A Jew You Should Know
8 Questions for Ashley O’Brien photo _mth

Toward the end of last year, Ashley O'Brien put her love of Hebrew, rap lyrics, puns and graphic design to good use by starting Hebrewish Designs, an Etsy shop that quickly went viral on Twitter, Instagram and beyond.

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Jeremy Klaben is working to make Chicago brighter (and we could all use more brightness in these dreary winter months). His new restaurant, Brightwok Kitchen, located at 21 E. Adams St., is one of the more unique fast-casual bright spots in the Loop.

8 Questions for Becky Marks photo_th

The lunch salad is a staple of so many people’s work weeks, and now, downtown Chicago commuters have a lunch salad they truly “Be Leaf” in. Be Leaf, which opened this summer at 29 N. Wacker Drive, brings Loop leaf-eaters a fresh, locally sourced and environmentally conscious option among the city’s myriad salad bar-style lunch stops. And the woman behind it all is Becky Marks, a definite Jew You Should Know.

8 Questions for Charlie Schwartz photo_th

God recently spoke to Rabbi Charlie Schwartz. Which is weird, because he doesn’t believe in a God that has a voice. But the experience was so unexpected, and so meaningful, that he shared an ELI Talk about it and the lessons he walked away with this past June in Chicago.

8 Questions for Simon Feil photo_th

You may not know Simon Feil’s name, but you’ve likely seen his face. Perhaps he was cooking in the movie Julie & Julia, or being startled by the ‘80s in a Delta flight safety video, or giving a young Bruce Wayne a good talking to on Gotham. Look out for him next time you turn on Netflix.

8 Questions for Yuri Lane photo_th

I first saw Yuri Lane doing a beatbox workshop at JCC Apachi summer camp. I was immediately taken with his combination of beatbox and harmonica. I had never seen anything like it.

8 Questions for David Schwartzbaum photo_thx

I met David Schwartzbaum at JCC Apachi Day Camp, and have worked with him there in a number of capacities over the last five years, but our connection also extends beyond entertaining Jewish children and into the realm of performance theater. David started performing theater and comedy in Miami before moving to Philadelphia and becoming the founder and co-artistic director of The Off-Color Theatre Company.

8 Questions for Sonat Birnecker Hart photo_th

In 2008, Sonat Birnecker Hart, an esteemed teacher, lecturer and writer on Jewish Studies and German Jewish Cultural History, gave up her tenure and started making whiskey. While traveling and teaching in Europe and the U.S. was, for Hart, a “joyful way to keep the world of my grandparents and great grandparents alive,” when it came time to start her own family, she decided she wanted a lifestyle where she could work with her children close at hand. So, she and her husband, Robert Birnecker, moved back to Hart’s hometown of Chicago and opened KOVAL, Chicago’s first distillery since the 1800s.

8 Questions for Drs. Romy Block and Arielle Levitan photo_th

Take your vitamins, Oy!sters, because this time, it’s personal. Drs. Romy Block and Arielle Levitan are two doctors (and friends) practicing on the North Shore and changing the way consumers think about vitamins and supplements. That’s right, the days of Flinstones chewable vitamins are long gone. Time to wise up.

8 questions for Sara Grossman photo_th

Sara Grossman is taking a stand – against sitting. On nasty toilet seats that is. Earlier this year, the Lincoln Park native launched a new product that looks to literally change the way women pee. Called the Stand Up, this “biodegradable, disposable peeing accessory” allows for a guilt-free, hygienic bathroom experience for women tired of holding it in, squatting or resorting to any other gross or undignified way of going number one.

8 Questions for Meg Grunewald photo_th

For Meg Grunewald, comedy has many faces. And wigs. And voices. The Chicago-raised comedian and veteran of Chicago’s improv and sketch comedy scene says she has always loved impressions and creating characters, a specialty she has chosen to highlight for the entire month of August in a “character a day” project.

8 Questions for Alan Goodis photo_th

Alan Goodis is a Jewish musician, not just a musician who is Jewish. And writing and performing Jewish music isn’t the half of it.

8 Questions for Kim Bloomberg photo_th

For Chicago teacher and mother of two Kim (Prywes) Bloomberg, making jewelry isn’t merely a passion or hobby, but a part of continuing her family’s legacy. To Kim’s grandmother, who sparked her interest in trinkets and treasures, jewelry was more valuable than money. In her mind, it could not so easily be taken away. As a Holocaust survivor, she had good reason to feel this way.

8 Questions for Emma Morris photo_th

You can talk about sex – and images of women in the media and throughout history – with Emma Morris. Although she works as a library assistant at the University of Chicago by day, Morris is the managing editor of Jewrotica.org, an online community, resource, and forum for Jewish sexual expression through articles, essays, fiction, poetry and more.

8 Questions for Sarah Weitz photo_th

Chicago's food truck scene exploded this summer and adding fuel to that fire was one Fat Shallot. Hitting the streets of The Big Onion (one of Chicago's nicknames, for those who aren't up on their Windy City trivia) this past May, The Fat Shallot (a play on said nickname) slings gourmet sandwiches that combine the joys of comfort food with inspired ingredients and flavors.

8 Questions for Erica Weisz photo_th

Last we heard from Erica Weisz, it was 2011 and she and her husband, Sam, were blogging for Oy!Chicago about their trip to Uganda to bring dental aid and education to the Abayudaya Jewish community. Just two years later, Weisz is now the author of her first children's book: One Thousand and One Words.

8 Questions for David Safran photo_th

Attempting to describe David Safran's musical style and influences requires an extensive vocabulary and imagination. His distinct voice has been called "velvety," his catchy tunes deemed "provocative" and his sharp and often ironic lyrics described as "smoke-tinged."

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If you frequent Chicago’s bar scene, chances are you’ve walked, ran or stumbled to Dimo's Pizza at some point. Or perhaps their famous mac n’ cheese pizza has long been a staple of your weekly late-night diet. But did you know that Dimo is Jewish?

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If you’re a big fan of the last course (of the meal, that is), then you need to know Amanda Rockman. A former contestant on Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 2, Rockman has become one of Chicago’s most-watched pastry chefs. As such, Rockman made waves a few months ago when she left her long-held post as executive pastry chef of The Bristol and Balena to take a job with Lettuce Entertain You.

8 Questions for Asher Perlman photo_th

Comedy fans rejoice! TBS' Just for Laughs begins in Chicago this week. The June 11-16 festival features some big names including Russell Brand, Seth Meyers, Bob Newhart and David Cross among many others, but there are also some Jewish comedians hitting local stages for this year's festival.

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Reality TV singing competitions are raining from the skies these days, so you might've missed Chicago's Todd Kessler on Season 3 of NBC's The Voice, which aired last fall. Fair enough; even if you're an addict of the show, you might not remember his lone performance with Team Cee Lo, facing off against eventual third-place finisher (and now friend) Nicholas David.

8 Questions for Josh Schonfeld photo_th

Josh Schonfeld is a partner and general manager of Grass Fed, a new, chic, modern steak restaurant in Bucktown. The star of the menu is their grass-fed sirloin steak, which comes with fries for just $25, but they also offer yummy sides and desserts.

8 questions for Mark Lawrence and Jeremy Smith photo_th

We all know parking in Chicago can be a drag…especially once the snow starts falling. Between street cleanings, parking permits and meter limits, finding a home for our cars is no easy feat. But have no fear, your parking heroes are here!

8 Questions for David Goldman photo_th

For the past few years I’ve been working out at a small gym down the street from my condo. It’s intimate in size, everyone is nice, each machine has its own personal TV and they offer free apples at the door. It turns out my gym, Wicker Park Fitness, is co-owned by Chicagoan Dave Goldman and his partner Mason Goldberg, who’ve been best friends since 7th grade. Who said Jews can’t be athletic!

8 Questions for Brad Kleinman photo_th

While Brad Kleinman was living in Cleveland getting his master’s degree, he’d spend every Monday night having dinner with his grandma and her friends. Dubbed, “dinner with the old people,” Brad really enjoyed spending quality time with his grandma and hearing her and her friend’s unique voices and stories.

8 Questions for Matt Pais photo_th

Matt Pais has a cool job. Make that three of them. You might not know his name, but you’ve probably read his articles in the RedEye on your commute to work. A movie critic for the newspaper, he frequently writes witty, spot on movie reviews, interviews celebs and covers red carpet events throughout the city.

8 Questions for Kevin Friduss photo_th

How’d you find your last apartment? Craigslist? Driving up and down streets looking for rental signs? Or maybe you want to one of the many rental companies popping up around the city that specialize in finding people apartments? If so, you might have worked with Kevin Friduss. Kevin, a DU graduate, is a real estate consultant for HomeScout realty.

8 Questions for David Grossman photo_th

For Chicago native David Grossman, it’s all about fresh, convenient and healthy food, which is exactly what his restaurant Freshii embodies. Grossman is the president of Freshii and has opened numerous locations in the Chicago area as well as in 12 other cities including Los Angeles, Toronto and Dubai.

8 Questions for Cleetus Friedman photo_th

Cleetus Friedman has had two professional lives. First he spent years as an actor performing improv and in solo shows across the country. Nowadays, the stage for Cleetus is his monthly Supper Clubs. City Provisions is a delicatessen meets catering company with monthly supper clubs where Cleetus and his staff work hard to provide local, sustainable, organic fare to their clientele.

8 Questions for Seth Herkowitz photo_th

By my estimation, Seth Herkowitz is living every Jewish man’s dream—as operating partner of Steve’s Deli in River North, he is constantly surrounded by corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.

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Like many women, Chicagoan Erin Rutman was disappointed by the lack of cute maternity clothing available during her recent pregnancy, but not for her…for her husband, Jonathan. So she decided to do something about it and launched BellyMan, a clothing line for the hubbies who are expecting, but don’t have growing bumps to announce the news.

8 questions for Laura Klibanow photo_th

Laura Klibanow and her mom have been baking her cousin Libby's mandel bread recipe for as long as she can remember. For years, everyone who tasted it told them—"you have to sell this!" Finally, they decided it was time to share this delicious cookie with the world and named the company Libby & Laura, as a tribute to Libby, who passed away. Their mandel bread is unique—it is baked only once, not twice—making it softer than most mandel bread and biscotti.

8 Questions for Brooke Lawrence photo_th

Brooke Lawrence is a 30-year-old self-proclaimed anal-retentive perfectionist with a penchant for revamping and decluttering basements, garages, closets, pantries, offices and junk drawers. She started reorganizing and decluttering not only her room, but also her parents’ room at a young age, and that need for clean only intensified as she got older. She finally turned that cleaning bug into a full-blown business, and started The Duchess of Declutter™ at the end of November in 2007.

8 Questions for Amy Ravit Korin photo_th

Amy Ravit Korin has always been a step ahead in the social media world. After working in a mix of media buying and advertising sales for R.H. Donnelley (the leading Yellow Page publisher), Univision online, Alloy Media + Marketing, and a video distribution company, she started Interactive Amy a year and a half ago. Interactive Amy is an advertising and marketing agency with a focus in social media.


You just got back from going on a Birthright trip to Israel. You're excited, exhausted, and feeling major love for Israel. But now comes the sad part: you can't do it again. You can go back to Israel, but not on that same trip. So what do you do now? That's where Aleza Alpert comes in.

8 Questions for Cary Wolovick photo_th

If you enjoyed attending the recent Matzo bash: The Leftovers, you could thank Cary Wolovick.  Cary, the Program Coordinator for the Midwest Region of B’nai B’rith International, not only co-sponsored the event, but originated the idea for the get together—he wanted to raise more dollars for the earthquake victims in Haiti.  Cary is what you’d call a mensch.

8 Questions for Jeff Eckerling photo_th

Let’s face it—even though the sun is starting to shine around here and we’ve all prematurely busted out the tanks and sandals (don’t kid yourself—you know you did it too), we could all use a little vacation. But, you whine, hotels can be so expensive! Have no fear, Chicagoan Jeff Eckerling is here to help.

8 Questions for Stacy Heller photo_th

Did you travel on a BBYO mission to Israel in high school?  Or maybe you attended a convention?  Or perhaps you participated on one of the local boards?  If so, meet Stacy Heller— she’s transitioned her childhood BBYO membership into a full time career.

8 Questions for Cara Bronstein photo_th

Growing up, Cara Bronstein was surrounded by art. Her mom a painter, photographer, jewelry designer and all around artistic maven filled her house with fine art and creative people. Full disclosure, I grew up with Cara. I was one of the many kids who loved to play at her house after school because it meant getting to do fun art projects we weren’t allowed to do at our own homes and getting to visit her mom’s jewelry studio in her basement.

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You could say that brothers Zach and Josh Sharpe have both been pinball wizards since they each were born. Originally from New York City, the Sharpes moved to Arlington Heights in 1988 after their dad, Roger Sharpe, took a job with Williams/Bally Midway - the world's largest pinball manufacturer at the time.

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Michael Goldstein, aka the Mensch with a Wrench, is the ultimate handyman. He will tackle the projects you don’t know how to do, don’t want to do, or simply don’t have time to do. Some people refer to Michael as a marriage counselor because he takes care of the 'honey-do' list! He'll put together your IKEA furniture, mount your T.V., fix your electrical problems, or build you a deck.

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Terri Albert wants to get into your drawers… and closets, basements, attics and garages. Terri is now in her dream job as a professional organizer. Dubbing herself The Chicago Organizer, she says: “I hold your hand to help you make necessary decisions you have put off, to get rid of the excess clutter in your home— freeing you up to enjoy what really matters in your life. I take a no-nonsense approach to clearing your space and setting you up for success.” Even as a kid, her folks made her a T-shirt that said “Neat Freak”!

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Joshua Grabowsky, AKA “Chef Joshua” became a chef in an “ass-backward” way. Fifteen years ago, he learned in a Zen-type macrobiotic kitchen, more “how to be”, than how to cook. He opened the Red Avocado, a 100% Organic Vegetarian Restaurant, in Iowa City, cooked for yoga & meditation retreats, catered parties, and even bussed tables.

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Elisabeth Bacherta’s nickname is “Bruce,” after Bruce Lee. Like her namesake, she hits fast and hard… and leaves no one standing. But her sport is not a martial art, it’s football. That’s right: Women’s. Professional. Tackle. Football. Elisabeth is both Offense & Defense Lineman for Chicago’s team, The Force and recently celebrated her first anniversary with the team.

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20 something Rogers Park resident Jennifer Rottner contacted Oy!Chicago about a month ago to suggest we profile her father, Deputy Chief Chicago Police Officer Bruce Rottner, for A JYSK. We think he’s a really cool dad and you’ll be reading more about him in the coming weeks. (Jennifer will be writing a tribute to him for our Father’s Day issue.) But we quickly realized that the real Jew You Should Know is Jennifer!


Shira Vardi lived in Israel until she was ten, grew the rest of the way up in Madison, moved to New York City to take part in Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps, and is now finally a Chicagoan looking forward to summer festivals and fun times by the lake.


Aaron Becker digs the music, savors the wine, and makes new friends wherever he goes, whether it’s the Chabad house in Florence or the bathhouse in Konya. His resume crisscrosses the planet: ten languages studied, a 2007 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, two Fulbright scholarships (Turkey and Morocco), educational programs in Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Russia, Egypt, and around the world we go.


Rabbi Heather Altman is a well-balanced person. Through her creation, “Rav Yoga,” she has united yoga and Judaism in a manner that is authentic to both beautiful traditions--aiming to empower, renew, and connect the body, mind, and soul. She also balances life as a yoga instructor and rabbi with the realities of being a stepmom to a 7-year-old, Haley, and a mom to 9-month-old triplets: Hallel, Emunah and Noam.


Every day, Dr. Jeremy Weisz collects quotes and keeps track of his favorites. The latest one at the bottom of all his emails reads: "Excellence can be attained if you Care more than others think is wise, Risk more than others think is safe, Dream more than others think is practical, and Expect more than others think is possible." (Author Unknown)


Northbrook native Traci Fein spent her teen years modeling for local institutions like Marshall Fields and Carson’s. At 19, an agency scooped her up and brought her to Paris. From there, she spent years traversing the globe. But Traci Fein is more than just a pretty face – when she returned back to the Chicago area, she started her own makeup agency, specializing in weddings and other special events.


It’s pretty safe to say that Deborah Fishman is passionate about Jewish life and Israel. As the Managing Editor of PresenTense Magazine, a grassroots, volunteer effort by hundreds of young Jews spread across four continents, she and her staff are dedicated to tackling the question of what it mean to be Jewish, and how being Jewish can add value to our lives.


Chicago Native Pam Sherman spent nearly a decade working for Chicago’s top advertising firms. Though she loved her work, she spent many late nights in her office wondering how she was going to get all of her errands done and still be able to enjoy what little free time her job afforded her – if only the dry cleaners were open at midnight when she got off work!  She started talking to other working professionals in the city with similar concerns and realized she was not alone. Thus, an idea was born and Chicago Anytime Assistants was formed in 2008.


Brad Rubin grew up on Jewish delis and diners. In his lifetime, Rubin has traveled by car and motorcycle across America — all 50 states — always stopping for a bite at diners and delis along the way. Rubin, originally from Chicago’s northern suburbs and now a South Loop resident, worked at 24 restaurants in 23 years, including Chicago hotspots MK, SushiSamba Rio and Bin 36. Recently, he broke out of fine dining to return to his culinary roots.


Some people talk about making the world a better place. Other people just do it, in their own unassuming way. For Annice Moses and Mike Rosenthal, this means taking I-94 from their home in Glencoe and investing their time, hearts and money in their adopted community, Englewood. In a neighborhood where liquor stores double as food stores and fresh produce is scarce, Mike’s passion is the community garden.


Have you ever gazed at a painting by Chicago Jewish 20-something artist Arielle Sandler? Before you answer that, do you watch the TV shows “Eli Stone” and/or “Brothers & Sisters?” Maybe you caught Will Smith’s and Charlize Theron’s summer blockbuster “Hancock?” Well if the answer is yes to any those questions, then you have seen Sandler’s paintings, which have been featured on both of those shows and in the Will Smith flick.


Avigaeil Furhman is a jack of all trades. She is passionate about music and can be found most nights DJing at many Chicago hotspots, including Town Hall PubThe Continental and Swig. But she also makes a living writing for online magazine BuzzNews and is interested in becoming an artist, dancer or actress one day soon. She loves all kinds of animals and once planned on a career in oceanography.


Many of you have attended an Oy!Chicago gathering in the past and have gotten to know some of your fellow Oy!sters. Jason Chess and Caroline Friduss met and hit it off at the get together at Matilda last June, and the couple has since been inseparable.


After graduating from the University of Michigan with a theater degree, Aviva Gibbs landed a development job at the Goodman Theater.  As a hobby, she volunteered for political campaigns; then, one afternoon, she got a tip from a friend about a job opening as Chief of Staff for an Illinois State Representative. She wrote an email to Rep. John Fritchey, convincing him that her theater degree qualified her to be his Chief of Staff.


When Lincoln Park dweller Oren Dekalo isn’t at work as the 2009 Vice President of the YLD campaign—which isn’t often—the Glencoe native can be found working as a diamond wholesaler. So, if you don’t have time to read actual books, look forward to lunches on the 6th floor of the JUF or like shiny things, Oren Dekalo is a Jew You Should Know!


In his 31 years, Michael Goldenberg has lived in three very different places. Born in Nizhnii Novgorod (then Gorkii), Russia, Goldenberg moved to Israel at the age of 13, and then came to Chicago in 2002 to earn his MBA from Loyola University. Now a financial planner at MB Bank, Goldenberg has also devoted time to engaging other Russian-speaking Jews in community initiatives.


A New York native, Rachel Haskell moved to Chicago after spending four years as a Badger at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After a few months interning with Senator Russ Feingold and a summer in Israel, she began working as a professional Jew for B’nai B’rith International (BBI) as the Midwest Program Coordinator.

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It is a classic love story with a twist. Kim and Scott Holstein met at a Richard Bach book signing in 1994. Kim was obsessed with pretzels. Scott was obsessed with Kim. The following year, they launched a gourmet pretzel empire out of their Lincoln Park studio apartment. Kim and Scott have since upgraded to a 25,000 square-foot factory west of the Loop and added three kids to the mix, but the key ingredients haven’t changed – a passion for pretzels and for each other.

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Kimber Leigh Nussbaum, vocalist with The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, hails from Kansas City, but has lived in Chicago for more than a decade. The University of Illinois grad earned her BFA in Theater and has performed in venues all over Chicago as well as Kansas City.

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Cleveland native Allyson Becker moved to Chicago to become a professional Jew after graduating from Ohio State in 2002. After four years working at the Jewish Federation, Allyson joined up with the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a non-profit committed to the well being of Israel’s soldiers. Funds from the FIDF are used to build mobile gyms, synagogues and libraries on military bases, provide care packages and fund academic scholarship for ex-combat soldiers.


Ethan Michaeli was inspired to work in social justice by his parents, Holocaust survivors who emigrated to Israel in 1949 and came to the U.S. before he was born. Originally from Rochester, NY, Michaeli graduated from the University of Chicago in 1989 and two years later began working for the Chicago Defender, a 100-year-old, African American-owned daily newspaper where he did investigative reporting on the homeless, environmental racism and police brutality.


Steve Green is a networking extraordinaire. As President of GO Green Management, he attends at least two networking events every night of the week, in addition to coordinating his own monthly event. After 10 years at a sales job, Steve decided to take on a career that would make more of an impact on both his community and the environment. GO Green Management is a marketing and public relations firm with a commitment and passion to spreading the word on what it means to be “green friendly.”


Geri Bleier and her Beta Fish Bert live in Lincoln Park and when Geri travels—most recently to Connecticut to visit her new nephew Beck—Bert hangs out at Yogaview, where Geri teaches classes five days a week. The full-time yoga instructor grew up in the Detroit suburbs before relocating to Vail, Colorado for six years. After some quality time in the mountains, Geri wanted to be in a city; while in Vail she met Tom Quinn and Quinn Kearney, who offered her a job at their studio here in Chicago.


Rachel Massey’s planner is always full.  The master organizer plans weddings, meetings and events of all sorts—she’s also a sometimes-yoga instructor. After six years working for hotels including the House of Blues and the InterContinental, she’s gone out on her own. When she’s not in event mode, you’ll find Rachel on a yoga mat or hanging at home with her husband Jeff and their animals—a giant Golden Retriever named Chuck and two cats, Lovie (yup, that Lovie) and Sammy.


Mark Bazer is a syndicated humor columnist for Tribune Media Services and his column—which covers everything from current events to what to talk about with your hair stylist—appears every other Thursday in RedEye and on ChicagoTribune.com. He is also the host of The Interview Show, a live talk show that runs the first Friday of every month at The Hideout and features guests like Bibla Golic, the “Maria Sharapova of Table Tennis” and Doug Sohn, President of Hot Doug’s Encased Meat Emporium, along with artists, musicians and authors.


A Bay Area transplant, Josie A.G. Shapiro spends her days as the Membership and Program Director at Temple Sholom of Chicago.  She helps members connect to the to things that interest them, whether that might be spiritual discussions with rabbis or social gatherings like sushi Shabbat. Her goal is to make sure newcomers—40% of new members are in the 20s and 30s— feel comfortable calling Sholom Chicago home.


Lucy Kaplansky was barely out of high school when she started singing in Chicago bars. She soon took off for New York, where she became part of a burgeoning singer-songwriter scene, notably in a duo with Shawn Colvin. Then she switched gears, earning a doctorate in psychology and opening a private practice to work with chronically mentally ill adults.


Caryn Peretz is not only a professional Jew; she is a philanthropic and social Jew too. As the director of the JUF’s Young Leadership Division (YLD), she plays a key role in developing programs and activities that serve the department’s outreach, leadership development and fundraising goals.

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Even if you don’t personally know Richard Levy, you probably do know his salads. The founding president and CEO of Salad Spinners Corp—or head tomato as he’s most often referred to—invented the business Salad Spinners, a creative salad and sandwich lunch option, seven years ago.


Jon Siskel gets to travel the world scouting for interesting stories. A partner in Siskel/Jacobs Productions, a Chicago-based television and documentary production company, Siskel currently is in production on "Voices of 9/11", and is developing a feature documentary about the annual "Louder Than a Bomb" high school team poetry slam competition in Chicago.


Miriam Brosseau and Alan Jay Sufrin were making music together long before they started the “Biblegum pop” duo Stereo Sinai, born in celebration of another birth—their rabbi’s son, Gideon. Alan and Miriam teamed up to write a lullaby, taking original Hebrew verses from the book of Judges and mixing them with a synthesized pop arrangement. The single, "Gideon's Song” gave life to the band.


It sounds like the kind of wish you’d make if you were Aladdin and had found the Genie’s lamp: To get the chance to travel the world and buy one-of-a-kind jewels and exquisite fabrics—and get paid for it. But for third-generation jeweler Jennifer Sydel, living the dream is just part of the job.


For the past 19 years, Sara Fiedelholtz has been involved in various creative endeavors including magazine publishing, brand development and strategic planning. In 2004, Fiedelholtz launched the creative strategy firm thinkbox strategies, then in August 2007 she launched mint magazine:SOURCEBOOKS llc., a series of  annual subject-specific—think shopping, continuing education, beauty and food, to name a few—source guides for Chicago.


When Leigh Fagin relocated from New York to Chicago for grad school, she had no idea she’d find herself planting Midwestern roots in our city’s art scene.  Four years later, Leigh is the Collaborative Programs Coordinator for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs where she plans city-wide arts programs, including Chicago Artists Month every October.


Chicago native Sarah Levy is passionate about her dessert. Growing up in a family full of food connoisseurs, (think Spiaggia and Bistro 110) Sarah knew early on that her specialty was pastries. Just two weeks after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in Sociology, Sarah decided to pursue her dream of opening her own bakery.


If not for a life-altering epiphany in Kenya, Stacey Ballis might be a very rich lawyer—she might never have taught in a Chicago public high school or worked as the Director of Education and Community Programs at the Goodman Theatre or most recently, written four novels including, Inappropriate Men and The Spinster Sisters. Her fifth book will be released next spring—and her newest writing project will be as a contributor to Oy!Chicago’s new department, Nosh.


When he is busy at work as head writer of The Onion’s A.V Club, Nathan Rabin may or may not be wearing pants.


Ari Lehman scared the hell out of you back when you were a kid. After sneaking into a film audition, he landed the role of Jason Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th movie way back in 1980. The musically inclined scary guy from Connecticut relocated to Chicago in 2002 and formed a Jewish-tinged reggae-rock band called the Ari Ben Moses Band. His horror fans took notice and he unleashed upon them… FIRSTJASON! Today, his monster-metal band plays horror conventions worldwide.


Jon Rosenfield, AKA "Pale Jonny,” nee "Jonny Motion,” likes to say he’s from Wheeling, the city with feeling. Today, the self-described extremely amateur motorcycle mechanic calls Logan Square home. By day, Jon does accounting and HR work (he’s is partial to the title Controller).


Growing up on the east coast, Cindy Levine always dreamed of having a shop. And when she saw old-fashioned bakeries popping up in other cities, but not in Chicago, she knew it was time to trade in her social worker’s hat for a baker’s apron. Six years later, Sweet Mandy B’s—named for her children, Mandy and Brian—is a city-wide favorite.

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Chaviva Edwards is a super-blogger with a really long commute. The Buena Park dweller takes the CTA down to the University of Chicago where she works as an assistant to Nobel Prize winners and other big thinkers in the economics department.

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Allyson Holleb’s obsession with nabbing that perfect accessory helped her transition from shopper to shop owner. Today, Holleb stocks her own store, Bess & Loie, with hip bags and accessories for men and women.


“I am a Jew, and that breaks through all color and ethnic barriers,” Rabbi Capers C. Funnye, Jr. recently told the New York Times.  The rabbi grew up attending an African Methodist Church and first discovered Judaism as a teenager when he began to feel disconnected with his Methodist faith. Today, he leads the more than 200 members of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.

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You may recognize Homewood, IL native Steven Rosengard from Bravo’s reality show Project Runway . After a disappointing week-5 elimination involving a white polyester wedding gown, Steven is back home in Lakeview.

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Areif Sless-Kitain, drummer for the local bands Reds and Blue and The I Kong Cult, grew up in Philadelphia and now calls Ukrainian Village home. When he’s not on stage, he can be found working as the music listings editor for the Chicago Reader, writing articles for the Reader and hanging out with his girlfriend Irma and their two new kittens. He also enjoys watching Law and Order.



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