A Jew You Should Know
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gleacher Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive
Thursday, February 18, 2016 | 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
The Center for Jewish Genetics in collaboration with Hillels of Illinois presents The Business of Genetics, an interactive discussion on the globalization of research and development for rare diseases. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to interact with corporate leaders from Pfizer, who will touch on the scientific, business and medical aspects of the development and marketing of Elelyso (a new treatment for Gaucher disease) in collaboration with their Israeli biotechnology partner, Protalix. The event includes a networking reception with refreshments following the program.
For more information, contact
KarenLitwack@juf.org. There is no cost to attend this event, but space is limited. Register at
Pre-register for your free Birthright Israel adventure this summer or next winter with Shorashim to fly from Chicago, travel with others from the community, and spend all 10 days with Israelis your own age! Learn more @ israelwithisraelis.com.