Why can’t I just say Lou Malnati’s and move on with my day?  

Lou’s does get me more excited than just about anything, but I really do prefer the magic of making my own pizza. I like the idea of putting ingredients that I select from the grocery store onto my pizza. I know, there I go with my Paltrow face again.  I discovered the recipe listed below during one of Chicago’s freeze outs this past winter.  I wanted pizza. I also wanted a way to entertain beyond reruns during those negative temps. I felt guilty ordering delivery and I try to avoid weird processed foods when possible, so frozen pizza was out too. The solution? DIY pizza.

I give the recipe for pizza dough below, but if that sounds like the most annoying and time consuming thing you’ve ever heard there are other options. Trader Joe’s has pizza dough that you can roll out if you want to skip a few steps and save a bit of time.  It’s delicious and gives a thicker chewier pizza crust. If you like a thinner pizza, Jewel offers a ready-made pizza crust that is shaped and ready to go.  If you’re as lazy like me, you should totally use one of these options. Just follow the instructions on the packaging. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the topping:
3 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
11 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces baby arugula
1 lemon, sliced

Directions  

Mix the dough: Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

Knead by hand: When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic.

Let it rise: Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make garlic oil: Place 1/2 cup of olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside. Don’t want to make this?  You can buy garlic infused olive oil at any grocery store…

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Portion the dough: Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place the doughs on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Stretch the dough: Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 2 circles on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.)

Top the dough: Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.

Make the vinaigrette: Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Add the greens: When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and a slice of lemon and serve immediately.  

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The Wright Value

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06/17/2014

It's funny how we tend to see things through the eyes of what we value and appreciate. My father (of blessed memory) had a keen eye and appreciation for architecture. When he would visit me in NYC we would walk through different neighborhoods and he would point out small details that I, as a pedestrian, would miss. Of course, Frank Lloyd Wright's homes and buildings were a favorite of his. Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, our own Wright claims to fame consisted of the last "Prairie House" (the Allen-Lambe home) and also one of his last buildings (the Corbin Education Center at Wichita State University).

Living in Chicago, with a casual sensitivity to Wright's designs, I am constantly seeing how one person can affect a landscape. When I drive around the city, I can't help but see shadows of his designs (yeah, even outside of Oak Park). When I participated in "Bike the Drive" last month, I saw lamps on the bridges that were made based on Wright’s designs. When I pass through neighborhoods, go into medical offices, see front porch lamps, it's all about his Prairie House designs. He was gifted, brilliant, and revolutionary. That's why his homes sell for millions of dollars.

Having only lived here for eight years, I am fortunate that the neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs are a sort of treasure map of classic residential homes Wright designed. You can look online and find dozens of guided tours of Oak Park and the North Shore, and purchase tickets to tour the inside of Wright-designed homes. 

Of course, those tours only show you the famous residences. I was searching online recently and found a series of small apartment buildings that were built in 1895 and designed by Wright when he was 28 years old. Located about a mile northwest of the United Center, at 2840-58 W. Walnut Street, are four out of five original four-unit apartment buildings called the "Waller Apartments" (named after Edward Waller, who financed their development). These were actually the first low-income apartments in Chicago. 

When I drove to the apartments and stopped to look at them, I was greeted by a resident at 2840 W. Walnut. He asked if I was lost (I guess the yarmulke sort of gave the impression that I wasn't from his neighborhood) and I told him that I was just looking at the buildings. He proudly told me that his grandfather owned the one that he lives in. It seems that people stop by every so often to see these long-forgotten gems. It was a bittersweet excursion, since the buildings are currently not in the greatest shape.

I felt sure that Frank Lloyd Wright put as much thought, attention, and value into these apartments as he put into the Robie House, the River Forest Tennis Club, and maybe even the long-demolished Midway Gardens. Wright probably had no idea at the time that his home and studio was become a profitable tourist attraction or that his homes would become showplaces and status symbols. I'm pretty sure that he didn't think the "Waller Apartments" and surrounding neighborhood would become victims of neglect.

I often wonder if I am sensitive to the innate value of what I do, to the conversations I have with people, the casual exchanges with my wife and kids on a daily basis. I know that there is value to them, but it isn't at the forefront of my mind. Like most thing that I tend to do by rote, the meaning seems to slip away unless I make a conscious effort. So I'll try to take a page out of Frank Lloyd Wright's drawing pad and put value into it all, for value's sake.  

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Big ‘T’ Over ‘Big 3’

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06/16/2014

Big ‘T’ Over ‘Big 3’ photo

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve thought a lot about writing about how this trend of stars teaming up is not good for the NBA. How I missed the old days when the best players wanted to play against each other.

And we felt the same way as fans. I wanted to see MJ vs. Magic Johnson – not with Magic. That’s what the Dream Team was for. Players were competitors who didn’t become friends until long after their playing days were over. Now they’re all friends.

At some point I started to think, as a Bulls fan, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Let’s not choose between Melo and Love, let’s get both Melo and Love. Super teams are apparently the only way to win now.

And then I watched this year’s NBA Finals, which concluded with the San Antonio Spurs completing a 4-1 series win last night over the Miami Heat. The Spurs are the antithesis of the new age super team. They are a team with a core built from the ground up through the draft, with role players from free agency filling gaps. They are not flashy and you won’t see them in commercials, but you will see them play fundamental basketball the way it was meant to be played.

So to see this team beat the “Big 3” so handily helped restore my faith in the NBA. I wasn’t just happy that the Heat lost, but I was thrilled that the Spurs were the team that did it. I’ve always been a fan of the way they play from the days of David Robinson to the present. Tim Duncan is my favorite non-Bulls NBA player of all time. And I love the way they run their organization – just look at the team they’ve put together. They are filled with late first round or second round draft picks, free agents picked off the slush pile, and international players. No big stars teaming up, no max contracts, no celebrity status. And it doesn’t escape me that the Spurs won because their defense just flat out shut down the Heat.

So this brings me back to the Bulls, and the thought that they should be modeling their team after the Spurs, not the Heat. They have the smart, defensive-minded head coach. They have a solid core of home grown players. So what is missing that will put this team over the edge? They need to be able to score. They aren’t just missing one player – they need more of a “pick your poison” team. Players like Danny Green and Patty Mills need to fill out their bench, guys that are a threat with the ball. They don’t need to be stars averaging 30 points a game, just guys that scare you if their left open. The Bulls don’t have that guy. Derrick Rose is the closest thing they have, but who knows what he’ll be like when/if he comes back for a full season. Maybe that player is Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love, or maybe it’s someone we haven’t talked about yet.

But the Bulls aren’t as far from elite as we think. They need to stay healthy, and Tom Thibodeau needs to take a page out of Pop’s book and learn how to evenly distribute his minutes and allow his players to be at their best come playoff time. These are potentially easy fixes, and watching the Spurs in this finals has me off my thought that the Bulls needed to just clean house and find stars. NBA championships can still be won the right away. The Spurs proved it, and the Bulls can too.  

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Like a Good Neighbor ...

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06/13/2014

Like a Good Neighbor ... photo

How many of you know your neighbors? Are you friendly with them, and they with you? Do you have things in common? Have you actually thought about your neighbors, seen them or spent any time with them?

I grew up in the city where the majority of my friends lived with lots of neighbors. I was fortunate to have been raised in a townhouse in a condo complex, allowing for both family privacy and public social interactions with both town home and condo owners, so I had lots of friends to play with and lots of fun. We even had a small play-lot built in the back of the property where we could play pick-up basketball games or HORSE, or see who could fly off the swings and land the farthest in the sand, like Olympic jumpers.

But the place to be in our complex was the courtyard. I loved the courtyard! Surrounded by the town homes and condo building, the courtyard was (and still is) a giant, oval-shaped area where all town home owners and some condo owners had a patio facing the center. The courtyard was many things to us: it was our track where we would race around the perimeter for TV privileges and have water fights; it was our community gathering place, where many summer birthdays, holidays and milestones were celebrated and shared; and it was also the place my dad snuck me my first sip of beer at the ripe old age of 9 – or something. The versatility and potential was as limitless as my imagination, and I was blessed with an enormously active one.

In addition to accumulating my share of cuts and bruises there, I learned a lot in that courtyard, like how to rollerblade, how to ride my bike and how to play catch and pitch accurately, since the walkways were so narrow. When I got older, my dad taught me firsthand how to plant and take care of his flowers and herbs, maintain a clean patio and outdoor space, and clean and use the grill properly. When I was in college and home for the summer, the courtyard became legendary for my awesomely fun outdoor barbecues. The memories there are so vivid, as if they happened just the other day.

But the most valuable lesson I learned there was how to be a good neighbor. For instance, whenever the ball would sail onto another patio while playing catch, we were all taught to quietly and carefully retrieve the ball but remember to shout, “SORRY, (so-and-so)!!” even if they weren’t home. If we disturbed anything we would carefully put it back in its place. Fortunately, we never broke any windows, but plenty of plants were uprooted and patio furniture overturned. It was in these situations when my mother and father saw the opportunity to teach me how to be a good person by being a good neighbor, and I never forgot it.

I heard a story earlier this week from one of my old bartending acquaintances that really illustrates the power of the human connection and our effect on others, even when we don’t even know we are exerting any influence, like ripples in a pond.

He told me he spent an hour talking to someone he did not know well. The man seemed depressed and he just wanted to put a smile on his face. Months later, this man sent him a card to thank him for listening. He said the act of giving him a bit of his time stopped him from committing suicide, that he was planning on going home and doing something horrible to himself. In that hour that they spoke, had he not asked him how he was, a warm and gentle soul would have been erased from the earth.

After hearing that story, I thought a lot about what it means to be a good neighbor. Clearly, my bartending buddy had no pre-established connection or an ulterior motive - he wasn’t out to “fix the world” or change people. He just saw someone in need and reacted and responded.

They didn’t live close together or even know each other like you typically think of when you think of neighbors, but if you look carefully at the dictionary definition of neighbor – the one taken from the biblical interpretation – it says, “any person in need of one’s help or kindness.” That’s exactly what my friend saw in this situation and reacted in a way that is so admirable and sensitive.

In a world that grows increasingly inward and isolated from others, acts of kindness like this should be exalted and celebrated. As a Jew I have known since I was a little boy that treating others with kindness and respect will serve me well into my adulthood. If only more people made an effort to be a good neighbor, imagine the good that could be spread and the positive vibes that could be shared. It’s paying it forward, enhancing someone else’s life for the better. To that end I am immensely proud of my friend for what he did and the courage it took to reach out to a stranger, become his neighbor and leave such a lasting impact.

Other than wanting to share that story, the  reason I am writing about this now is because my wife and I are making the brave move to the suburbs. In a few short days we will be living in a single family home with a yard and – you guessed it – neighbors. Ever since we started looking I haven’t stopped thinking about what it would be like and how living in this new neighborhood with new neighbors will bring new and exciting opportunities for my family. I’m actually looking forward to being a neighbor and having the opportunities to pay it forward and establish the same atmosphere that my parents worked so hard to create for me. I have great neighbors now that my wife and I will miss, but they will still be our friends.

You know the State Farm jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” but just this once, put yourself in it and see what it’s like to be on the giving end. You might be surprised with the experience. 

L’Chaim! 

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Process for Success

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06/11/2014

Process for Success photo

You need a process in order to succeed – we all do.  Almost every field of business requires one, fundraising and finance included.  It is the process that enables you to perfect, hone and master your skills while you continue to grow and build. There are four steps in a basic process that can be used in a multitude of industries – research, romance, request and recognize.  Let’s dig in a little more:  

1. Research  

The first step of the process is to do your research. Who is your target market? What will you ask them? Do your research and know them inside and out. This may seem obvious, but without the people, you don’t have a business! The more you know in advance, the easier it will be. 

2. Romance

Put the person first … the person should always come before the wallet. You have to develop the relationship, engage the person and prepare them for “the ask.” Whether the ask is for money, business or referrals, don’t just focus on the end result, but the person involved in getting you there. What do they like to do? What event did they last attend? What adventure did they recently take?   

3. Request

The ask, or request, is the third and most difficult step in the process. It doesn’t matter what it is for, the ask is never easy. I have solicited thousands of people for donations, and each time right before I make my ask, my heart starts racing. It doesn’t matter if it was my first ask or my three thousandth, I still get nervous. Just remember, you will never get something if you don’t ask!    

4. Recognize 

Just as important as the ask itself is your response to the answer the person gives. You must be prepared to quickly respond, no matter what. This is critical to building a relationship and planting a seed for the future. Say thank you, thank you and thank you once more. Keep the person updated on the business, news, personnel, etc. Recognition is all about maintaining and evolving relationships. If done successfully, it will ensure the person knows they are valued and continue to engage them in a positive manner for years to come.  

Research, romance, request, recognize.  Seems easy enough, right?  If that process is the key to success, then why aren’t we all killing it you may be asking?  Simple: you have to stop reading this and get out there. Go! (You can recognize me later!)  

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Pomp and circumstance

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06/10/2014

Pomp and circumstance photo

I'm a bit of a dork, but I love graduation season. 

I tear up at montages on the news of commencement speakers serving up their most sage nuggets of advice to senior classes. I smile at stuffed animals at Hallmark dressed in caps and gowns. And I gravitate toward Dr. Seuss-type guides empowering grads on their future journeys. I find grad season synonymous with hope and possibility. After all, graduation is the time when students are given a fresh start at life, eager and anxious to take on the world. And whether you're the class of 2014 or you graduated—ahem—a few years back, it's a great time to reenergize, take stock of all you have, and dream big.

With that, Jewish grads, here are 10 tips for the road ahead…Mazel tov!

1) Catch more flies with honey.

That Russian Jewish proverb whispered to me by my mother throughout my life and passed down from her mother and her mother's mother applies to everyone we encounter in life. That includes everyone from the major players in our lives to the people making cameo appearances, like our morning barista or the person who sweeps the sidewalks. Try to keep in mind that we're all just striving to leave our imprint on the world, to know that the world is a better place because we're
in it. 

2) Figure out what you want.

I recently attended TribeFest, a Jewish Federations of North America-sponsored conference of Jewish Gen X and Yers, where we were asked to partner up with someone we'd never met before. Each partner was asked to share with the other answers to two questions: What do we want most in life? And what are the obstacles standing in the way to us getting that thing we want? We each had two minutes to share our responses, and the other person could only listen, rather than chime in with questions or comments. What I loved about this assignment is we were asked to cut through all the noise and get to the heart of what we really want out of life. There are a lot of distractions and naysayers in the world that keep us from doing the things we want in life and the things we know to be right. Go with your gut—what you truly feel in your bones. 

3) Be a little Zen. 

Meditation is hot these days and I can see why. We're all trying to find that perfect job, to go on that perfect JDate, or to raise that perfect Jewish baby. But you know what? It ain't easy. So let's just all breathe, shall we? You can find your nice Jewish husband tomorrow.

4) Repair the world. 

Do your part to mend our very broken world. That could be by serving meals at the JUF Uptown Cafe, doing service work in Africa, or making a gift to a good cause like—I don't know—JUF.

 5) Be present. 

Put this column down. And put your phone down. Whomever you're texting will still be there when you get back. Now, feel the ground under your feet, listen to the birds chirping, smell the aroma of the nearby pancake house wafting through the air. Don't think about your regrets of the past or your 120-point plan for the future. Just for a second—be in the moment.  

6) Find your people.

I'll admit it. It took me a long time to get that not everyone in the whole wide world is going to like me, and that's okay. You just have to surround yourself with people—that includes your friends, mentors, and potential significant others—who make you feel like the best version of yourself, who share your same values and your same weird sense of humor. The people who really get you.

7) Go down your own Jewish path.

We're all on our own Jewish journey. There are so many ways to strengthen our Jewish identity—culturally, spiritually, and religiously—and no two Jewish paths are exactly the same. Go to shul, host a Shabbat meal, watch a Seth Rogen movie, bake challah, or all of the above. Even along our own path, the road will wind. I'm a different Jew now than I was when I was a kid or even last year. And I won't be the same next year either. We're evolving in all kinds of ways, and our Jewish path is part of that evolution. 

8) Recognize how good we've got it.

Every day we're alive is a good day. That's why Jews say a blessing every morning, "Modeh Ani," where we thank God for sustaining us through the night. Don't forget that there is always someone out there who has it worse than you, and to appreciate all the blessings in life. 

9) Screw up every now and then.

We're all fixer-uppers and hopefully morphing into the best versions of ourselves all the time. We make a whole lot of mistakes as we walk through life, which is how we learn. As the just-passed famed and wise poet Maya Angelou once said—"When you know better, you do better." So don't be too hard on yourself for something you did in the past. It's what you do today that counts. 

10) Tell the people in your life what they mean to you. 

Why must it take a near-death experience or dramatic roadblock in our lives to take stock of our friends and family? Drop a note or have lunch with the people you care about, and tell them why they matter to you. 

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Summer Fitness Guide

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06/03/2014

Summer Fitness Guide photo 2

Marketing terms like “beach body ready,” start popping up in April, making everyone feel guilty for their winter indiscretions. The moment T-shirt and shorts weather hits, people are hounding me for advice and sessions. The good news, summer is the best time to get in shape. The excuse “it’s too cold out” does not apply, and the days are longer.

There are a few things to be careful about exercising outside during the summer. The general rules are below:

1. Speak with your doctor before starting a new routine

2. Apply sunscreen

3. Avoid extreme heat

4. Drink lots of water

5. Avoid peak times of day when sun is the hottest

6. If you feel faint, light-headed, dizzy, etc…. stop immediately and seek medical attention

The cheapest and easiest form of exercise is walking. Walk before or after work, so you avoid the heat. I love working out at lunch, but combining the hot weather and dress clothes does not make for a comfortable afternoon. Make sure you have comfortable and supportive shoes and bring a water bottle with you. You can make your walk more intense by walking up hills or simply increase your pace for a minute every several minutes.

Other obvious summer workouts are biking, swimming and running. My favorite thing to do in summer is boot camp workouts. If you cannot find one you in your area, create your own! Look for a park where you can place a band on a swing set or other jungle gym equipment. With a few bands that you can buy at any sporting goods store or online (I buy www.resistancebandtraining.com bands) you can create a great full-body workout. Here’s a sample routine, mixing in running, body weight moves and bands:

- Run side to side for 20 yards.

- Attempt as many pushups as you can in 45 seconds (if a regular push up is too hard, try them on your knees)

- Squat down like you are sitting on a chair, then stand up quickly, aim for 20 squats

- Bicep curls with your band, place a band under your feet, hold the handles, and bring the handles towards your body. Curl the band 15-20 times

- Run for 20 yards.

- Row with your band. Attach the band to a piece of sturdy equipment. Stand facing your band with the handles in each hand, pull bringing your elbows straight back. Picture is below. Do 15-20 rows.

Summer Fitness Guide photo 1

Repeat this circuit 4-5 times taking breaks only when you need them. To make this workout harder you can add in exercises such as jumping jacks, or use heavier bands and keep your repetitions between 8-12. If you have trouble figuring out an exercise, YouTube is a great resource. If you want to join a boot camp in the North Shore, contact me at rkrit@fitwithkrit.com.

My last summer fitness suggestion is enlist friends and family. You are more likely to continue exercising if you have a friend holding you accountable. I’m not suggesting you join a softball league; it’s not going to change your physique though that is fun and a great social outlet. Find a buddy to run with, play golf, basketball, etc. With a few cheap cones or other equipment, you can even set up a fun obstacle course for the family to use. If your children are hesitant to participate, allow them to set up the course. 

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Summer Jewish Sports Headlines

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06/02/2014

Summer Jewish Sports Headlines photo 2

The biggest Jewish sports news of the summer is a huge “mazel tov” to Maccabi Tel Aviv for winning the Euroleague Basketball Championship. This is an incredible accomplishment; Israel went crazy after the historic victory.

Also, mazel tov to Shoni Schimmel, who went eighth in the WNBA draft to the Atlanta Dream. Schimmel graduated last year from Louisville, where her sister, Jude, will be a senior. Both sisters are part Jewish and part Native American.

Recently and unfortunately, Jewish baseball players Josh Zeid and Ryan Kalish have been sent down. Also, Aaron Poreda has been optioned to the Pacific Coast League even though he has been pitching well. We hope to see them all back up soon.

In NFL news, former Bears punter Adam Podlesh has signed a one-year deal with the Steelers, while Brian De La Puente has joined the Bears and Jewish coach Marc Trestman’s minyan after snapping/starting the last two years with the Saints. He is currently behind Roberto Garza on the depth chart.

In college basketball news, the charismatic college coach Bruce Pearl is back. Pearl is the new head coach of the Auburn Tigers. Auburn makes a big splash with a proven coach. It is good to see Pearl back on the sidelines and out from behind a desk. Pearl has wasted no time building a staff bringing aboard Auburn legend Chuck Person and adding two Jewish coaches to his team: Harris Adler, formerly of La Salle, and Columbia's Todd Golden.

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