OyChicago blog

Step Nine: Making Amends

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An alcoholic’s reflections on forgiveness during the Days of Repentance

Forgive Me_blog photo

Editor’s note: We chose to run this piece anonymously out of respect for the author’s privacy as they continue to go through the process of self-repair and the rebuilding of relationships. If you think that you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol, visit www.chicagoaa.org or call312-346-1475. A sober alcoholic is on the other end of the line 24 hours a day. The Jewish Center for Addiction also has resources to help and can connect you with the Chicago Jewish Recovery community.

Step Nine: Making Amends photo

Three memories stand out when I think about High Holiday services at my childhood synagogue:

1. Mrs. B’s mesmerizing South African accent during responsive English reading

2. The final shofar blast on Yom Kippur, captivating and heart-stopping as everyone waited to see which congregant could hold the longest tekiah gedolah

3. The choir director’s booming bass as he sang, U’teshuvah, u’tefilah, u’tzedakah ma’avirin et ra ha’gezirah during Unetaneh Tokef

Little did I know that my subconscious was indelibly imprinting those moments into my soul, and the words of UnetanehTokef would decades later become a daily meditation for me as a recovering alcoholic working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah this year, I had the great fortune to mark 33 months of continuous sobriety. My drinking days were riddled with thoughts and actions that caused physical, financial, emotional, and otherwise tangible and intangible harms to my family, friends, colleagues and myself. Some of these actions and their consequences were evident to anyone within a mile radius of me. Like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, I was a tornado roaring through town. Other actions and harms were more insidious – a carbon monoxide leak that no one detects until damage has already been done.

Unetaneh Tokef is a Jewish liturgical poem sung during the High Holidays, and the booming words etched into my mind as a child translate to, “But repentance, prayer, and righteousness/charity avert the severe decree.”

For me, this “severe decree” refers not to being sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur; it may as well be active alcoholism, for when I’m drinking, I have no life. In order for me to stay sober and live a happy and meaningful life, I need to pray, act righteously in service to others, and make amends for my behavior.

Making amends is the Ninth Step in AA. It is a process I have undertaken in the past two months (they suggested, of course, that I complete the first eight steps first). As I spend more time at work than anywhere else, the most egregious of my harms were in the workplace. And therefore, the first amends I made were to colleagues and supervisors, past and present.

But how do you approach a woman toward whom you acted with such hostility, including occasional bouts of profane ranting, that you were required to have mediation?

How do you look your former boss in the eye, the one who once asked you point blank whether you had a drinking problem, and to whom you replied with an adamant "no" only to repeatedly text them during 3 a.m. blackouts in the final months of your drinking?

How do you work up the courage to mention once again the unmentionable in your past? How do you quiet the squirrels in your brain that busily attempt to convince you that you had a right, a reason, a justification to act the way you did? How do you swallow your pride, your fear, and everything in between?

Fortunately, there is a somewhat standard script for making amends:

1. Tell the person you’re aware that you caused them harm and outline what the harms were

2. Express regret that you acted in these ways and that they were hurt

3. Tell them how you’re planning to make things right

4. Give them a chance to tell you about any harms you omitted or other ways you can atone for your behavior

5. Follow through on what you said, showing them through your deeds and not just your words that you mean business

The Big Book tells me that if I am painstaking about making these amends, I will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. I will comprehend the word serenity and I will know peace. All sorts of fears will leave me. I didn’t at first have complete faith that the promises would come true, but I did know that anything would be better than the hopelessness, shame, loneliness and despair of my final drinking days. So I shut my eyes and leapt in, embracing the idea that my past was my greatest asset.

And fortunately, everyone I have approached so far has graciously accepted my apologies. All have expressed that the past is water under the bridge, that I am forgiven, and that they are simply thankful that I took the time to talk with them. I hoped for, but certainly did not expect, such compassion and immediate forgiveness. I am truly grateful for this.

Even more powerful and unexpected than the forgiveness from my colleagues has been the forgiveness I have experienced for myself. I’ve learned that telling the truth and admitting when I am wrong, no matter how painful and scary, and no matter the potential consequences, is a freeing experience. And it was, in fact, my past—both the internal mantra UnetannehTokef and all that I had to atone forthat turned out to be an unexpectedly valuable asset. My past is what has brought about this new wealth of freedom. 

To read more posts in the “Oy! Forgive Me!” blog series, click here.



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Between the High Holidays, many of us are reminded to apologize to our loved ones for our wrong-doings. This fall, I also find myself ruminating over whether we, women, should apologize less in our everyday lives.

After Joan Rivers passed away, I began pondering how a woman so outspoken—and oftentimes offensive—was loved and respected by so many. Rivers’ persistent, unapologetic and humorous approach transcended generations. In the end, we all respected Rivers, no apologies needed.

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While Rivers began her career by paving the way for female late-night talk show hosts during the 1960s, many young people today will remember her as a sassy old Jewish lady with enough shtick to say whatever was on her mind. Rivers was like an amplified and funnier version of the Jewish relatives we know and love. She made us laugh, but more importantly, she also taught women everywhere that it’s OK to speak their minds.

“Sometimes apologies come too easily and too frequently,” said Juliana Breines, a UC-Berkley psychology Ph.D. and author of the PsychologyToday.com article “In Love and War.”

“We apologize for things that are clearly not our fault, not in our control, or otherwise unworthy of an apology,” Breines said. “Examples include apologizing for being hurt by someone else’s offense, apologizing for being over-sensitive, apologizing when someone else bumps into you, and apologizing for apologizing.”

I often find myself guilty of these “unworthy” apologies and witness many other women behave similarly in acts of over-politeness.

Breines went on to cite a study in her article, which found that women may be more prone to over-apologize than men. Similarly, the study found women reported committing more offenses than men. In her research, she also found that men might have a lower offense threshold than women do.

“Women may sometimes be over-attuned, apologizing for perceived offenses that other people do not find offensive or even notice,” Breines said.

I could write a novel about how women are socialized to cooperate and men are socialized to compete—and many books have already been written on the matter. Evidence of these gendered socializations can be found in the minutia of our everyday lives.

A couple of weeks ago at work, I was standing and talking with my coworker and she suddenly sidestepped and apologized as another coworker crossed into her path. She then shook her head disappointedly and explained to me that she had resolved to stop apologizing for the space she’s occupying.

This moment was so simple, but it gave me reason for pause. I apologize constantly: I move aside when I’m already occupying a space someone is entering; I rush to apologize when I nearly bump into someone as we cross paths; I apologize during meetings; I apologize during large-group discussions when I have a point; I apologize when someone stubs their own toe, isn’t feeling well, having a bad day, or even when someone else has treated them badly; and sadly, sometimes I apologize even when the other person has treated me badly. Generally, I apologize too much for everything, and when examined more closely, the word, “sorry,” has lost much of its meaning.

In a June 2014 Forbes.com article titled “Why Are Always Apologizing?” contributor Ruchika Tulshyan examined Pantene’s “Not Sorry” commercial , which plays on the stereotype that women over-apologize and should go forth proudly. Of course, the commercial is about hair, but it’s also a commentary on how women behave.

The commercial opens with various scenarios, in which women apologize for asking questions at meetings, for asking the time, for bumping into someone, etc. The commercial replays itself without apologies to send the message that women should stop apologizing.

“Saying sorry doesn’t necessary equate to showing weakness,” Tulshyan said. “But, the commercial makes social commentary on how women, more than men, feel apologetic about sharing their ideas, or their space, or … everything, actually.

“This commercial specifically highlights moments where women apologize when they’re not in the wrong,” Tulshayn added. “Handing over your child to your partner because you have other things in your hand? Asking a question in a meeting? An apology doesn't seem to fit. And yet, I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve heard a ‘sorry’ in precisely these places.”

I’m starting to think “I’m sorry” should not be a catch-all for expressing regret, empathy, sympathy, remorse, and so on. While women don’t intend for it to be a “tell” of weakness, it certainly isn’t making us stronger in its overuse.

Breines offers alternatives and solutions to blurting out “I’m sorry,” which I found useful. She suggests thanking another person, rather than apologizing for receiving a favor; she advises to save the “I’m sorry’s” for when they count; avoid repetitive bad habits when possible; apologize for your share of the conflict and no more; embrace your own imperfections and don’t apologize for them; and seek support when needed.

With the Jewish New Year upon us, I challenge myself and women everywhere to strive to own the space we occupy, stand behind our opinions and offer them freely, take ownership over our faults and our strengths equally, and apologize in a manner that is proportionate to the problem at hand without compromising our self-worth.

May this New Year give us strength to trust ourselves more and truly make our “sorries” count.

Just remind yourself: WWJD—What would Joan do? 

To read more posts in the “Oy! Forgive Me!” blog series, click here.


Melt-in-Your-Mouth Brisket

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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Brisket photo 1

As we speak, Jewish housewives all over the globe are getting out their finest china, their crispest tablecloths and their oldest recipes, all in preparation for the Jewish High Holidays.

It’s these holidays that bring some of my fondest memories with my family. Golden chicken soup with fluffy matzo balls, tart apples with sweet honey and the star of the dinner: the oh-so magical, dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth brisket. Like many Jewish recipes, brisket gets its roots from the need to use up some of the least expensive pieces of meat and transform them into tender deliciousness. As the brisket cooks low and slow, connective tissue breaks down, leaving a tender piece of smothered meat.

Growing up, my aunt always made the brisket in our family. Every year she tried a different recipe and every year her malnourished-looking niece (me) licked her plate clean. Much to everyone’s surprise, brisket was this picky eater’s favorite dish.

It had become a ritual, I always came into the kitchen and tore off a piece of the sacred meat and my aunt always asked me, “So, Mila, is it good?” And every year I nodded in agreement as I sloppily licked the remains of the sauce off my lips. My aunt’s brisket may not have been perfect, but it was hers and it was always good.

As an adult and a graduate of culinary school, my love for brisket has remained the same. I made hundreds of briskets throughout my career and I was constantly searching for my recipe. I wanted a recipe of my very own, and I tried hard to find it. I made smoked briskets, crock pot briskets, French-style briskets and the very worst – dry briskets. I took an idea or two from each recipe and moved on to create my brisket.

This has become my no-fuss, no-muss brisket recipe that I go to year after year.

If there is anything I have learned from the hundreds of briskets I have made over the years, the technique is one of the most important aspects. Go low and slow: low temperature, slow cooking. This will allow the connective tissue to break down and the fat to melt slowly, leaving you with that ultimate melt-in-your-mouth brisket.

There must also always be an acidic component. I use both tomato acid (ketchup) and wine to allow for a deeper and richer flavor in the meat and the sauce.

The best thing about this brisket is that it is one pan and FREEZER ENCOURAGED. Make it ahead of time, freeze it, and let it warm up in a 350-degree oven the day of service. It will be perfection. Something magical happens when you freeze foods like brisket, or my amazeballs. It just works! And it could not be easier!

You can also do it in the crockpot, but my brisket never fits in there when I cook for the holidays. I have 16 people coming over – lots hungry Russians to feed. I like to use foil pans for this because I hate cleaning roasting pans … as do you I am sure. Plus, because I end up freezing it anyhow, it makes more sense to just do it in one pan.

When you purchase your brisket, do not purchase it cleaned. Purchase it whole with the fat still on it. And place the fat side UP when roasting. NOT DOWN.

This year I made it two weeks in advance. Again, 16 hungry Russians and a Russian-style dinner is not an easy task. I take all the precooking help I can get.

I promise people will rave, plates will be licked clean and eager fingers will try and get a slice in before you do. And you will be the ultimate host, with a few less dishes to clean. Perhaps this time, I will even get a chance to sit down and have a slice.

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Brisket photo 3

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Brisket
From Girlandthekitchen.com


7-8 pounds of brisket 
1 bottle of ketchup 
1 1/2 cups of dry red wine 
1 1/2 cups water 
1.5 tbsp chicken base (I find it milder than beef base) 
1/4 cup dehydrated onion flakes 
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 
2 onions, roughly chopped 
6 large carrots, cut into large chunks 
Salt and pepper to taste 


1. Combine ketchup, water, dehydrated onion, garlic and chicken base and mix to combine.

2. Slather this beautiful mixture onto the brisket sneaking it into each nook and cranny.

3. Let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 275-degrees. Place brisket in the roasting pan FAT SIDE UP. Place remaining ingredients over brisket and tightly seal pan before putting in the oven.

5. Cook for 6-8 hours. Typically, the rule of thumb is an hour a pound. But the true test is when it pulls apart with two forks.

6. Place in refrigerator overnight to cool.

7. Remove fat with a spoon. Slice the meat. Cut against the grain NOT with the grain using the length of the knife.

8. Place in pan FAT SIDE DOWN and pour sauce over sliced meat. Put into 350-degree oven, covered, to warm the meat and sauce. About 45 minutes.


A Daddy at Mommy and Me Yoga

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A Daddy at Mommy and Me Yoga photo

I was already sweating when we walked into the yoga studio. We had been running late, as usual, and I had double-timed it from the car to the building. Just before walking in, I remember hesitating. Did I really want to go to Mommy and Me Yoga?

The truth is that I did want to take him there. He had been going with his mom during the last couple weeks of her maternity leave. She had been raving about how much fun he had in the classes. I also knew this firsthand because she had talked me into going with her to one a week earlier. Now, Mom was back to work and I was staying home part-time to take care of the little guy. There was still a week left of yoga classes on the package and I wanted to make the most of the investment. More than anything, I wanted to make the most of my time spent at home with him.

As I walked into the room, staring back at me were eight new moms and their little babies. I was the only dad in the class and was having trouble making eye contact with anyone. I shuffled to an open corner and laid out the mat, the baby and the blanket as quickly as possible. Everyone was sharing their name, their baby’s name and age. I can’t remember any of the other names because until it was my turn, I spent the whole time rehearsing what I was going to say in my head.

It was my first time attending a “baby and me” event all by myself. I was feeling so vulnerable and judged. Did these women think I was creepy? Had they ever seen a dad at one of these classes? What about the other babies, how were they stacking up to mine? That other boy looks about the same age as mine, why is he moving more? Those women are breast feeding, should I signal to them somehow that my bottle has breast milk too? It’s not my milk, of course … I just know that some people can get judgmental of others who use formula.

Then the music started and the teacher calmly directed us into all our poses. My baby laughed when I did a cat-cow and released a huge breath right into his hair. His giggles and smiles melted my anxiety away; we spent the next 45 minutes breathing and stretching together. At the end of the class, the teacher said that she hoped that I would come back. I hope that I will too.


Our beauty is in our diversity

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Lia Lehrer photo

I’ve always been a bit of a synagogue hopper.

Right now, when asked where I go to synagogue, I say, “I go to five.” I work at Temple Jeremiah, and I love my community there – meeting all of the congregants has been one of the best parts of my job. I enjoy attending synagogue with my family where I grew up, at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette. I attend two synagogues in Lakeview, the neighborhood where I live – Anshe Emet Synagogue and Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation. And I co-lead Windy City Minyan, a monthly Friday night minyan in the city.

I love Jewish communities. I love the diversity of customs, melodies, faces, teachings, architecture and emotions.

So it’s no surprise that on Yom Kippur last year, I found myself in three different synagogues in one day. I spent the morning humming the melodies of the High Holy Days while greeting congregants and meeting new faces at Temple Jeremiah; in the afternoon I sat with my mom, listening to my dad, brother, and sister-in-law sing in the choir at BHCBE; and I spent the evening Neilah service with my friends at Anshe Sholom.

That day, I experienced a cross-section of our larger Jewish community, splitting my time between the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues. During Neilah at Anshe Sholom, I found myself not paying so much attention to the words on the page, but reflecting on Jewish peoplehood. The Jewish community – our kehillah – is made up of so many different kinds of wonderful, dedicated, intelligent, interesting, and friendly people.

Our beauty is in our diversity.

We Jews are a tiny percentage of the world’s population. I pray that we can come together as a larger Jewish community to be enriched by the uniqueness of our brothers and sisters.

On that Saturday afternoon in September 2013, driving back and forth between Northfield, Wilmette and Lakeview, I had the chance to truly feel the richness of our people; to me, it was like seeing the face of God.


You got that backwards

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You got that backwards photo

“So he has dyslexia.”

This is what I had surmised after an hour-long staffing of a bunch of big words and adjectives being thrown around in an effort to explain why our bright child was struggling so much with reading in school.

“Well, yes. But we don’t call it that anymore,” they said.

“OK. But that’s what it is, right?”


Phew! I felt an enormous sense of relief and gratitude. Relief that his struggles had been noticed and pinpointed with a workable diagnosis and gratitude that qualified help was on the way. What I didn’t factor in was the ripple effect for me.

I’ve written before that I struggled in school, without any explanation as to why, until 7th grade when a math teacher told my parents I was stupid and lazy. (I guess you could do that back then without losing your job.) To be honest, the wicked lady was half right. I had become lazy – as a smokescreen. If I didn’t try, mediocrity and failure didn’t feel so humiliating and it explained quite simply why I had done poorly.

So when my own diagnosis of learning disabilities revealed itself, (outdated term again apparently, but I earned it so I’m keeping it), I felt that same sense of relief I felt for my child. I knew something was funky – for me, for him – and when I was right, I felt vindicated.

Although I could always see that my child was bright and struggling, as a learning-disabled kid myself, I felt differently about my own struggles. I believed when my parents told me I was bright, creative and intelligent, that they were blinded by their love for me. (Translation: “My parents don’t want to admit they have a dumb-ass for a kid.”) But when objective, outside forces and people (with Rorschach pictures, stats and everything!) revealed I was in fact a highly intelligent and capable child, my world changed. I could suddenly hear that. My diagnosis was truly that significant and I began to believe the good stuff.

I am hoping my child feels this way. I’m hoping that the early diagnosis for him may have been so primary, that all the self-doubt, shame and fear around school learning that I felt, didn’t have a chance to nick him.

This whole process reopened a tremendous amount of reflection for me. And like I said earlier, relief and gratitude were the emotions at the top of my list. Also, somewhere in there, I have experienced a tremendous amount of compassion for the young girl I used to be, who spent so much time feeling inadequate and incapable, trying so desperately to cover up my imperfect tracks in hopes of just getting by.

I read this post to my son in hopes he would be okay with publishing my thoughts on his journey. His response?

“I really liked it. I thought it was really good.”

And this girl is left feeling like she’s on the honor roll.           


Beeting My Girl Scout Cookie Addiction

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Beeting My Girl Scout Cookie Addiction photo

Being hungry is a funny thing. By funny, of course, I mean crazy. Is there a more apt way to describe the raging forest fire that controls your every move? There really is no better way to qualify it. Hunger is funny. Your last-minute decision to have Arby’s for lunch, the attitude you gave your mother this morning, those salads you’re force-feeding yourself – hunger did all of that. I don’t know about you, but food can make me bark like a dog and cluck like a chicken any old time she wants.

Nearly every day, hunger reminds me that I am not yet a grown up. I regularly have to talk myself out of walking down the candy aisle at the grocery store. Those negotiations sometimes fail and when they do I can be found looking like a third grader who has just returned home from trick-or-treating. The evil 8-year-old in control of my brain often has other plans.

My most recent run-in with my inner child involved an incident with Girl Scout Cookies. In addition to having little self-control, I’m a bleeding heart. I want everyone to win, so when a friend called to tell me her daughter was selling Girl Scout Cookies … I bought a whole case.

A case, like I’m Oprah. As if the way to save the world is by purchasing 24 boxes of Samoas. I am a 38-year-old, grown-ass man. Why do I need 24 boxes of cookies? Why couldn’t I just be a normal person and offer to buy three boxes? Three is a nice sane number. No, I couldn’t do that. I needed 24 boxes. That’s 360 cookies, in case you’re wondering. I bought 360 cookies at one time with no intention of sharing with anyone.

Maybe you’re one of those positive people, and you’re picturing me carefully packing away my loot in a freezer. Twenty-four boxes, that’s a lot – surely he has a plan to ration those cookies for a whole year. Well, thank you for believing in me, but you’d be incorrect. What? I’m supposed to eat a cookie a day for a year except on Yom Kippur? That’s ridiculous. Who has that kind of willpower? Not to mention: cookies can’t go in a freezer; they don’t wear coats. That’s cruel and unusual punishment.

At first I was mostly responsible. I had a cookie or two after dinner. I’d have a cookie as a random snack. Then my crazy inner 8-year-old lost his tiny little mind and declared war on that case of cookies. I couldn’t control myself. Here a box, there a box, everywhere a box. I had a box for breakfast. I ate a couple boxes of Samoas while watching TV. Three boxes for dinner. I was off the rails. I had cookies as a midmorning snack, cookies in the car, cookies in the bathtub. I was a hot cookie-addicted mess.

I’m not sure how hunger works for most people, but mine definitely has a split personality. The 8-year-old is absolutely in control more often than he should be. When he isn’t sitting in the driver’s seat ordering fried chicken and eating bags of Smarties, it’s the princess of kale, Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s in charge. The two sides duke it out on a regular basis, which I think means I have a bi-polar eating disorder.

Gwyneth had been sitting quietly in a corner waiting for the Cookie Monster to do some serious damage. It wasn’t until she noticed that my pants were fitting a little tighter that she sounded the alarm. Gwynnie went into full-blown “captain of the Titanic mode.” She was raising her eyebrow and wagging the stinky finger of judgment in the face of all of my cookie-filled thoughts. Once I finished the case of cookies, and yes, I ate an entire case of Samoas without any help thank you very much, Gwyneth began enforcing very strict rules. She apparently has no respect for goal-oriented eating.

Of course, agreeing to cut back on cookies wasn’t enough. I had to go completely wackadoodle. Our first order of business was to completely rid my life of sugar. The princess of kale is evil. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but they don’t make cookies without sugar. At least not any cookies that you would actually want to eat. This was going to be very hard. I had been subsisting almost exclusively on Samoas and Diet Coke and now I was in Girl Scout Cookie rehab.

Paltrow dragged me kicking and screaming to Whole Foods and forced me to stare at their lush produce. After gawking at piles of dead plants for what felt like an eternity, GP challenged me to prepare a vegetable that I had never cooked before as a way to get my health back on track. I reviewed the options and decided to give beets a try. I choose them because they seemed harmless and when you’ve been deprived of sugar they look like giant balls of chocolate. Challenge accepted.

I whipped out my phone and turned to the queen of the kitchen, Ina Garten. Ina taught me how to roast a Thanksgiving turkey; beets would be a piece of cake, or cookie, depending on where your politics lie. I gathered the beets, fresh thyme, raspberry vinegar and a large orange per the recipe’s instructions and rushed home.

I got right down to work the moment I walked in the door. I peeled and sliced the beets and cut them into quarters. Those little suckers should have come with a trigger warning; they bled all over my kitchen. Beet juice was everywhere. My house looked like the set of slasher film. I tossed the horror scene onto a baking sheet and into the oven for 40 minutes. I spent most of that time scrubbing my hands like a surgeon and performing Lady MacBeth’s sleepwalking scene. “Out, damned spot! Out I say!”

The beets were delicious! I felt like a magician turning those purple mud balls into something worthy of eating. I had eaten beets several times before and loved them but this was different. I guess food that doesn’t come from a can really does taste better. I missed my cookie diet, but I was proud of myself for expanding my menu.

The morning after roasting the beets I got up to go to the bathroom as usual. Apparently taste isn’t the only difference between canned and fresh produce. I had the most gorgeous fuchsia urine the world has ever seen. At first, I was certain that I was on death’s door and immediately blamed the Girl Scouts and their disgusting Samoas. It took me a few minutes to calm my panic attack and realize that the beets had given me this little present. Then later, on my way to work, I get this text message from my husband: “I have purple pee and poop, disturbing yet beautiful …”

So consider yourself warned: Beets, much like hunger, are a funny and sometimes unpredictable thing. The real lesson here is moderation. Life should be 40 percent cookie and 60 percent beets, or is it the other way around? I never can remember.

Roasted Beets


12 beets
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
Juice of 1 large orange


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)

Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the vinegar and orange juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve warm.


Bears Hang On

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Bears Hang On photo

If before the season started someone told me the Bears would be 1-1, I’d say that sounded about right. But I’d assume that meant a win at home against Buffalo and a loss in the new stadium against San Francisco.

But even after losing in Week 1 the way they did, I did not count the Bears out on Sunday night. Going into Sunday, it didn’t look good for us – Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall were still questionable on the injury report, the defense was coming off a pathetic performance against an underwhelming offense, and the 49ers were prepared to run all over us on the opening night of their new digs. The script sounded like it had already been written. And as the game started, it sounded pretty accurate. After a “just don’t ‘F’ it up” three-and-out drive, the Bears’ punt was blocked and the 49ers very quickly made it 7-0. Yup. I rushed home, avoided all social media and normal human interaction for this? The hazards of being a Bears fan.

The Bears were playing not to lose. Partially paranoid about making some of the bad mistakes they made last week, and partially because of their injured receivers, who, even though they played, looked slow and allowed the 49ers defense to focus on stopping the Bears’ short game. But despite the tough start, the defense was actually keeping them in the game.

The turning point came with under two minutes left in the first half, when Jay Cutler took a helmet cannon to the sternum that left me short of breath and clenching my chest. But there was something about Cutler’s face when he got up that struck me. I said out loud at that moment, “this is the turning point.” The next play was one of the most incredible catches I’ve ever seen: a one-handed grab by Brandon Marshall that looked like it could only have been made with “Stick ‘um” like Rashid “Hot Hands” Hanon from Little Giants.

From that hit to the sternum on, Cutler went 15-of-16 for 138 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. But it wasn’t just that. The Bears defense grew some cahones and ultimately kept the Bears in this game. Willie Young was outstanding; Chris Conte made an interception flying through the air; rookie Kyle Fuller had two picks; Jared Allen was pressuring the quarterback. This was the defense we hoped to see. Not great, but forcing turnovers and doing enough to keep them in the game.

Now, we cannot talk about this game without at least acknowledging the fact that the 49ers accumulated about 800 yards in penalties. That didn’t hurt. They got some big breaks. But a win is a win, the Bears are now tied at 1-1 with everyone else in the division, and it’s all about what you learn. I do think they learned some things this week. But I still have concerns. The special teams are atrocious on both ends; injuries are starting to get out of hand on both sides of the ball – most recently with the report that Charles Tillman will be out for the rest of the season. And the Bears still have a really difficult schedule ahead of them where the margin for error will be non-existent.

The Bears have an extra day off this week to recover, and then are back on the road and in primetime again on Monday night. I still don’t know what to expect from this team week to week. They have yet to establish an identity. But for at least the time being, they have given us all permission to take our collective heads out of our ovens.  


''Let It Go''

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Let It Go photo

It is not a secret that holding onto something — an idea, an object, or a person — isn’t healthy, but we all seem to do it. People often tell me that they have unexplainable pain, and after we talk they start to breathe and the pain magically disappears. As so perfectly quoted from the movie Frozen, we all just need to “Let it Go.”

We are about to approach Shabbat Tshuvah, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we ask for forgiveness. However, we also need to forgive. In the movie Frozen, Elsa, the eldest sister, can never forgive herself for hurting Anna, the younger sister. If Elsa would have forgiven herself she wouldn’t have turned everything into snow and ice.

There are many ways to work through emotional pain and stress. We can exercise, sing, dance, paint, or even get acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment used to help all kinds of problems, including stress. It is based on channel theory, where each channel relates to a different organ, and each organ correlates to a different emotion. Acupuncturists ask their patients a series of questions to find out which organ seems to be the source of a problem.* Acupuncturists will then feel their patient’s radial pulses (the pulse on the wrist closest to the thumb) and look at their tongues to help clarify their diagnoses, and then they will treat their patients. Tongue and pulse diagnoses are acupuncturists’ x-ray machines. They are the primary indicators of how their patients’ bodies are working.

How does acupuncture treat stress? Everyone’s stress is different, but acupuncture can help build you up if you are weak, calm you down if you are anxious, and even relax your muscles, which will help you let it go.  

To further explain how an acupuncturist heals, I am going to compare your body to the movie Frozen. Oh, yes.

Imagine your body is Arendelle, the kingdom in Frozen. At the beginning, the town is beautiful, people are happy, and the king and queen are alive. As time goes on, the town starts to fall apart. The king and queen die, the princesses don’t know how to act, and eventually the town becomes frozen. Our bodies go through the same thing. We start out with a clean slate and as time goes by we become more rigid and life becomes harder. Eventually, Elsa decides she is going to be okay and she belts out “Let it Go,” but she isn’t better and the town is definitely not better. Throughout the movie, Anna looks for Elsa to try to save her, and just when we think Arendelle is ruined forever, the town is back and it’s blooming. The situation improved because the root of the problem was fixed. Elsa accepted her powers, and Anna realized that she didn’t need a man to be happy. That is what acupuncture does. It works on the root of an issue and fixes it.

An acupuncturist strategically places needles in acupuncture points to help nourish and strengthen the patient’s body. Each point belongs to a different channel, and each point has different benefits. Usually, this will allow an emotional release and help a person heal. People are often stuck, and something within them needs to be moved. Acupuncture points help stimulate the needed movement within the body and people start to feel better. The only way to truly understand acupuncture is to consider it as a means to allow the different parts of the body to work well as a unit.

In order for us to really feel good and be able to belt out “Let it Go” on top of a beautiful ice castle, we need to relax and find what makes us healthy. It could be, as in Frozen, accepting the fact that you have gifts, or that the man you once loved is not all he’s cracked up to be. Whatever it is, it’s about acceptance so that your whole body can be healthy.

This Shabbat Tshuvah just, “Let it go! Don’t hold it back anymore!”

*Note: When an acupuncturist talks about an organ they are referring to the qi, or energy of the organ, rather than the organ itself. Please do not worry that you have a problem with your spleen if your acupuncturist says you have spleen qi deficiency.


Your Money Mindset

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Caryn Fields photo

With the Jewish New Year creeping upon us, I thought I would provide some thoughts on how to change your money mindset for 5775.

Take a minute and think: have you ever asked yourself if you had time to brush your teeth before bed or run to the bathroom before leaving for work? Most likely not. You don’t evaluate whether you have enough time to brush, you don’t add brushing your teeth into your daily schedule. You just do it. If I asked you, “How do you manage to find time to brush your teeth every night?” you would look at me like I was crazy. You don’t have an alarm that goes off to remind you (or maybe you do … ) – you just do it.  Why should your money be any different?

My New Year’s resolution for you is to answer, “I just do it,” when someone asks you about how you handle your money.  How can you get there?  Pretty simply – change your mindset.

Start by telling yourself five simple things:

1. Financial success is possible

Many individuals start off their financial journey thinking pessimistically. Don’t! Start yourself out with a positive attitude. Don’t whine, complain or talk badly about your finances. If you want to build a positive attitude, start thinking with one!

2. Good things come to those who act

It is not thinking, but acting that creates change. No matter where you are in your financial journey, keep taking the next step, day after day, year after year. Automate your savings. Pay extra on your mortgage. Seek opportunities to increase your income. Stay active and financial success will become foreseeable.

3. There is enough to go around

The money supply is growing. Your money is yours to use in the way YOU want. Donate to a charity, save more for a vacation … use your money your way. Don’t feel bad about splurging on that shirt you always wanted, the restaurant you have been dying to try or the play you have been dreaming of seeing. Just because you have more does not mean someone else has less.

4.  Act like a millionaire

In Thomas J. Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door, he describes the average American millionaire – his total income is $131,000 per year, he never received an inheritance and he didn’t go to private school. He drives a 5-year-old Toyota and wears inexpensive clothes. He’s a homeowner who has lived in the same home for over 20 years. He is a meticulous budgeter who invested nearly 20 percent of his household income over the course of his life. Act like this millionaire.

5.  Be curious about money

Educate yourself.  Make money matter to you. Stay curious and never stop learning and growing.

L’shanah tovah – may 5775 be a sweet and prosperous one for you and your family.  


10,000 Days of Me

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18 Chicago Facts (Sort of) That You (Probably) Don’t Know photo

On September 27, 2014, I turn 10,000 days old. That’s a lot of days of Adam. Lucky you, you didn’t have to spend all of them with me.

My life has been full of ups and downs, left and rights, backwards and forwards, especially while I’m in a car trying to navigate out of a parking garage. To say the least, it’s been a wild ride and my name isn’t even Mr. Toad. (Whoever gets that reference is amazing.)

My almost 10,000 days equates to 27 years, 4 months and 15 days, for those counting at home. And for those counting at home, you should probably get a calculator.

I have had quite the multitude of memorable days, but what follows doesn’t even begin to hit the tip of the iceberg. Because it’s a list – it has nothing to do with ice. Berg, perhaps, since that sounds slightly Jewish. Anyway,  now I submit to you an abbreviated account of the important days that have occurred for me over the last 10,000 of them. Enjoy!

Day -1,297: My parents were married, thus embarking on the greatest conquest of all time to have the most spectacularly breathtaking, intelligent and incredible child the world has ever seen! Instead they had me.

Day 0: I was evicted from my rent-free studio apartment. However, given I was born at 11:57 p.m., it was only three minutes later that it was …

Day 1: The only day I could use the excuse that I was born yesterday.

Day Time: Usually about 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Day 8: I don’t want to talk about it.

Day 9: My first mitzvah. Organized and executed a huge philanthropy for incoming Jewish baby boys on the truths, myths and horrors of an event I don’t want to talk about.

Day Man: Fighter of the Night Man.

Day 1,181: My brother was born, and I was no longer the favorite child.

Day 2,494: My sister was born, and I was back to being the favorite child.

Day 3,479: I tried out for Home Alone 3, but instead was put on Oprah for a brief moment doing an impression of Jim Carrey from The Mask. This is absolutely true and quite possibly the peak of my acting career.

Day ?: A night to remember.

Day 4,082: The day I ran away from camp, was caught by the police and became a hero to my fellow inmates at daytime sports camp for fighting the man. Unfortunately, the man in this case was an actual human and looking back on that the thought that I made adults not know where a 10-year-old child was must have been terrifying. I was a jerk kid, man.

Day 4,757: The day I became a man. Also the day of my Bar Mitzvah. It was one of my FAVORITE days. Heh heh. (My theme was “favorites.”) At this age my theme would be not to have a theme and appreciate the Bar Mitzvah.

Day, Doris: Popular actress from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Day 6,670: My first alcoholic drink.

Day 7,671: My first legal alcoholic drink.

Daisy: A pretty flower.

Day 8,989: The day I discovered how to open a banana properly. From the “bottom.” My mind was never so blown. And I once stuck a hair dryer straight in my ear.

Day 9,002: The ten best consecutive days of my life began. That’s right, it’s the day I left for Birthright Israel, because it was my birth right to go on birth right ever since I was birthed, right?

Daybreak: D……….a…y.

Day 9,051: My first Oy! Blog was published. Of course I talked about my trip to Israel….and money.

Day 9,182: The day I officially moved out. Perhaps the most significant day of my life from the standpoint of never having to wear pants at home. Ever again.

Dog Day Afternoon: A great crime drama film from 1975 starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet.

Day 9,249: The day of Adam’s Appendectomy Adventure, captured beautifully and hilariously in this incredible piece of bloggism! Found exclusively on Oy!Chicago!

Which brings us to …

Day 9,983: The day you are reading this. Well, the day this was posted at least. I don’t know. You could be reading this in 2032 or something. By the way Adam, stop reading your old posts. Stop living in the past!

But now I come to the question about what is going to happen in just over two weeks, when I hit that landmark of life that most people fail to realize even passes. So what are my plans? Well, I’ll tell you.

Day 10,000: A celebration the likes of which have never been …eh, who am I kidding? I’ll probably have a beer. 


College Cult-ure

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College Cult-ure photo

So many people look back on their college experience and say, “those were the best four years of my life.” Why? It probably has something to do with whatever caused me to pay $25 for a water bottle with my school’s name on it just so people would know what school I attend when I go to the gym; the same thing that gives me a little flutter of excitement when I happen across someone else wearing a shirt or hat with my school’s name on the street. This “thing,” is the sense of belonging and devotion to a place that shapes the rest of our lives in just four short years. It is our affiliation, not to what our parents believe is a school they are sending us to, but a cult.

A “cult” isn’t just a term for fanatics of a certain belief system, it is by definition “a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much; a great devotion.” Some characteristics include: unquestioning commitment, elitism, polarized us-versus-them mentality, encouragement or requirement of membership to live and/or socialize with other group members and recruit new members.

Many of us who attended or currently attend schools with enormous alumni networks and national followings, such as the University of Michigan (hypothetically … of course) have likely experienced one or more of the above. Unquestioning commitment to the “winningest” football team in the NCAA (even when they don’t win) – check; elitist theory that we are the “leaders and the best,” – check; living and socializing with other group members, be it freshman dorms or at the local Michigan bar – check; polarized us-versus-them (the infamous Michigan-OSU rivalry – check; and efforts to recruit new members – well, the Michigan Wolverine baby onesies speak for themselves.

Every college is its own little (or big in some cases) community, one with its own language and customs that are completely perplexing, and sometimes unknown, to the outside world. All joking aside, however, our affiliation to “college cults” isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Our unconditional love for our schools teaches us loyalty, while living alongside our fellow classmates and peers produces lifelong bonds (or learning to tolerate and be respectful of others). And as for elitism – a little confidence never hurt anybody (especially during those post-undergrad job interviews). Our affiliation to a place and to an institution that lasts far beyond four years not only shapes us, but also gives us another place to call home, a friendly face at the office or in a new city, friends and colleagues that will always support us.


Into the light

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Into the light photo

Only once do I recall someone saying something anti-Semitic in my presence.

At a high school summer program away from home, a new acquaintance was speaking casually about shopping when she mentioned someone "Jew-ing" down the price. Her words stunned and stung me. I knew the word "Jew" has often been used as a verb in reference to being cheap, but the derogatory term had never been used around me. 

Except for that moment, my only experience with anti-Semitism was learned from history and stories told to me by my elders.

For older generations of Jews, these sorts of encounters were par for the course. But for younger American Jews, many of us have experienced little to no anti-Semitism, especially in metropolises with large Jewish populations. 

I thought we were moving past a lot of other "-isms" too. We have a black president, a woman has all but announced her candidacy to take his place, and we've witnessed one of the fastest shifts ever in the public embrace for same-sex couples.

On the whole, we seem to be morphing into a more open, tolerant society. 

Until now.

As the war in Gaza exploded this summer, we've seen a surge in anti-Semitism and it's one of the first times many people of my generation and younger have faced this demon head on.

Anti-Zionism today is anti-Semitism dressed up in sheep's clothing—he two are one and the same in my book. People who want the Jewish state wiped off the map don't, as they claim, merely hate Israeli policy—they hate us and they hate that there is a place in the world where every Jew is able to become a citizen.

At the same time as the war in Gaza, we've seen a resurgence of anti-Semitism on the streets of Paris, Brussels, Berlin, London, and around the world—images that my contemporaries and I had seen before only in black and white film footage and in history books on Nazi Germany.

And anti-Semitism has reemerged in America too. While the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has poisoned our college campuses from sea to shining sea for more than a decade, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment is stretching beyond campus walls these days.

For instance, in a Chicago cab recently, when my friend's driver got lost, and she asked him not to charge her for the extra minutes, he called her a "Jew" for being cheap.

Now, ugly episodes like that are becoming more commonplace. And, it's hipper than ever to speak out against Israel. Anti-Israel sentiment in Hollywood and on social media has reached a fever pitch.

There's no doubt, here and abroad, the year 5774 is ending in an anxious time to be Jewish. All the more, we should be grateful to ring in a fresh start in 5775, praying for peace and blessings as we prep for a new Jewish year.

In dark times, let's be mindful that despite thousands of years combatting hatred, persecution, and tsuris, most of us wouldn't trade our Jewish identity for anything. 

After all, we're a people who know it's how we treat others that's core. We're a people who belong to a country that is a gift, whose defense forces are first responders on the scene worldwide, bringing their expertise when disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis hit. And we're a people who value family, community, education, deed, good noodle kugel, and laughter.

We've been through worse and we know that, ultimately, we will make our way out of the dark and into the light.

Wishing you and your family a new year filled with joy, good health, and peace.


A Guide to Kosher Ballpark Food

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A Guide to Kosher Ballpark Food photo

In 2009, I compiled a list of kosher stands at sports stadiums. Recently, I went to Atlanta to see Turner Field and the Braves and I was disappointed that they lacked a kosher hot dog. So below is an updated list of kosher stands (some unconfirmed) at various baseball stadiums, their supervision, and products. I did not include ice cream stands, prepackaged goods, drinks, etc. I am hoping to work on other sports in the future, but in the meantime, happy eating (or not eating)!

Arizona Diamondbacks Chase Field – None

Atlanta Braves Turner Field – None

Baltimore Orioles Camden Yards – All-beef hot dogs, all-beef sweet Italian sausages, all beef pastrami dogs, potato knishes, pretzels, tuna wrap, turkey wrap, chicken caesar wrap, chipotle chicken wrap, crispy chicken sandwich, sliced steak sandwiches, pastrami sandwiches (Star K)

Boston Red Sox Fenway Park – Pizza, baked ziti parmigiana and mozzarella sticks in addition to of course the hot dogs, knishes, onion rings, and vegetable cutlets (Hot Nosh Kosher Vending Machine)

Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field – Hebrew National hot dogs (Unconfirmed)

Chicago White Sox U.S. Cellular Field – None (used to serve Best Kosher hot dogs)

Cincinnati Reds Great American Ball Park – None

Cleveland Indians Progressive Field – Kosher hot dogs (Not sure if they are still there)

Colorado Rockies CoorsField – Hebrew National hot dogs (Unsupervised)

Detroit Tigers Comerica Park – Hebrew National hot dogs (Unsupervised)

Houston Astros Minute Maid Park – Hot Dogs (HKA) (Unconfirmed)

Kansas City Royals Kauffman Stadium – None

Los Angeles Angels Angel Stadium – None

Los Angeles Dodgers Dodger Stadium – Hebrew National hot dogs (Supervision?)

Miami Marlins Marlins Park – Kosher Korner features hot pastrami sandwich, kosher dog, hamburger, potato knish, french fries (ORB)

Milwaukee Brewers Miller Park – None

Minnesota Twins Target Field – Hot dog stand (MSPKosher)

New York Mets Citi Field – Kosher Grill hot dogs, knishes, pretzels (Star K)

New York Yankees Yankee Stadium – Hebrew National hot dogs (Supervision?), kosher stands with hot dogs and knishes (OK)

Oakland Athletics Coliseum – None

Philadelphia Phillies Citizens Bank Park – None

Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park – Kosher hot dogs (Listed, unconfirmed)

St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium – Kohn’s Kosher Korner Hot Dogs, pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, knishes, pretzels (Va’ad Hoeir of St. Louis)

San Diego Padres Petco Field – Hebrew National hot dogs (Unsupervised)

San Francisco Giants AT&T Park – Kosher hot dogs (Listed, unconfirmed)

Seattle Mariners Safeco Field – Kosher meals upon request from catering

Tampa Bay Rays Tropicana Field – None (there is a Jewish Wall of Fame to check out, but no kosher food)

Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington – Hebrew National hot dogs (Unconfirmed)

Toronto Blue Jays Rogers Centre – Curly fries, fried onions, all-beef hot dogs, Coney Island hot dogs, sausage (Olde Spadina COR)

Washington Nationals Nationals Park – Kosher Grill kosher hot dogs, knishes, falafel and shawarma (Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington)


Talk Yourself into Shape

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Talk Yourself into Shape photo

Who tells you not to eat the last bite? Who forces you to split a dessert instead of eating your own? And who makes you work out when all you want to do is watch television and veg?

According to my wife, that person is “the most annoying husband, because sometimes you want to eat your own piece of cheese cake.”

Ok, not quite the answer I was looking for when I told her what this blog post would be about, but she has a point. Sometimes that voice is an outside voice, but most often it has to come from within.

When I want to skip the gym, hit a food truck with a coworker, and follow it up with a delicious (warmed up) Specialty’s Cookie, I use self-speak. That might sound crazy, like I’ve read too many self-help books, or watched too much Oprah, but that inter dialog, or mantra, helps.

You do not always have the benefit of a trainer or husband annoying/motivating you to be healthy. In those situations, I channel my inner Tony Robbins, and tell myself:

1. I can’t be the fat trainer
2. I already had Peanut M&Ms
3. Exercising wakes me up
4. Desserts are made for sharing

I remember in high school my friend would pound his chest before each set. It was a little extreme, but it was a catalyst to work hard. I recommend creating your own motivators, like thinking about being healthy for your family, and visualizing them when you want to skip your workout. Have a few mantras in your back pocket. No one has to know you are telling yourself:

- Kings don’t eat candy bars
- Warriors workout
- Fight fat

Your expression does not have to be an alliteration. It can even be a song. Many athletes listen to music to pump themselves up for a workout or game. Numerous studies have shown that listening to fast-paced music while exercising increases the intensity of the workout. It’s impossible to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” without getting energized. I don’t care if you are using vinyl, 8-track, or cassette tapes – find some motivating music. When I need some music motivation I turn to the following artists:

- Eminem
- Notorious BIG
- Jay Z
- Beastie Boys

You can even Google workout music. There are tons of free soundtracks to get your muscles moving. Your homework is to figure out what motivates you, and use it to stay focused and achieve your goals.

And remember, if you really want an entire piece of cheese cake, call a friend, or me.


The Continuing Adventures …

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… of Jews and the Graphic Novel

The Continuing Adventures_photo

Excerpt from The Bleeding Tree, by Shane Kirshenblatt. Copyright 2014 Alternate History Comics Inc.

I last visited the subject of Jewish graphic novels in 2009. Well, guess what? They went and wrote more. Also, I found even more that I somehow missed the first time (in my defense, there are a lot…).

Someone also went and made a real study of the Jewish graphic novel and started anthologizing it. And they did an exemplary job. The Jewish Comix Anthology is not just a labor of love, but of lust. The colors are rich and vibrant, the paper is thick and glossy, and the book as a whole is weighty and substantive. I don’t usually gush, but then I don’t usually see anything this gush-worthy.

The theme of Volume 1 is “myth,” so its stories are collected from 40 years of graphic-novelizing on Jewish folklore, fairytales, legends, and midrash. The work of giants of the genre such as Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, and Harvey Pekar are included; even a Torah tale by friend-of-the-Jews Robert Crumb is among the 40 artists collected herein. Readers will find several takes on the Golem saga, Chasidic and Chelm tales – stories from the Levant to the Lower East Side. The care lavished on it shows in the curation of its content, too. The Jewish Comix Anthology is takeh a mechaya.

Steven M. Bergson, its editor, ran a chapter of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and has a master’s in library and information science. He clearly knows and loves graphic novels, and wanted to make something you’d want in your library. The Jewish Comix Anthology succeeds in giving graphic novels the kavod, the gravitas, they have earned.

Other recent contributions to the Jewish graphic novel bookshelf deal with, naturally, the Holocaust. Reinhard Kleist’s The Boxer, as its subtitle explains, is “The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft.” It is the tale of a scrappy kid who learns both the ropes of survival in Hitler’s Europe and the ropes of the boxing ring. The book concludes with capsule stories of other Jews forced to fight each other in the death camps by bored, sadistic Nazis.

We Won’t See Auschwitz is a post-Holocaust story about two French-Jewish brothers – one, the author, Jérémie Dres. Rather than see where their ancestors died, they decide to see how they lived. The brothers visit Poland, but instead of Auschwitz, they see their grandfather’s native village of Zelechow, their grandmother’s hometown of Warsaw, and a major Jewish festival in Krakow.

Berlin, however, is a pre-Holocaust trilogy, told as the sun sets on the Weimar Republic. In the first volume, City of Stone, Jason Lutes introduces us to the journalist and artist whose stories we follow. The second volume, City of Smoke, details tensions brought by the May Day demonstration of 1929 and the relief proffered by American jazz. Book Three is not out yet.

Another graphic novel is set even earlier, at the turn of the twentieth century. Leela Corman’s Unterzakhn, Yiddish for “underthings,” is about twin girls in the Lower East Side, circa 1910. They learn about the options that exist for women of their time, most of which are not that attractive. We follow them up to adulthood, when they discover the consequences of their earlier choices, often made in the name of self-preservation. The drawing style is reminiscent of Persepolis.

Jewish history is a rich trove of material for Jewish graphic novelists. Still, let’s hope some turn their attention to the events of today… or even try to imagine Jewish life in the future.

Further Reading:

I erroneously stated in my earlier piece that Jews and the Graphic Novel by David Gantz was the earliest long-form analysis of this genre. An astute reader corrected me; The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, edited by Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman, was published first.

However, I can reasonably assert that the most recent, as of this writing, is The Quest for Jewish Belief and Identity in the Graphic Novel, which came out in June. 

www.ahcomicsshop.com is running a 20% off sale on the book through Sepetember: promo code JCASDCC14

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