OyChicago blog

When do reality shows cross the line?

 Permanent link

Cheryl Jacobs photo 2x 

I sat down last night looking for fodder for my latest blog post and tuned in to a new episode of Millionaire Matchmaker and then disillusionment hit me. Why am I still watching this show? I used to love to hear Patti and her wise cracks— she’d put those arrogant, Stepford-wife-seeking-men in their place! But now every episode feels exactly the same, and even worse, fake.

I happened to pick up the RedEye this past Monday on my commute to work and I read the story about Daniel Kibblesmith, a Chicagoan who works for Groupon who appeared as a bachelor looking for love on Monday’s episode. In the article, the author explains how Stanger’s camp reached out to Groupon’s PR team, ideally to get the founder on the show. Turns out he’s engaged, so Groupon’s camp offered up Daniel and they settled for him.

Interesting. So much for the idea that millionaires seek out Patti’s services. But what really irked me, was while Patti watched the tape of a perfectly nice, although nerdy, Chicago boy introducing himself to the club, Patti remarked, “give him his money back, I can’t help him.”

First of all, Patti, you claim to be a professional matchmaker, so you should be able to help anyone. Second of all, it says on the bottom of every episode, that none of the bachelors who appear on the show actually pay for your services, so don’t suddenly pretend they do just to embarrass them more.

Now I realize that’s how every episode of this show works and that people sign up willingly to participate knowing they could be embarrassed, but this time for whatever reason, I got upset at being duped— probably because it was a local guy.

Now Millionaire Matchmaker isn’t even really my biggest gripe. At least no one physically gets hurt. But this morning I got upset. Really upset. I turned on my computer and did what I do every morning over a bowl of Cheerios—check my email and read People.com. There it was, after weeks of speculation and criticism (that I agreed with), Bravo announced it is still moving forward with the second season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills as planned. Here is the full statement from Bravo Media President Frances Berwick:

"Bravo will proceed with the Monday, September 5 premiere date of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Given that these episodes were filmed months ago, the producers of the show taped a brief interview this week with several cast members to introduce the premiere…Re-editing of the episodes is still underway."

For those of you who haven’t heard the news, one of the “househusbands” from the show recently committed suicide leaving behind a five-year-old daughter and 11 and 13 year old sons. His cast member wife spent last season sobbing to her cast-mates about how awful her marriage was, as the show vilified her spouse in every scene he appeared in. The second season is supposed to carry a similar plotline for her “character,” only this year she does file for divorce. Now, I’m not saying that this guy was totally innocent of all wrongdoing. I didn’t like him either when I watched last year. But in lieu of everything coming out about him now, how he put all of his money into building his wife up so she’d fit the shows’ wealthy mold, I’m starting to feel a little differently.

Here are some of his own words in a Daily Beast article:

“‘I didn't really understand what we were getting into.’ He said that times when he was shown leaving parties, disappointing his wife, were in fact late at night.  

He agreed that his decision to stay in the background of the show ‘backfired.’  

‘I’m going to be more engaging next season,’ Armstrong said. In person, he appeared more at ease than he had on camera and seemed eager to show reporters speaking with him at a party that he was kinder than audiences had seen him being.  

In a reunion special for the show, broadcast in early February, Armstrong responded to questions about what it was like watching his marital troubles on television. ‘It was difficult,’ he said. ‘The last three years have been very challenging for the entire country. I, candidly, have been working 80-hour weeks. It’s very easy to get preoccupied with kids and business and the day-to-day grind.’  

So, I do feel bad for the man, I don’t believe he understood exactly what he was getting himself into. Moreover, I feel horrible for his parents, who’ve now spoken out against the show, and most importantly for his children, who hopefully don’t yet know all the details of his passing. But inevitably now will, thanks to the show and media coverage. And it bothers me knowing that a new season of the show is about to premiere (so soon after) that will once again vilify a man who can’t even defend himself.

I understand that Bravo was counting on the show airing and a lot of fans will be disappointed. I, too, was really looking forward to another season with my favorite housewives, but when does it cross the line? Shouldn’t this be it?

As I see it, the show needs to be re-shot without Taylor Armstrong and her family, or somehow they need to both be edited out of all scenes and plotlines. But I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

So what do we as viewers do? Do we boycott shows like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or rather do we watch shows like Millionaire Matchmaker and Keeping up with the Kardashians that embrace their scripted-ness?

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to tune in to the second season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Monday. I might see how they handle the first episode and go from there. But I’m curious to hear others thoughts…do you think Bravo has gone too far?


Ruminations from a newlywed

 Permanent link

Ruminations of a newlywed photo 

In early July, on one of the happiest and most perfect days I can remember, I got married!

After a year and a half of wedding planning and events—including showers, a bachelorette party, an auf ruf, a wonderful and warm wedding and an amazing honeymoon—suddenly, it’s two months later, it’s all over and I’m left with a sky high pile of thank you notes to write and a quickly fading tan…Oh yeah, and a new, caring, handsome and kind husband who I adore.

As we are in the midst of wedding season and coming up on a three-day weekend that is surely jam-packed with weddings and engagements, I thought I’d impart some of my wedding wisdom (I mean, I’ve been married a whole two months now, so I’m basically an expert) to all of you brides and grooms-to-be out there. Here are a few lessons I learned from this whole crazy process:

No matter how stressful the planning process may seem, it’s totally worth it.
I’ll admit that at the beginning, and through most of the planning process, I wasn’t so much into all this. Lucky for me, my mom was super organized and took the lead on the process—and I’m so grateful that she did. I promise, all the stress and fighting and tough decision-making is worth it when you get to that day.

The first few months after you get engaged are really exciting and fun, but they can also be the most stressful and overwhelming time. It’s totally normal to cry a lot (I definitely did), but once you figure out the major stuff—I recommend choosing your date, location and officiant first, then band or DJ, photographer and wedding coordinator, if you’re having one—you can take your time figuring out the rest.

Wake up on your wedding day with a smile on your face.
I spent a lot of time leading up to my wedding worrying about little things that I wish I hadn’t. You put so much stock and effort into this one day and there are so many factors you just can’t control—weather, traffic, if someone comes down with the flu—and it’s easy to get caught up in worry and anxiety.

My best advice for the day of is to just let all the stresses of the past few months (or years) of planning go.  This might sound a little crazy, but leading up to the wedding, I would envision myself waking up that morning happy and excited and ready to get married, instead of stressed, anxious and nervous.

Partly because of this, and partly because of the fact that once you wake up that morning there’s nothing left to worry about, it worked—I was the happy, excited and calm bride I had envisioned (now if only I could envision myself this calm all the time, I’d be in good shape.)

There will never be enough time.
Your wedding will fly by. I thought this was maybe just a cliché, but it’s true. You won’t have time to dance with everyone you want to, talk with everyone you want to, taste everything you want to—you probably won’t even get to see your dessert (I didn’t). So just do the best you can—people will understand. And try to have as much fun as you possibly can while at the same time being the most gracious bride or groom you can be.

Your friends are awesome. 
At least mine are. Our friends totally made our wedding. Good friends will be there for you all day and dance like idiots all night. Just be sure to thank them profusely and be sure to return the favor when it’s their big day. Same goes for family members—(shout out to my sister, who was the world’s best maid of honor.) 

Beat the post-wedding blues 
You’re married, now what?

This is definitely not the healthiest thing to do, but the first thing we did after our wedding was to eat anything and everything we wanted…I’m not sure how long this diet (I’m calling it the anti-diet) is acceptable, but we’re still doing it….maybe when our clothes stop fitting?

But seriously, I think the best way to beat post-wedding blues is to move on to the next big step in your lives as a couple. For us, it’s been searching for a new place to live that is big enough so we can start married life with a kitchen table. It’s also fun to get back your photos and videos—I sometimes find organizing my photos and memories helps me close an exciting chapter in my life and move on to the next.

That’s all from this newlywed. I’d love to hear what all of you have to say—comment below with your wedding advice:


Ten most compelling Jewish NFL stories for 2011 season

 Permanent link

Ten most compelling Jewish NFL stories for 2011 season photo x 

Gabe Carimi  

Before the NFL Season starts, The Great Rabbino wants to look at the most compelling Jewish NFL stories for fans to follow over the season. Here are the top 10 stories:

10) Will Sage Rosenfels see playing time— Rosenfels is Eli Manning's backup, which means he probably won't see the field barring injury. But if that does happen, is Rosenfels truly the Giants QB2?

9) Binn back— Former Pro Bowler Charger's Long Snapper David Binn was out almost all of last season. Hopefully, this ageless wonder can come back to pro bowl form.

8) Pro Bowl punting— Adam Podlesh was last year's pro bowl alternate. This year he is in a new league on a team (our Chicago Bears) that shines on Special Teams. Will Podlesh finally bring some Jewish representation to the Pro Bowl?

7) L.A. Raiders in Oakland or LA? Make up your mind. Several Los Angeles groups want a football team in LA. Rumors have it; the Raiders are going back there. What does this mean for Al Davis?

6) New and improved Redskins— Like every year the Redskins and Daniel Synder make a ton of moves— maybe the biggest by moving huge man (and contract) Albert Haynesworth. Will this pay off? Rex Grossman sure seems to think so by claiming they would beat out the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys for the division title. Good luck.

5) Can Antonio Garay keep it up— Garay has been a journeyman most of his career. But last year he performed and performed well. Is San Diego finally the place Garay remains consistent.

4) Will Julian Edelman see the field— Two years ago The Great Rabbino blew up in part because of Julian Edelman. Edelman, from Kent State, stepped in for the injured Wes Welker and performed at a high level. Last year, he was a virtually irrelevant. This one time up and coming receiver needs to bounce back and ask Brady for the ball.

3) Can the Bear Jew protect Cutler— The Bears selected Gabe Carimi in the first round for one reason; keep Jay Cutler off the ground. If Carimi is to prove that he was worth a #1 pick, he needs to do just that.

2) Which Taylor Mays will show up— We hear he is in ridiculous shape and we have seen sparks of greatness from Taylor Mays. We have also seen him disappear. With new coach Jim Harbaugh, how will Mays perform?

1) Super team— There is a lot of hype surrounding Jeffrey Lurie's Philadelphia Eagles. Are they a Super-Team? Are they Super Bowl Bound? Eagle fans are praying for a championship, but are they praying hard enough? A lot rest on the shoulders of Michael Vick and all the off-season moves Lurie's Eagles made.

And Let Us Say...Amen.


Check out the photos from the Oy!Chicago presents, “For the Love of Summer” party

 Permanent link

See below for a bunch of photos taken at the photo booth at the Oy!Chicago presents, “For the Love of Summer” party. Comment below on your favorites and to see the rest, click here for our Oy!Chicago Facebook album.

Hope all of you had fun and thanks for coming!!

For the Love of Summer photo 1 

For the Love of Summer photo 2 

For the Love of Summer photo 3 

For the Love of Summer photo 4 

For the Love of Summer photo 5 

For the Love of Summer photo 6 

For the Love of Summer photo 7 

For the Love of Summer photo 8 

For the Love of Summer photo 9 

For the Love of Summer photo 10 

For the Love of Summer photo 11 

For the Love of Summer photo 12 

For the Love of Summer photo 13 

For the Love of Summer photo 14 

For the Love of Summer photo 15 

For the Love of Summer photo 16 

For the Love of Summer photo 17 

For the Love of Summer photo 18 

For the Love of Summer photo 19 

For the Love of Summer photo 20 

For the Love of Summer photo 21 

For the Love of Summer photo 22 

For the Love of Summer photo 23 

For the Love of Summer photo 24 

For the Love of Summer photo 25 

For the Love of Summer photo 26 

For the Love of Summer photo 27 

For the Love of Summer photo 28 

For the Love of Summer photo 29 

For the Love of Summer photo 30x 

For the Love of Summer photo 31 

For the Love of Summer photo 32 

For the Love of Summer photo 33 

For the Love of Summer photo 34 

For the Love of Summer photo 35 


Falling for fall

 Permanent link

Falling for fall photo 

I’m bummed August is rapidly coming to a close. Where did the summer go? June was a massive fail weather-wise and July and August simply flew by in a blur. I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to summer in Chicago—I never even made it to the beach.

Nonetheless, fall has always seemed to bring with it some magic. There’s something about that first nip in the air that permeates into our skin and although chilly, warms us.

When I was a kid, I loved visiting the apple orchard, stocking up on school supplies, carefully planning my outfits for the entire first week of school, and taking the special trip with my mother to the costume store to choose my Halloween costume. The beginning of a new school year opened up the door to endless possibilities and successes. I always felt fulfilled and determined, writing my first notes and homework assignments down in my trusty Chandler’s notebook with a brand new pen. During college, I continued to feel the same sense of endless possibilities I had felt during my younger years. I was eager to gain knowledge in the classroom, equally anticipated getting asked on dates by frat boys to the Vandy home games, and anxiously awaited other exciting happenings the year would add to my overall college experience. As I moved into my professional political career, fall continued to be special because it was election season—again, anything could happen.

Now, although I look forward to the crisp air and warm colors, I’m approaching the season more cautiously and perhaps more realistically. After all, in Chicago, fall is simply a brief precursor to a long, cold winter. Sometimes this depresses me, but maybe that’s also what makes the season magical, it’s so short and evanescent, but so lovely. Now though, it’s my busiest time at work, and although successfully completing the various projects is rewarding, it’s also intimidating and exhausting. The magic has faded somewhat with age and experience, but I still can’t help but anticipate the season, hopefully at least sprinkled with some magic. I look forward to quenching my thirst with fresh apple cider, actually following NFL football for the first time this year (that’s a goal, by the way), and most of all, I can’t wait to slip my skinny jeans, knee-high boots, fur scarf (sorry PETA, I had a weak moment while shopping a few Octobers ago in NYC), and tweed blazer back on— the lush fabrics, the deep jewel tones, the chic silhouettes— and for a couple fleeting months, no concerns of salt stains or water damage. Fall fashion is always magic.

Even if life now fades some of fall’s magical glow, it still does not fail to promise the thrill of new beginnings. This year, I’ll be celebrating my brother’s wedding (believe it or not, the first Jewish wedding this Jewish girl will have ever attended) and my five-year college reunion.

What are you looking forward to this fall? Let the magic begin!


Preserve summer

 Permanent link

Preserve summer photo 

The market stalls are bursting with produce. It seems as though everywhere I turn there is an abundance of riotously colored vegetables and fruit. The possibilities seem endless—so much food, so little time. I am happy this time of year in the market. I feel blessed to live near so many farmers and shoppers who share enthusiasm for high quality, local produce.

But, like all good things, this too will end. The season won’t taper off slowly and gracefully. One day not too far from this moment it will just end. The vines will simply not produce any more. The weather will turn cold and the party will be over. I like to hang on to remnants of summer and look to preserving some of the bounty. It is at this time of year, I start canning and pickling.

Refrigerator pickles are quick and simple. They tend to have a bright flavor and keep that summer feeling. I like to pickle beets, carrots, beans, peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower…you name it, I’ve pickled it!

These pickled veggies can be the star or co-star of your late summer meals. I add them to salads, garnish steaks with them and eat them with great cheeses and bread in the Sukkah (the holidays ARE coming). Hold on to summer for just a few more weeks by pickling the color and flavor or summer’s bounty.

Refrigerator Pickles
Basic Pickling Liquid

2 cups Apple Cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick
several slices of peeled ginger

1. Bring the above mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Cool completely.

2. Prep the vegetables that you are pickling by blanching and shocking them until they are tender or by roasting them in the case of beets until they are tender. Peel and cut to size. Arrange the vegetables in clean jars. Pour the pickling mixture over the vegetables to completely cover and seal with tight fitting lids. Refrigerate the pickled vegetables for one week before serving.

The refrigerator pickles can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.


Two feet, Two legs, Two worlds, Two selves— One life

 Permanent link

Jenna Benn photo 

So here we are— 11 weeks post-treatment, eight weeks post-infection, six weeks post-reconnection with the outside world.

It feels great to be back, but I am not really back.

So where exactly am I? And who exactly is this?

I feel as if I am living in gumby’s over-stretched body. I have one foot planted in the life that I used to lead, that is familiar, cancer-free, routine, and safe. The other foot is planted in a new life that is unfamiliar, cancerous, exciting, and frightening.

I am attempting to walk around with mismatched shoes and over-stretched limbs that are being yanked and pulled in opposing directions. I am working hard to get my feet and legs to communicate with one another, but they are both so opinionated!

The leg and foot that exists in the life that I used to lead has decided to go on a sprint, exploring the roads that are familiar, routine, comfortable and committed to memory. I run down these paths with a new found urgency and fear that one day I will be robbed of these memories, robbed of this space, robbed of this life.

And then there is the other leg and foot that is planted in this new territory, this new space, this new existence. This world operates at a slower pace, is filled with new emotions, new feelings, new ideas and a new perspective. All of my senses are magnified— I see and feel things differently. I bruise more easily.

Two legs, two feet, two worlds, two selves, that are sprinting and walking in vehemently opposed directions.

How can I really be back, when I am headed in opposite directions? How can I really be back, when part of me is choosing to live in a time before cancer? How can I really be back when the other part of me is trying to find my footing in a post-treatment world?

As I continue to try to live in both worlds, I am really living in neither.

As I work to find my footing, work to find my balance, work to integrate my two feet, my two legs, my two worlds, my two selves, I am still fighting cancer.

What many do not understand is that while I may not be tied up— I am still fighting. While I may not be awaiting another round of treatment— I am still fighting. While I may not be bound to my bed, mal-nourished and exhausted— I am still fighting.

I fight every day to be here, to be present, and to be alive.

I fight every day to live fully, live gratefully, and live mindfully.

I fight every day to hold on to the hope that Cancer will not return, will not reenter my body, will not reenter the life that I am trying to slowly, pragmatically and thoughtfully rebuild.

And perhaps it is that fear that is preventing me from taking these 2 feet, 2 legs, 2 worlds and 2 selves and integrating it into 1 life.


Cheers! Chicago: Hallelujah, a global Jewish singing contest!

 Permanent link

Ari Moffic Silver photo 

As I was perusing around the Internet one afternoon a Facebook page called Hallelujah: A global Jewish singing contest caught my eye. Interesting, who would not want to sing their way to win a free flight to Israel? “This is your chance to become a Jewish Star!” the website bellowed. I thought it was a great idea. Of course, most of us are already aware of the surge of talent competitions across the globe, mostly due to the recent successes of shows like, “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” the UK’s “Pop Idol,” “The Voice” and “Britain’s Got Talent”. I find this recent global wave of talent shows and competitions both provocative and intriguing. Sure, many of them seem silly and mildly entertaining on the surface. But these shows are also a good way to connect to others across the globe more easily than ever before. Given the popularity of these types of shows,this competition seems like a great idea.

There is no better way to create and maintain a strong global Jewish community than through song and dance. So what better way to promote this concept than through a vocal competition where the winner gets to travel throughout the land of Israel, visit some of the greatest places on earth, share a love of everything musical and Jewish, and connect with countless other Jewish people across country lines and oceans?

So, what is this contest all about? Here’s what the website says:

“What is Hallelujah? The Hallelujah contest has been searching for the next Jewish Star. After hundreds of auditions from 62 countries, we are proud to present the 31 finalists from 14 countries. The finalists arrived in Israel ready to train and compete but also ready to learn about their Jewish roots through the sound of Hebrew songs. In this application you will find each singer's personal profile and original audition tape. On August 25, 2011 the finalists hit the big stage for the final blowout concert. The entire event will be broadcast live from the beautiful city of Ramat HaSharon, north of Tel Aviv.”

So cool! The contest not only promotes original songwriting by Jewish artists and amateurs alike, but it also plans and organizes a countrywide trip throughout. Although it’s too late to enter this year’s competition, there is still time to go to their website and vote on your favorite! The contestants hail from all over the world and incorporate all different types of musical and lyrical skills. You can satisfy your reality television temptations while simultaneously connecting with Jews everywhere in the world.

So go check out the finalists’ music videos on the website and cast your own vote for who should be flown to Israel to compete in a singing competition and travel across one of the greatest countries in the world. Who are you going to choose as the winner of this awesome competition? Or will YOU be next year’s “Hallelujah Star”?!



The celebs who cry “Nazi”

 Permanent link

The celebs who cry “Nazi” photo x 

Add Andy Dick to the list of celebrities who feel perfectly free to toss around anti-Semitic slurs as cavalierly as if they were commenting on the weather. He just called Howard Stern a “miserly… money-grubbing Jew” with a “big, fat, hook nose.” I’m not sure how I feel defending Howard Stern in a war of words, but these comments are over the line.

Kanye West’s recent self-comparison to Hitler, to express how much he feels hated, is another recent example of this kind of nonsense.

And so Andy and Kanye join a list of celebrities who feel it is OK to dabble in Nazi and anti-Semitic terminology, a frustratingly growing trend.

For a while, it seemed, thankfully, to be ebbing. It has been years since Louis Farrakhan called Hitler “wickedly great” and Michael Jackson used the word “Jew” as a verb in his song “They Don’t Care About Us.

In the past few years, though, it’s resurfaced. Mel Gibson, John Galliano, Charlie Sheen and Lars von Trier have recently all recently made negative remarks about Jews. So have non-entertainers Rick Sanchez, Michael Scheuer, and Helen Thomas.

What in the name of Simon Wiesenthal is going on here?

Some of this, the Kanye kind, reflects the super-sizing of American rhetoric. Unless your words are positioned in the extreme, they will not cut through the 24-7 chatter of TV, TMZ, and Twitter. And so we have sort of trained ourselves to speak in “big” terms. We overuse the words “awesome” and “from Hell” to describe things like coffee… and the state of the office coffee maker.

So Kanye is not, he feels, only as hated as much as, say, Pol Pot, Augusto Pinochet or Slobodan Milosevic. No, he is hated as much as Adolf Hitler.

You could argue, much of the rest of this anti-Semitic rhetoric is the backlash against “political correctness.” People feel that they are being edgy or bravely truthful (and not, you know, bigoted) when they tag whole countries, ethnicities or religious communities with certain traits. It’s socially and societally wrong to do it, so they know they will be seen as brazen and iconoclastic if they do it. (Personally, I am hoping my one-year-old, who isn’t doing the “catch me being bad” thing yet, outgrows this phase by the time he can ride a bike.)

It is true that “PC” has been taken to somewhat silly extremes in some quarters. But political correctness—what used to simply be called “sensitivity”—was itself a reaction to the insensitivity and simple inaccuracy of popular terminology. “Fireman” had to give way to “firefighter” because, today, some firefighters are not men.

Now, I did read 1984, and I am a George Carlin fan, and I am aware of the dangers of euphemizing all the meaning out of our language. Bending over backward to be sensitive can lead to intellectual dishonesty, the obfuscation of potentially harmful policies, and even bad medical advice.

But at the same time, I understand that “names” can hurt just as much as “sticks and stones.” Yes, “vertically challenged” is a very stilted way to say “short,” but springing back to the other end of the spectrum is not the answer. The way to combat over-reaching sensitivity is not by being purposefully insensitive. There is a viable, medium stance that is both honest and kind.

Avoiding any negative rhetoric about a particular group of people is not a matter of freedom of speech. Or even, necessarily, one of hate speech. It’s a matter of being a decent human being. It’s a matter of knowing that just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

It’s not censorship if you decide, because you have a heart as well as a brain: “You know what? This thing I could say is not going to come off well. I’m just gonna think that thought in my mind and not say it out of my mouth.” That’s just manners.

So, celebrities, when it comes to mouthing off, maybe you should heed the words of my second-favorite Abraham— Mr. Lincoln: “’Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”


Palestinian terrorist attack rocks Israel

 Permanent link

From JUF News: 

Palestinian terrorist attack rocks Israel photo 

Israeli paramedics wheel an injured man on a stretcher at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba following a terrorist attack in southern Israel, near the Egyptian frontier, Aug. 18, 2011

Thursday turned out to be a day of terror the likes of which Israel hasn't seen in a number of years, with seven dead and dozens injured in a series of coordinated attacks.

Palestinian terrorists attacked an Israeli bus traveling near Eilat in the first attack. The infiltrators, allegedly from Gaza, struck an Egged bus just after noon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Three other attacks—roadside bombs detonated as a vehicle drove past and another on Israeli troops—occurred in the same area shortly after, according to Lt.-Col Avital Leibovitch, the IDF's chief spokesman for the foreign press.

Two people were critically wounded Thursday evening when gunfire erupted close to the site of the earlier attacks.

A short time before the renewed gunfire, IDF aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel would respond to the attacks in an appropriate manner. 

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the attacks "demonstrate the weakening of Egypt's control over the Sinai Peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there." He added that Israel's military will retaliate against the attacks, which he said "originate in Gaza."

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz arrived at the scene to conduct an assessment, according to the IDF.

Egyptian officials have denied that Egypt was involved in the attacks, according to reports.

The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago issued the following statement today regarding the incidents:

"In the wake of today’s coordinated attacks by Palestinian terrorists, who murdered at least seven Israeli civilians and military personnel and injured dozens of others inside Israel, Chicago’s Jewish community joins with our Israeli friends and relatives in mourning the dead and praying for the recovery of the injured.

"As we praise the courageous response of the Israel Defense Forces, we demand that those who incite, plan, and implement terrorism are stopped and brought to justice, and that those who condone or excuse terrorism are marginalized.

"Today’s four terror attacks, believed to originate in Gaza, serve as a deadly reminder: Stability in the Middle East will come only when those who are committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes defeat those who are committed to violence.

"In 2000 the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago helped establish the Victims of Terror Fund, a global effort to assist terror attack victims in Israel, as well as families of Jewish victims of terror attacks aimed at Israeli targets worldwide. The Victims of Terror Fund has since provided some $25 million in support."

The White House issued the following statement on the attacks:

"We condemn the brutal terrorist attacks in southern Israel today in the strongest terms. Our deepest condolences go to the victims, their families and loved ones, and we wish those injured a speedy recovery. The U.S. and Israel stand united against terror and we hope that those behind this attack will be brought to justice swiftly."  



 Permanent link

Suburbia photo 

In 1998 my friends and I did what your average 21 year old does at 2 a.m., we ordered food. My friend placed the order under the name Kritdaddy, because I needed another nickname. We thought it was hilarious when I picked up the order and tried my hardest not to laugh when I said, “I’m Kritdaddy.” Fast forward to July 18, 2011 and I receive a text message, “Kritdaddy has a brand new meaning.” And it does, I’m now a father to Henry (aka King Henry, Handsome Henry, and Smoosh face).  If having a child wasn’t a big enough change, we also moved out of the city, to Glenview.

A horribly selfish and loud neighbor guided us to the suburbs. It was bound to happen at some point. Eventually we were going to head north. Our plan was to live in the city for a few more years, maybe five, but here we are—minutes from Target, malls, and the Metra. And with a baby, that's very convenient.

I wasn't sure if I would really like it. I've been hopping on buses, walking to sushi spots and running across the street for groceries for over 12 years. The city boasts a sexy skyline, killer restaurants, and a quick commute to work. How can a burb compete with that, and there's no Jerry's Sandwich Shop.

The suburbs are not horrible though. There are definitely perks, like the clean and timely Metra, and the quiet. We don't hear bass blasting so loud it shakes our ceiling, there's no El rocking our windows, and the only live music comes from signing in the shower. Here's a quick comparison of the city vs the northern suburbs:

Area  City   Suburb  Winner 
Food   Suhi wabi, Bob San, Jerry's sandwiches Michael's, Once Upon a Bagel City
Commute   El, bus Metra, Pace Burbs
Shopping  Water Tower, 900 North, Landmark Northbrook Court, The Glen, Old Orchard and more Burbs-you can park for free!
Gyms  Ballys, Xport, Hifi, Golds Gym, more Bally's, Park District gyms, more It's a tie!
Stuff to do  Sporting events, museums, Planetarium, Aquarium, street fests Greenbay Trail, Botanic Gardens, Kohl's Children's museum City
Grocery stores  Plenty of options, little parking, always busy One trip to Target and you'll never go back to the city Burbs

The winner? It's a draw. I still love the city, there's nothing like living in walking distance from everything you need, and the burbs are great. What are your thoughts? If you have restaurant ideas, or any fun suggestions for the North Shore, send them my way. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy suburbia and being a Kritdaddy.


A trip back in biblical history

 Permanent link


After two weeks at my new job at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, I was sent to Israel for a training conference, but was lucky enough to get a few extra days to tour around on my own. I have always been infatuated with the beauty of Israel and the rich connection of the land and people to the history of the Jews. On this particular trip, I got to experience a lot of this firsthand.

I took a day out of my schedule to visit an area about 30 minutes outside of Jerusalem, called Beit Shemesh and some of the surrounding area. Since it was DC’s partnership region, the Jewish Agency helped me get a tour of the area. My guide for the day was Amit, and soon after she picked me up I was treated to a piece of biblical history. We passed by the ancient spot were Samson was born, between Tzorah and Eshta'ol. Samson was one of the heroes in the Book of Judges—think long hair and big muscles. I recognized the names of these places right away because I read the story for my Haftorah when I became a bar mitzvah. It was exciting to find this connection from the words I chanted 20 years ago when I entered Jewish adulthood to my work today.

Further down the highway, Amit pointed out the very hill believed to be the spot were David slung a rock, killing the mighty Goliath. She mentioned a river bed nearby that tour guides will bring groups in order to show them the very spot where he found the rock.

Later in our day, as we were driving back from a winery tour, Amit looked out the window and remarked at the beauty before us. "Many people see a dry and desolate desert here," she said, "but to me it looks biblical."

The following day, I took a half day and walked over to the City of David. From a description in my guidebook, the underground tour of ancient ruins and the journey back into biblical history sounded pretty interesting. It was close to 100 degrees in Jerusalem that day and the idea of getting underground and wading knee deep in the waters down in Hezikiah’s Tunnel, was the perfect way to beat the heat. The 3D movie to open the tour and the archaeological exploration certainly lived up to the hype. What I didn’t expect was how much I was going to take away from our guide. She was young, enthusiastic and had complete faith and love for the place we were exploring together. As she shared the story and history of how King David came to build his palace on what was likely the place we were standing, it was impossible to not be drawn in. I felt like this guide loved the story so much that she wanted nothing more in life than to have the chance to visit King David’s palace and meet him live and in person. He was one of her personal heroes and this place was truly her favorite.

During my stay, I was walking distance from the old city, so I was able to walk there each day. I visited the Kotel a few different times on this trip, more than I ever had before. When I think back to my first trip to Israel over six years ago on Birthright, visiting the Kotel was an inspiring highlight. It was a place where I had a real religious and spiritual moment. This trip was different because instead of touring on a whirlwind schedule, I was able to see things on my own schedule. It allowed me to understand the Kotel and perhaps all of Jerusalem in a different light.

I thought a lot about what it meant for Jews to visit the Wall. Walking up to the Wall and touching it, I thought about the image of Israeli soldiers during the 1967 Six Day War, reaching the wall and touching it for the first time, and breaking down in tears. I found myself thinking less spiritually, less religiously and more about my love for the state of Israel.


Mazel Tov--it's a girl!

 Permanent link


Everyone here at Oy!Chicago would like to say mazel tov to Marcy Nehorai and her husband, Elad, who are now proud parents of a healthy baby girl. Little Tanya Esther Avigayil Nehorai. What a cutie! Mazel tov Marcy and Elad, we hope she brings you much nachas!


Buy local: Bookstores that aren’t Borders

 Permanent link

Buy local bookstores photo

My hometown has an admirable, almost perverse dedication to shopping local. During my high school years, “Support your local economy” bumper stickers were as ubiquitous as college logos and Dave Matthews Band sprites. It’s a lifestyle that I cling to in Chicago: indies over chains, always always always. If I have the option to support an independent business over a corporation, I will. (This doesn’t always work, but I’m not ashamed of my H&M-loving ways. A girl and her budget need to choose their battles sometimes, and clothing is a different story than, say, jewelry, food or entertainment.)

This month marks the last sad gasp of Borders, at once the bane of many a mom’n’pop store and sometimes the only place to get books for miles around, if you live in certain parts of the country. Plenty of people, including former employees, are speaking up about why they’re not surprised to see it go, and plenty of others are lamenting its downfall. (As for myself, one of my fondest memories of Borders actually has nothing to do with being inside one. I passed by the store on North Avenue while riding the Brown Line on the night of the final Harry Potter book release, and the entire place looked like one big party.) But the fact remains that 11,000 bookselling jobs will be gone in this country by Labor Day, and the publishing industry is struggling enough as it is.

This is a great opportunity for consumers (us!) to remember that Chicago is home to some of the most fabulous independent bookstores out there. If you know and love the business below, I hope you find yourself nodding along, and if you’re not familiar with these great shops yet, I hope you have a fabulous time discovering them!

57th Street Books (1301 East 57th St., Hyde Park) is, admittedly, my best beloved in this city. This unassuming subterranean storefront opens up into rooms and room and rooms of shelves, all full of the most fantastic selections in any genre, field or interest you could imagine. There’s always some incredible author event going on, and I’ve definitely found surprise autographed copies of some really big names while browsing. 57th Street is part of the Seminary Co-op, and the equally magnificent academic bookstore is just a few blocks away in its new digs (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.)

Unabridged Bookstore (3251 N. Broadway, Lakeview) is my home away from Hyde Park. I almost never manage to leave this place without a new hardback I’d have never discovered if not for their great displays at the front of the store. Their online newsletter is equally culpable; I always wind up with three or four new titles on my to-read list when it comes.

Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark St., Andersonville) is a smaller store, but it more than makes up for size with selection. If you’re into socially conscious material, whether it’s an exposé of political injustice or simply great works by overlooked writers, you’ll find it here.

Open Books (213 W. Institute Pl., River North) is actually a nonprofit organization dedicated to literacy in the Chicago area. They operate a beautiful storefront run by volunteers just off the Chicago Brown Line stop, and all merchandise comes from donations. Books + good causes = win-win all around.

Some of my favorite bookstores in the city are actually comic shops. I consider Chicago Comics(3244 N. Clark St., Lakeview) my own personal grand dame of sequential storytelling. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of comics or being “nerdy” (which is the best and only way to be, as far as I’m concerned): the staff is always helpful and eager to share the best and brightest from this awesome art form. It’s not all just superheroes too – you’ll find incredible stories touching on everything from immigrant experiences to civil rights to new interpretations of the Great Books themselves.

Comics will absolutely surprise and delight you if you let them. Alley Cat Comics (5304 N. Clark St. – Rear, Andersonville) only just opened, but they won me over with one chance visit, not just because of their super charming location (look for the neat ironwork sign in the alley that leads to the store!), but because they had a print copy of my favorite webcomic ever (Gunnerkrigg Court, for the curious) in stock, without anyone having to order it by special request. Alley Cat Comics has also been running a weekly free movie night on Saturdays, so keep an eye on them for more great events.

All of these indies, I’d like to add, will happily order anything you want, not to mention you’ll get to talk to a real human being about what you want. If avoiding real human beings is how you like your book-shopping, I promise you, powells.com has the selection of Amazon and much less of the evilness (search “Amazon fail” for a taste).

I know I’ve missed dozens of other great local indies in Chicago. If you’ve got one that should be on this list, let me know in the comments! I’m always thrilled to find my way to another locally owned bookstore. IndieBound, another great website, also makes it easy to find your nearest independent sellers, no matter where you are. Borders may be on the way out, but bookstores don’t have to be. Just because it’s on a bumper sticker doesn’t mean it’s not true – support your local economy! Independent booksellers and other readers will thank you for it.


Things that go bump in the night

 Permanent link

Rachel Friedman photo 

It’s Tuesday night. I’m home alone all week for the first time in our new apartment.

On one hand, it’s peaceful having the whole three bedroom place to myself—no one to cook for or clean up after, no one to check in with before making impromptu plans. On the other hand, it’s a bit eerie being alone in a new apartment, especially when you’re still getting used to the building and neighborhood noises.

We’ve all been there. We’ve experienced the hardwood floors that squeak in certain places, air conditioning that kicks on with a boom, the gentle humming of the refrigerator. We’ve been awoken by honking horns or the not-so-gentle rumble of the garbage trunk way too early on a Friday morning. We’ve heard the crying baby next door or the pitter patter of puppy feet upstairs.

But what happens when the noises you hear aren’t part of the inevitable cacophony of your existence—when they are noises that just can’t settle in to the background noise of life?

What happens when the things that go bump in the night aren’t things, but people? People who could use a volume switch, or a mute button, particularly before 7 a.m. on weekdays. People who don’t know that screaming is meant for the adult film industry and not for the room directly above my bedroom….

Yes. You guessed it. IT. My neighbor upstairs who I have barely spoken to, other than “Hi, how are you?” We barely know each other but I feel like I know them if you know what I mean. Ew.

I know this seems like I’m making a big deal over nothing, but it’s been happening four to five times per week (and sometimes twice in a morning—you go neighbor girl!). It literally shakes my bed and cannot be slept through. And thank goodness they aren’t into role play or screaming dirty words in the heat of the moment, but Oh. My. Goodness. Keep your sex life to a dull roar please.

So here is the question Oy!sters. And don’t be shy – I know it’s scary to comment out in the blogosphere, but I’m at a loss of what to do.

Do I say something? Can I say something? If you think I should say something, how do I say it without being awkward/rude/inappropriate/etc?



Sliding doors

 Permanent link


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.

Of the kids in my Hebrew class, I had the most rock star Torah portion—Bereshit—the story of creation. You know the one about God creating the sun, the moon, and the stars? Unlike most tween girls who declare the “theme” of their bat mitzvahs as “ballet” or “Broadway show tunes” or “the color pink,” my bat mitzvah theme was “Let there be Light!” My guest sign-in board was decked with glittery sketches of the sun and moon, designed by my artist grandfather, the concept of illumination front and center during my rite of passage weekend.

I think a lot about those steps in between my light-themed bat mitzvah and where I am now, sitting here writing this very post. We all have “full circle” moments that lead us from our meandering paths of life to the place we’re at today.

Reflect on the decisions, the big and small ones, you’ve made over your lifetime. Often, you never realize how what seems like an insignificant decision can ultimately lead you through a different journey.

In my professional career, I decided last minute to show up at my college’s magazine job fair where JUF News happened to be recruiting that day. Without attending that fair, I probably never would have found my job as editor of that publication. And, in my dating career, I recall my friends dragging me to go dancing one night following a dinner out, even though I was tired and wanted to go home. I humored them and joined them at a club and met a wonderful man who I dated for a while. And, although we’re no longer together, I may not have met other special people in my life without having met him.

Small decisions can make the difference in life and death too. Recently, I heard about a family friend who was visiting Chicago for a weekend. Just as he arrived at O’Hare to fly home, he had a heart attack. A cardiologist happened to be walking by and stepped in with a defibrillator mounted nearby and saved our friend’s life. Only a few minutes before, he’d been sitting in a cab, where no life-saving measures would have been available. The difference of a few minutes, perhaps the cab driver taking a shorter route to the airport—or speeding (a common occurrence in Chicago cabs)—probably saved his life.

The alternate journeys life takes is dramatized in the 1998 British-American romantic comedy film Sliding Doors. In the movie, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, the plot splits into two parallel universes. In one, after being fired from her job, Paltrow’s character Helen catches an early train home from work and catches her boyfriend cheating on her. Helen dumps him and starts life anew with a new job, a new circle of friends, and, ultimately, a new love. In the second scenario, she misses the train and gets home after her boyfriend’s mistress leaves, and stays with him, in the dark about his cheating. The film conveys how one tiny event, catching or missing a train, changes the course of history for Helen.

While I believe in free will, I find comfort in the concept of beshert, knowing—hoping—that some of the choices we make and that which is beshert work in harmony. Perhaps some of the steps along our journey are out of our hands, preordained by God, a force bigger than all of us. Perhaps who we’re meant to meet, what we’re meant to do, and who we’re meant to become is written in the stars, a subject I sang about at my bat mitzvah all those years ago. 


A case of nostalgia

 Permanent link

Rachel Bertsche photo 2 

This weekend marked another stop on the annual wedding circuit. I’m told that this phase of my life (we’re attending seven weddings in 2011, six of which are out of town) will slow down in a couple of years, but since I’ve already got four weddings lined up for 2012, I don’t see that happening soon.

Saturday’s affair was one of my closest friends from college’s nuptials. Which meant the entire weekend consisted of bonding with my besties and reminiscing about the old days. After I got home last night, I spent some time analyzing the difference between time with old friends and new.

A year and a half ago, I would have come home close to tears, totally bummed that I didn’t have anyone in Chicago who measured up to my college BFFs. But now I have Chicago friends. I may still be searching for The One, but I’ve racked up plenty of pals here–people I could invite to last-minute brunch, even if they couldn’t attend. Still, there is a noticeable difference between hanging out with the college crowd and hanging out with my new friends, and I think the culprit is, simply, time.

I met my college friends 11 years ago. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. For three of those years we lived together, spending every waking moment by each other’s sides. A friend and I were laughing over the weekend at how even though we were roommates and took classes together and went out as a group at night, whenever I’d run into her at the gym during our college days, I’d stop her mid-run and she’d stand on the side of the treadmill so we could “catch up.” You know, since the hour earlier when we’d hung out.

There’s no adult equivalent to that college set up. You grow up, you live alone or with a romantic partner or roommate, but the days of eight girls sharing one home? Those are over. Unless you’re in a brothel.

And in all that time together, you make memories. It’s inevitable. So I spent a good majority of this weekend reminiscing. We laughed about awkward date stories (mine included), embarrassing moments, and, I must admit, there was some toilet humor in there too. And by some, I mean a lot.

In looking back at the weekend, and at old friends versus new, it’s become clear that time with the oldies is often about strolling down memory lane. Of course we talk about our current lives and what we hope for the future, but even those conversations are rooted in a shared history. With new friends, even after a year, there’s still so much getting to know each other. And the learning curve is higher, because we don’t live together and we’ll never spend the 24/7 time together that college friends do.

One isn’t necessarily better than the other. I cherish time with my college BFFs more than anything in the world. It’s so comfortable, being with people who know you so completely and will always, always, laugh with you. But I adore my new friends, too. They’re different, and it seems I’m lucky, finally, to have both.

Do you get nostalgic about old friend reunions? If you had to, would you choose old friends or new? (Remember my friend, who made the case for new friends being better than old ones?)


Writing fiction – and surviving to tell the tale

 Permanent link

Writing fiction – and surviving to tell the tale photo x 

Unlike Alex Epstein, the Russian-born Israeli author whose first book I reviewed for Oy! and whose prodigious imagination gives birth to a seemingly unending supply of fantastical characters and settings, fiction is not my strong suit.

But inspired by Epstein’s latest offering, the sublimely translated Lunar Savings Time (watch for a review in Oy! soon), I challenged myself to explore fiction-writing before I dismiss it as an aspiration beyond my imagination and skills. That’s why I joined Birthright Israel NEXT’s latest creative offering—a Jewish Writers Workshop. Led by Stephanie Friedman, program director at the Writer’s Studio of the Graham School of General Studies at the University of Chicago, the workshop is both a safe place to get your writing critiqued and a four-part series exploring the work of great Jewish writers: Malamud, Paley, Keret, Bezmozgis, etc. In our two sessions so far, we’ve discussed what makes a writer a Jewish author and what makes the work of fiction a Jewish story. No consensus on the subject just yet—imagine that! The opinions are as varied as the books on the shelves at Noble Tree Coffee where we meet (Chekhov next to a physics manual).

I’m due to submit my story next Tuesday. And until about a week ago, my page remained as blank as when I started the workshop two months ago. I had trouble even coming up with a concept, much less actually contriving an entire story around it. (We even got writing prompts. In case you’re interested, we were asked to write a dialogue-based story or, following a reading of Malamud’s “The Talking Horse,” a fabulist story. Participants can also work on their own stories already in progress.)

Unlike the angels, ghosts, Zen masters and kings who like to rearrange libraries that populate Epstein’s stories, the characters that finally popped into my mind are decidedly less out of this world. Still, the story of how this story came about might be worth Epstein. In fact, it’s less a story than the transcript of a very detailed and persistent dream. I hardly ever remember them beyond the few short minutes between sleep and complete wakefulness, so I’m left with the surety that my mind must have taken this challenge seriously.

I’ve been honing the story since scribbling the basic outline last Thursday; the details keep revealing themselves, coming into my mind in spurts, sending me scrambling for the nearest pen and paper. (Luckily, I always keep writing utensils in my purse and on my bedside table.) The only things that came clearly were the first and last sentences. With them, I woke up itching for a pen, trying to capture the specific words that appeared in my dream.

As I’ve dwelled on the story, I’ve realized I also need to read more short fiction (among other things one can do to be a better writer). I happened upon the perfect venue to realize this goal: The Poetry Foundation’s Printers Ball, an annual celebration of printing and the written word held last Friday at the historic Ludington Building in the South Loop. It was a feast of literary proportions. (I’ve always wanted to write something this pretentious-sounding, but in this case—it’s true.) I picked up a bagful of anthologies and literary mags from the apparently burgeoning local lit scene. I’m savoring the stories, going through the anthologies little by little, getting inspired.

Of course, one short story—especially one of questionable quality and as yet unfinished—does not make me a fiction writer. In fact, as a journalist by training, I’ve always preferred having a factual starting point. But it’s been fun to challenge myself to try something utterly new and experience for myself that the birth pangs of of fiction are never painless.


Please send tequila

 Permanent link

Please send tequila photo 

Hi. My name is Karen Flayhart, I’m 37 years old, and I’m at camp.

If hell exists, camp would be my version of it.

My first Jewish camp experience began this Sunday when I arrived at camp with my husband—who is teaching at the camp the next two weeks—and our two and a half year old daughter. Unlike her mother, she loves camp.

Having never been a good camper—I went to a total wuss camp—I pretty much knew I’d spend the next couple of weeks moanin’ and complainin’. But as I laid in bed last night, trying not to think about all the buggies that might be hiding in the mattress (I miss DDT), I realized that I finally got the awesome impact that Jewish camp has on these kids lives—impact that I had heard about, but had never personally experienced.

(Especially since the last time I was at camp, I was singing songs about having Jesus in my heart. I don’t think those songs will work here.)

Everywhere I look at camp—in addition to seeing incredibly filthy flip-flopped feet (really, wear sneakers kids)—I see future Rabbis, Cantors, Temple Presidents, Jewish Professional Workers, and Community Leaders. I see kids of all ages praying morning, afternoon and night out in the open air. Last night, I watched them support and cheer for each other during the talent contest—something that almost anywhere else would be considered social suicide to participate in.

It made me realize that as a kid I really missed out—too concerned with what other kids thought, too afraid to be myself, to embrace the nerd that I am. I admire these kids for their courage and confidence.

I’ve seen how the camp environment nurtures these young kids, giving them a place where they are accepted for who they are, and where they can love being Jewish. Here at camp, it’s cool to speak Hebrew, to love Judaism and Israel, and want Judaism to forever be part of their lives.

And let’s face it: our Jewish community really, really, really needs these kids. We need their joy and excitement, for them to believe for at least 15 more years that they can and will make the world a better place.

As adults, it’s not only our job to make sure that they have places like camp to nurture their spirits, but to give them the tools and the resources so that they can pursue their dreams.

Providing Jewish experiences such as camp, or trips to Israel for kids, isn’t just about helping to shape Jewish identities, or ensuring there is a generation after us that gives a shit about being Jewish, staying Jewish, and raising Jewish kids.

It’s about realizing that we are now the adults—yes, even at age 37, not 57—who are supposed to help give kids opportunities to pursue their dreams—the real chance to fix what’s broken in this world.

It’s our turn to pony up. After all, we did help fuck things up.

The truth is, despite all the great stuff around me, I’ll never like being at camp myself. One word: “port-o-potties”. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate and love the impact Jewish camp has on our kids and on our community. You don’t have to have been born Jewish or attended Jewish camp to get it, or give to it.

(In case you haven’t gotten my o-so-subtle message, I’m advocating for you to dig into your wallet and give—ideally to JUF which helps support Jewish experiences and programs for Jewish kids and young adults, but it’s really none of my business where your money goes. Please, just give.)

I’ll try to remember all this tonight while I’m forced to eat nasty ass food while fighting off mosquitos enjoying nature.

Mom: please send tequila.


Washington State’s Alex Hoffman-Ellis

 Permanent link

Washington State’s Alex Hoffman-Ellis photo 

From time to time I miss a player. Last year I missed this guy, Alex Hoffman-Ellis. Good size, competitive edge. The Great Rabbino likes this linebacker. He has gone up against some of college football's best and here is what he has to say:

1) How did you get into football?
I guess the abbreviated version of how I got into football is that a lot of my friends from my freshman basketball team at Santa Monica High were playing, and I wanted to play that year, but my parents wouldn't let me. When they finally said it was okay to play my sophomore year, I became academically ineligible, and that lasted through my junior year. When I transferred to Hamilton High, I changed my outlook on how I approached academics and became eligible to play for senior year. Been playing since then.

2) How is Washington State shaping up for next season? What are your expectations for the team?
This coming season, we expect from ourselves nothing less than a bowl game. A bowl game victory really. We've got some solid leadership and some really good developments on the field as well as in the weight room and conditioning-wise. Guys are starting to develop more of a chemistry, as we've been getting together more frequently to sort of build up that camaraderie amongst ourselves. I expect this to carry over on the field in terms of us trusting each and every person on this team to get their individual jobs done so that we can accomplish our goals and get W's as a team.

3) What will your role be?
I expect myself to lead this team if nothing else. I have as much experience as just about anyone on this team, and I feel like I'm a very dependable person for guys to look to in tough situations for guidance. All in all, I'm on that field to be both a vocal and physical presence, so I know what I've got to do, now it's just up to me to do it.

4) What is the highlight of your career?
I would have to say the highlight of my career was getting my first interception ever against SMU in 2009. I took it back 54 yards for a score, and it was also my first touchdown ever so it was a very surreal moment standing in that end zone with the ball in my hands and Martin Stadium going nuts.

5) Who is the best player you played against and what was going through your head when you saw him play?
I'd have to say the best player I played against was my redshirt year in '08 when we played against USC and their linebacking corps of Mauluga, Maiava, Cushing and Matthews. I just remember watching those four play the LB position that game (and that entire season, really) how it was meant to be played, straight downhill with an attitude and a purpose.

6) What is your Jewish life like? Did you grow up with a strong Jewish identity?
I never really felt that much of a connection to Judaism growing up. Having a Bar Mitzvah and playing in the Maccabi Games were the most Jewish things I ever did, but I never have been very spiritual. I attended Sunday school and Hebrew school up until 8th grade, but to me it was more of a place I was being forced to go. Being Jewish was more of something I identified with once I got up to Washington. Everybody up here is so religious and everything is prayer this, Jesus that. The team actually says a prayer in Jesus’ name before and after games, so I feel almost pushed towards my Jewish identity more than as a voluntary thing. Although I am proud of my heritage, I don't have as big of a connection to it as I might like.

7) Did you get a chance to play against Taylor Mays? What was that like?
Yes, I played against him. I don't really remember much of him as an opponent, just that there was a lot of hype around his physical attributes and him falling to the second round in his draft class. Other than that, I don't remember much.

8) What are you goals when you graduate?
When I graduate, I want to keep training and hopefully (knock-on-wood) keep playing ball. Outside of sports, I'm thinking of writing. I write some poetry and short fiction every now and then, though I haven't made a move to get any of my work published. I guess I'm kind of going with the, "I'll just cross that bridge when I get to it" attitude.

9) If you could play for one pro team and/or coach who would it be?
That's a tough question, so I'm just going to go with my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers. Coach McCarthy seems like a very levelheaded, smart coach, Coach Capers has that defense really coming together, and seeing Coach Greene coach up the linebackers just gets me fired up.

Not Packers fans at The Great Rabbino, but big Hoffman-Ellis fans.

And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine
For more please check out www.TheGreatRabbino.com  


Who pays when?

 Permanent link

Cheryl Jacobs photo 2x 

Last night while watching one of my many reality show guilty pleasures, Giuliana and Bill, I came up with the topic for my latest dating post…  And my boyfriend thinks nothing productive comes from me watching so much TV! 

Let me preface this by saying that I love Giluliana and Bill as a couple.  I think they’re adorable together— probably why I’m a sucker for the show— and I respect the relationship that they appear to have with each other.  I’ve even read their book, “I Do, Now What?: Secrets, Stories, and Advice from a Madly-in-Love Couple” and no, I’m not married, but I borrowed it from your blogger-in-chief who now is, so I think that makes it ok.

In this particular episode, Bill and Giuliana travel to London, so Giuliana can cover the royal wedding. While there, Bill insists they immerse themselves in the culture and drags an unwilling Giuliana and four of her female friends to a traditional English lunch of fish and chips.  Bill foots the check for everyone and they’re all impressed with his gentlemanly ways— forgetting that they’re being forced to eat fried foods.  While thanking Bill for paying the bill (pun kind-of intended), Bill launches into a story about when he and Giuliana first started dating. 

He brings up their second date and how they went out for a nice dinner.

At this point, Giuliana interrupts to ask, “Are you going to tell them about how we slept together on the second date?”

Apparently they did “it” or it might have been on the third date that “it” happened, no one seems to be clear on the issue.  It’s a funny moment in reality TV that I felt like re-telling even though it has nothing to do with today’s dating etiquette blog post.  (You all already know how I feel about that kind of behavior.)

Anyway, Bill brags, “I was going to tell them about how you excused yourself to go to the bathroom and secretly paid the check.” 

Now in my opinion, that is one classy move! Her friends seem to agree and impressed respond by saying, “Giuliana did that because she already knew how much she really liked you.”  It’s very sweet.

So I’ve been having this debate with friends for years.  I have girlfriends that will drop a new guy fast if he isn’t quick to pay the bill for at least the first three dates.  Alternately, I know plenty of guys who if they don’t see the girl do the “pretend to reach for her wallet move” won’t bother calling her again.  Clearly, I haven’t set up any of these friends with each other. 

I even know of one relationship that had a quick demise because after more than a dozen dates, the girl still had never offered to pay for anything— even a coffee.

Giuliana, on the other hand, handled the situation beautifully and made a real impact on her now husband.  She declared right away that she wasn’t after his money and that she liked him enough to grab the bill and she did it in a creative— dare I say it— romantic way.  Single girls, pay attention.  You can learn a lot from her moves!  I’d even suggest that it saved their relationship from fizzling out after the quick intimacy.  But I get that it’s not that easy for everyone.  

So Oy! readers tell me: who should pay for the date and when?  Have you ever pulled Giuliana’s move?  How’d it turn out for you?

Finally, I have to give a shout out to my girl Patti Stanger whose show Millionaire Matchmaker premieres Monday, August 15.  Rumor has it: this season Patti isn’t just helping other single folks find their one true love, but is back in the market herself.  Is love in store for the matchmaker?  You know I’ll stay tuned to find out and I’m sure I’ll end up blogging all the details.

RSS Feed
<< August 2011 >>
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      




Recent Posts

AdvertisementSpertus Institute MA in Jewish Professional Studies
AdvertisementJCYS Register