Sunday, September 19, 2010

Links to Previously Published Articles by Rachel

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Jewish Girl and the Wonderful Mother-in-Law

By Rachel Baruch Yackley
August 9, 2010

"Will you bring the children for Easter and Christmas?" Mrs. Patricia Yackley asked me, as we sat across from each other at her kitchen table.

"Children? What children?" I thought to myself, then, after a thoughtful pause, I realized she meant the children I would be having with her son, whom I'd only been dating for a month.

That was the first time I met my (then future) mother-in-law. Right from the start, I could tell she was a warm, funny, open-minded woman with a huge heart.

Pat and Bud Yackley (Bud passed away three years ago) raised five children in a traditional Catholic home. All the kids attended Catholic elementary school. The eldest, Luke, was studying to become a priest, but decided to marry and have a family, and later became a deacon. Pat does the rosary every day, without fail. My husband Mike says that his mother knows all the Catholic saints. Crosses, crucifixes, and pictures of Jesus adorned almost every room. It was obvious, from the get go, that this was a religious family.

Then in I walked--the Jewish girl.

Pat doesn't remember our first conversation around the table, but recalls having a leg up on me, as Mike told her, after our first meeting, that he'd met the girl he wanted to marry.

Looking back, Pat recently said, "I certainly didn't mind him marrying a Jewish girl. I just wanted him to marry somebody religious. I didn't want an atheist in the family."

Pat has always embraced me with the love she gives to everyone in her family, and when we adopted our daughter Rebecca, whom we had already decided we would raise in the Jewish faith, Pat's bottomless love was always there for her.

One manifestation of this Catholic grandma's love for her Jewish granddaughter was her creation of the "spring basket," in lieu of the traditional Easter basket.

"I just wanted her to get into the holiday spirit," said Pat, who doesn't recall, anymore, how she came up with this idea. "It always had a color theme; I'd even put in little pictures for her room, or anything I found in that color scheme."

Filled with packets of seeds, gardening gloves, candy, plastic eggs filled with coins, little stuffed animals and more, it wasn't so much what was in the baskets that made a difference. What conveyed the uniqueness and depth of caring expressed by my mother-in-law was the fact that she took the time to come up with even a different name for the Easter basket, in an effort to make it inclusive for her granddaughter.

Pat also made a point of giving Rebecca Hanukkah presents each year, even when we gathered around my in-laws' Christmas tree.

Recently I asked Pat one of those questions I've wondered about since Mike and I married, just over 20 years ago: Does she worry about our souls? Does she worry that we --Rebecca and I--won't go to heaven with Mike?

"I pray for all of you, but (I pray) that you're happy, healthy, and holy in whatever way you want to do that," she said. "I don't worry about your souls; I know you're good people."

As a family, we are fortunate in many ways. I am blessed with a fabulous mother-in-law, and my husband, who gets along famously with both my parents, is blessed, too. It certainly didn't hurt that my mom (and my dad, as well), adored Mike from the moment they met him. And like Mike, they may very well have hoped, from the get-go, that I'd met the man I was going to marry.

Over the years, we've had many holidays and life-cycle events we've shared between our two families. My in-laws came to the synagogue for Rebecca's baby naming ceremony, and enjoyed meeting everyone and being part of our Jewish community for her bat mitzvah. Pat invites my parents to join us at her home for Christmas dinner every year, and everyone exchanges Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. She mails Rosh Hashanah cards to my parents, and they mail Easter cards to her. Each year they all comment about how they receive the best cards from the other.

These days, Pat's four sons and daughter, and their spouses, her 11 grandchildren (plus four step-grandchildren), and her 9 great-grandchildren, are all lucky to have Pat in their lives. She lends an ear to everyone, she never judges, and she's always quick to share a laugh. Even the staff and other residents in the senior apartment complex where she lives, repeatedly tell us how wonderful she is, and what a joy she is to have around. We all think she's fabulous!

Rachel Baruch Yackley is a teacher, a writer, a mother and a wife. She has been a freelance writer for over 12 years, and her articles have appeared in newspapers and other publications. Currently Rachel works with children with autism.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pushing the Envelope Farm

Will work for food: Community farm offers free garden plots, outreach
By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 7/26/2010 12:00 AM

Have you ever dreamed of having your own farm, where you can grow fresh, healthy food for yourself and your family? Now you can, and for free, too, thanks to the efforts of a few local Geneva residents.

Making something from nothing and sharing all with the community is the heart of what's happening at Pushing the Envelope Farm, a nonprofit community farm in Geneva.

Full-time farm manager Libby Voss and a wealth of volunteers hoe, till, plant and harvest edibles at Pushing the Envelope Farm. This venture offers 10-by-20-foot plots, free, to anyone in the community, as well as to Continental Envelope employees.

Diana Morin of Geneva works on her quarter of an acre at the farm, which is bigger than the plots farmed by families for home use.

Morin sells some of what she grows on her plot at the weekly Geneva Green Market, held on Thursdays at 75 N. River Lane.

Lovage, dill, snow peas, sorrel, and Swiss chard have been her biggest producers, so far.
"I've been (farming) here only this year, but I've been doing this for four years, and taken what I grow to the Market," said Morin, as she bent over her rows of plants and plucked out the weeds.

Owner Fred Margulies also farms his own plot, where Brussels sprouts, collards, tomatoes, borage, and lemon verbena can be found.

Kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, peas, asparagus, raspberries and more fill the rows of the farm's one-acre market plot, also called The Market Acre. Money earned from the weekly market goes toward covering the farm's expenses.

Thirteen years ago, brothers Fred, Norman, and Sheldon Margulies bought 23 acres of land on Averill Road in Geneva, just north of Roosevelt Road. About seven acres were used to build their business, Continental Envelope.

At that time, most of the remaining land was used by a local farmer, who, in 2008, decided to farm elsewhere. The land lay fallow for a time, until Fred, his wife Trisha, and their adult children decided to start a community farm on their property.

"Our three younger kids (Elisheva, Elan and Ariel) are very helpful and knowledgeable, and concerned that the values we're working on are transmitted. We have learned from them. The values we're working on now are values our children have taught us," Trisha Margulies said. "This whole enterprise is one they are involved in. It's very fulfilling."

The seeds for the farm idea sprouted three years ago, after Fred, Trisha, Elisheva, Elan, and Trisha's mother, Esther Shendelman, attended the annual Hazon Food Conference, first in 2007 and then again in 2008, which "inspired us," Margulies said.

Hazon is a Jewish organization which work to "create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and a healthier and more sustainable world for all," which parallels the Margulies's vision.

"It's about being more aware of choices, more aware of food, responsibility for family and for the environment," said Margulies. "It's about families planting, growing, and eating together."
Getting started was a big hurdle, as the Margulieses had never done anything like this, before.

"I went to the Geneva Green Market, where I met people and introduced myself. I was amazed there was such a commitment here, with the Green Market, and two organic farms, nearby," said Margulies, who began meeting with people like Green Market founder Karen Stark, as well as the owners of Erewhon Farm in Elburn and Heritage Prairie Farm in La Fox, for advice and help.

"They said this is what you have to do with the soil: let it lie fallow, and put in coverage crops," she said.

Finally, in 2009, Tim Fuller of Erewhon Farm came out and plowed the land.

Then it was time to bring the concept to life.

"We wanted to make this a community farm for people who didn't have land to grow their own food. And we wanted to do it as a nonprofit," Margulies explained.

"We want to help people know what it is like to grow and pick a fresh carrot. We want to share diversity. We want to teach people from farm to table, and do it for the whole community."

The first people to dig in the dirt were employees of Continental Envelope. About a dozen people from the factory plus several area residents each have their own plots.

Various groups have also gotten involved, including a group of Asian refugees in a mission program from Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, who have their own plot.

Volunteers are always welcome to work on The Market Acre. A group of young people age 18 to 24 from Maywood, who are gaining valuable experience through a Loyola University Medical Center outreach program - Cook County Green Corps - come out weekly and work on weeding and harvesting produce for the Geneva Green Market, as well as clients from AID (Association for Individual Development) in St. Charles.

Voss, the farm manager, who came from Washington State with a wealth of knowledge and experience, will have her first intern when a student from the Hadassah College in Jerusalem arrives for the summer.

It's not all about growing and weeding: the farm also offers educational opportunities to learn about food consumption, the morality of food production, and the importance of a locally produced meal.

There is a religious component to all that's being done here, too. The Margulies family is dedicated to contributing to and enhancing the Jewish community in the area. As such, they are offering the farm as a place for children working on their bar or bat mitzvahs to do the typically requisite mitzvah project - a volunteer outreach project - by volunteering in The Market Acre.

Members of Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors in Geneva, as well as interested people from area synagogues, are encouraged to contact the farm about starting their own plots and getting involved.

Plans are already underway for a Jewish nature camp, programs on Jewish holidays, and educational opportunities on the relationship of Judaism to agrarian traditions.

In the secular community, school-age children are equally welcome to volunteer on the farm, as well as college students looking for alternative learning experiences.

"The bottom line is we all need more education. We can't eat better, nor grow better, if we don't know better," Trisha Margulies said.

This is not a certified organic farm, but keeping things natural is the focus. Hence, no chemicals are used. Use of the land is free, and "farmers" need only provide their own seeds and plants.

"You can always do short season stuff and have things (to eat) throughout the season," said Voss, who reminds everyone that almost any produce can be preserved by freezing, canning and pickling, to "extend the eating season," and enjoy all year long.

More from the farm
• Visit the Pushing the Envelope Farm stand on Thursdays, at the Geneva Green Market, and buy truly locally grown produce. Keep an eye out for a future On-Farm Stand, as well.
• Volunteers are welcome to come out to the farm to lend a hand and gain knowledge about farming.
Anyone interested in farming a plot for themselves should contact Voss for more information.
• Free community potluck and movie nights are planned for the fourth Saturday of the month this summer. A potluck dinner gathering kicks things off at 7:30 p.m., and the movie starts at 9 p.m. Bring a dish to share and your own washable dishes. These movie nights are appropriate for all ages.
• Contact farm manager Libby Voss for more details on all the opportunities at the farm, at Be sure to check out the Web site:

Geneva Arts Fair

Geneva Arts Fair features top talent from around the country
By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald correspondent
Published: 7/23/2010 12:01 AM

The range of the shades of gray is Fred Ullrich's specialty, one might say.

The product of this Geneva-based photographer's talent is replete with a veritable palette of grays, all of which combine to create stunning black and white photography.

See for yourself at this year's ninth annual Geneva Arts Fair, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25, on Third Street in downtown Geneva.

A veteran exhibitor, Ullrich is back, with his unique prints of architecture, nature, rural images, glimpses of Europe, and photographs of what he calls "quiet spaces."

Not only are his images unique, but Ullrich's techniques almost put him in a category all his own.

"I work with a 4-by-5 wooden field camera. I shoot with 4-by-5 black and white film, and I develop with pyro (pyrogallol film developer). Paul Strand and all the masters used it. It really expands the zonal range, the varying range of grays you can get," said Ullrich, who is retired from his years as manager of Fermilab's visual media services.

"When I'm working well, working with the camera and looking at an image, form is more important than color. I look for everyday objects that resonate with me," he said. "You can render things in great detail, to infinity. The size (of my photos) is big - three times the resolution. I let the light speak for itself."

Ullrich does not use digital photography as an art form, and his techniques differ from it, in many respects. While developing, he wears gloves and a respirator, because of the chemicals used in this traditional "wet chemistry" developing process. The time factor is significantly longer, too.

"The shooting takes maybe three hours; the processing two hours, and the printing takes eight hours," he said.

The results of all this work are unique 16-by-20 inch fine prints, hand printed on fiber base paper.

To illustrate the visual difference, Ullrich will have one of his prints alongside a digital copy on display at the show.

Over 20,000 visitors are expected at this year's Geneva Arts Fair, presented by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. This juried show was voted a Top 200 Fine Craft Fair for 2010 by Art Fair SourceBook, and was a 2009 winner of "Best Craft or Art Show" by West Suburban Living Magazine.

Among the artists will be Rosie and Dave Claus from Naperville, with their stunning gourds, topped with beautifully woven fiber embellishments. This year's show also includes ceramic creations by Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand of Pottery Boys Clay Studios in Blue Island, Ill., unique must-have furniture by Charlie and John Sweitzer of Champaign, and many more artists from New York, Florida, Minnesota, and all points in between.

An emerging artist section will again be included this year, as well as a hands-on art activity for children, where they can put their own imaginations to work to create a mural.

On Saturday, eight $500 awards of excellence will be presented for two- and three-dimensional work. Emerging artists will also be competing to win Geneva Cultural Arts Commission awards as a kickoff for their careers.

Visitors can dine without having to drive anywhere else, as Geneva restaurants and merchants will be providing guests with sales, food and wine specials throughout the weekend.

Details, including a list of artists, are available at

"As You Like It"

Shakespeare troupe brings 'As You Like It' to Island Park, Geneva
By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald correspondent
Published: 7/15/2010 12:01 AM

All ages are invited to experience a unique take on the Shakespeare comedy classic, "As You Like It," when Geneva's annual Shakespeare in the Park brings the Midsummer Theatre Troupe back to Island Park Saturday.

Sit back on your blanket, enjoy your picnic dinner, and watch Rosalind, the daughter of a banished duke, fall in love with Orlando, the disinherited son of one of the duke's friends.

When Rosalind is banished from the court by her uncle, Duke Frederick, she disguises herself as a boy, and travels with her cousin Celia and the jester to the magical Forest of Arden, where her father and his friends live in exile. Never fear: a happy ending is guaranteed for all.

Performed outdoors on a stage surrounded by the beauty of Island Park, this performance will entertain and delight viewers with unique characterizations and unexpected twists.

A touch of Cirque du Soleil even comes into play, thanks to the creative prowess of artistic director Toni Hix.

"It's just sort of colorful, and the characters are characters, with a little bit of exaggeration," Hix said. "Once (the actors) enter the magical Forest of Arden, everything is colorful and bright."

One of Shakespeare's idiosyncrasies is his prolific use of figurative language, which can pose a problem for modern ears. To overcome what can be a disconnect for the audience, Hix has incorporated more action into the play to convey the meaning of the words "through the physicalities," she said. "I cut a lot of the descriptive passages related to mythology and to religion in Medieval times."

Hix also reduced the length of the play, limiting it to 90 minutes, and there is no intermission.

Live music will be performed during the play, the likes of which are sure to surprise and delight the audience.

Five actors will be playing ukuleles - not your typical Shakespearean instrument - and the musical selection, such as songs by John Mayer, will be like nothing you've ever heard in a show like this, before.

The configuration of the cast also differs, Hix said, as "I've condensed the cast to 12 people," although a few actors will reappear throughout the performance, after quick wardrobe changes, as more than one character.

Working together in this unique production is "really for our own enjoyment," said Hix. "I love Shakespeare so much, I just want people to like it. I love it when people come up to me and say, 'I got it!'"

As a traveling troupe, much differs from what you may expect. Tents, lights, a prop box, two benches, and sound equipment make up their set and staging equipment.

Depending on who you ask, some say an outdoor performance is the best way to enjoy Shakespeare.

"There are two different kinds of Shakespeare, outside. There's those that do it in an outdoor space with an attached building, like (the American Players Theatre in) Spring Green, Wi., and those who do it like we do," said Hix.

"I think we're the only ones who travel. We do only comedies, which are best suited for families with children, who are looking for a Ravinia-like experience."

Midsummer Theatre Troupe flourished in 2001, after getting its start as part of a troupe which used to perform in Batavia. This Shakespearean traveling theater performs one production each summer, in a few different venues.

In addition to the upcoming performance in Geneva, you can also see this comedy performed outdoors at 7 p.m. Friday, July 16 at Central Park in Naperville (free); 6 p.m. Sunday, July 18 at Cantigny Memorial Park in Wheaton ($10); and 7 p.m. July 20 and 27 at America's Historic Roundhouse in Aurora (free).

The Midsummer Theatre Troupe is fortunate to be under the leadership of Hix, who has experience as a casting director for feature films, television and live theater production in both Hollywood, Calif. and Chicago. She has been with Warner Bros., Samuel Godwin, Daystar, Touchstone, NBC and ABC/Harpo Productions, and has worked with Adrianne Barbeau, Lou Gossett, Jr., Beverly D'Angelo, Timothy Bottoms, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Danny Glover, among others. While teaching drama in L.A., she was Cuba Gooding Jr.'s sole drama teacher.

Shakespeare in the Park is hosted by the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission.

"It's one of our events," said Cultural Arts commissioner Vic Portincaso, who will also be performing as two of the characters, Sir Oliver Martext, and Lord Vic.

"This is our fourth year doing this. We hire in the troupe, and Toni does such a great job. It's geared toward families, so bring the kids and introduce them to Shakespeare," he said.

Hundreds of people have filled the park for the troupe's performances in years past, so come early, set down your blankets or chairs, and claim your spot. There is no rain date scheduled.

While you wait for the performance to start, enjoy a bite to eat or some refreshments which will be for sale in the park by Mill Race Inn, Stockholm's Restaurant, and Graham's Chocolate. Live music will also be performed before the show.

Admission is free, although a $5 donation is suggested. Seating will be on the lawn, and audience members are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs and picnics.

Island Park is along the east side of the Fox River at the intersection of State (Route 38) and Bennett streets (Route 25) in Geneva. Free parking is available at the government center on First Street. It's just a short walk on the covered bridge across the river to Island Park.

'As You Like It' cast and crew
Aurora: Robert Becker, Tim Lieske, Connie Pfister, Gary Puckette, Don Reid, Colette Shelby, Todd Von Ohlen
Batavia: Peter Hix, Toni Hix, Nicolette Pollack
Chicago: Walter Bezt, Mark Brouwer
Geneva: Kristen Duerdoth, Sandy Portincaso, Vic Portincaso
Naperville: Robbie Holden, Dan McQuaid
North Aurora: Robb Cleave
South Elgin: Katrina Syrris

Storefront Shakespeare

Storefront Shakespeare performs first shows in Geneva
By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 7/2/2010 12:00 AM

Turning a dream into reality can take a lot of sweat and greasepaint.

Just ask Nora Manca, president and artistic director of Storefront Shakespeare, a new theater company which recently performed the first week of its very first production of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"I've achieved my career goal; I'm the director of a Shakespearean theater," Manca said.
Storefront Shakespeare is a mobile theater company, which uses empty storefronts and other large spaces.

Using Promenade, a nontraditional form of theater in which the entire space becomes the stage, this theater company's performances engage the audience in an interactive as well as an entertaining experience.

For the company's first production, Manca chose to direct a cast of about 25 actors in this tale of four intertwining stories, written by her favorite bard.

"Shakespeare's stories are so interesting and so complex, and the language is so beautiful and witty," she said. "I saw my first play when I was four, and have been obsessed with it ever since. It was 'Taming of the Shrew,' and I was so bothered by (the character) Petruchio. When I found out he was a wife beater (in the play), I was so mad at him," but she was hooked.
Another fan of Shakespeare is cast member Nadia Handler, a 15 year-old high school student from St. Charles, the youngest performer on stage.

Auditions were open to actors ages 16 through adults, but Handler's talents got her in the door and into the cast.

Handler appeared in "Beauty and the Beast" at Noble Fool Theatricals, and as the fairy Peaseblossom in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Thompson Middle School.
In Storefront Shakespeare's version of this play, she is performing the role of Hermia, who loves one man, but is loved by another.

"The actors are part of the audience, and the audience is part of the play. It's wonderful," Handler said. "They follow along, watch, and laugh. They even move around if they can't see."
Handler met Manca while performing at Noble Fool. She learned about auditions for this current production through a Facebook posting.

"I really like Shakespeare. It's hard, but once we learn the meaning of the lines, it's really fun. It's a great experience for actors," Handler said.

Besides appearing in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Handler is preparing for her lead role in "Tied to the Tracks," a musical melodrama opening at Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles Thursday, July 15.

Manca, who lives in North Aurora, has been working up to this her entire life.

"I've been doing theater since I was about 10 years old," she said. "I just had a passion for it. I started a mini theater company when I was 13; we did 'Romeo and Juliet' for three years."

After high school, she attended North Central College, and completed a bachelor's degree in theater performance, with an emphasis in directing. She also minored in art. She has directed four previous productions: "Steel Magnolias" at the Geneva Underground Playhouse; "Potea Safari" at the Masala Yangu restaurant in Naperville; and "Euripides' Medea: A Director's Nightmare" as well as "An Ideal Husband" as guest director at Benedictine University.

She was the assistant director for "Beauty and the Beast" at Noble Fool Theatricals in St. Charles.

"Last year I got the idea for a promenade-style production of 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' but no theater was right for what I had in mind. Some friends and I started brainstorming and decided we needed to form our own company and use empty storefronts. We wanted to be right where the people were," she said.

Preparations for this premier production involved a bevy of talented friends who pitched in with everything from creating costumes to crafting sets. Props and decorations were cobbled together from donated items, as well as from bits and pieces found at yard sales and the Goodwill store, enabling this company to function with absolutely no budget.

What made this all come together into a run of performances already enjoyed by many was the availability of a vacant storefront in downtown Geneva.

Manca explained that she and executive director Racole Fisher "went walking around downtown Geneva. We wanted a place with a lively and active downtown. We took down phone numbers (of vacant stores), and made calls. Then we got approval and a permit from the city of Geneva."

The two women were able to find a temporary home for the company's first production at an empty storefront at 228 S. Third St. They may have gotten more of a "lively and active downtown" than they could have imagined, as their play opened and ran the week of Geneva's annual Swedish Days festival.

"We had pretty good attendance, especially for our first week," Manca said.

Upcoming performances of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will take place today through Monday, July 5, at 228 S. Third St. in Geneva, with shows at 7 p.m. each evening, and additional 3 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 and may be bought on line at, or at the door. Only cash or checks will be accepted at the door.

Monday's performance offers $8 pricing for Industry Night, to active and interested performers, tech and crew people, especially those who are interested in auditioning for the company's next performance. General admission remains $10 per person.

The following week, Storefront Shakespeare will move "Midsummer Night's Dream" to Sky Yoga Studio, 2035 S. Washington St., Suite 147 in Naperville. This is not an empty storefront, but is owned by a friend.

Shows will be at 7 p.m. July 9-11, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 10, only.
The next production by Storefront Shakespeare will be "As You Like It," with a Bollywood twist.
"I hope we can find a (performance) space near an Indian restaurant, and tie it all in," Manca said.

Whether you want to learn more, buy tickets, or audition for the company's next production, visit, or call (630) 677-0983.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Diversity at the Table

By Rachel Baruch Yackley
March 24, 2010

"My father was a wandering Aramean."

Well, not exactly, but my father, who is Jewish, was born in Barcelona, Spain. He always brings engaging personal stories and a true appreciation for the Passover story to the seder. My mother, who is also Jewish, grew up in Peoria, Ill. Both sets of my grandparents were Jewish. The three generations of relatives who gather around our seder table each year come from my mother's side of the family. Some are Jewish, some are not. We are from different countries, different races, different ethnic backgrounds, and from a wide range of religious upbringings.

My sister Lisa's husband, Robert Johnson, was born in Jamaica. While growing up, Robert was exposed to Christianity and then became immersed in Rastafarian religion at a young age.

With an introduction to the Exodus story in Bible class taught in public school in Jamaica, then a more in-depth exploration of the Old Testament through Rastafarian, Robert was no stranger to this story when he first joined our seder table about 25 years ago. As such, it makes sense that he finds meaning during this holiday in "the link with the ancestors, through time and space," he said. "I'm intrigued when I hear Hebrew. There is a whole familiarity. There's a certain level of comfort."

My cousin Carol Gaebler--her father and my maternal grandfather were brothers--grew up in a Jewish home with two Jewish parents. Currently our seder organizer, Carol hosted for many years and has led the seder as well.

"I like most of the Passover story and see it as a metaphor for journey and growth. It took me a long time to decide that it was probably all metaphor and that none of it probably really happened," Carol explained. "I think of it as the holiday that heralds spring. I like the songs and hiding the afikoman (half of a matzah saved for the end of the meal), and watching how the kids do things differently in different years."

Carol and her husband, Robert (Bob), have a full house during Passover, with their visiting grown children and their families, as well as other out-of-town relatives.

"When I hear about families where the aunts and uncles and cousins never see each other, I am grateful for the Passover holiday because that is the only time the whole family is together. It keeps the contact up. I would say also that seder is valuable as a memory bank--I have memories of my mother, of [cousin] Joel, of [sister-in-law] Ruth at the seders. It is a way of invoking their presence, which is kind of bittersweet," Carol said.

With two of her three sons married to non-Jewish spouses, Carol added, "I also welcome the chance to have an interfaith ritual for my two non-Jewish daughters-in -law."

Bob Gaebler wasn't raised in any particular religion, and gravitated toward the Unitarian Church at the young age of 13.

Around this same time, Bob's family sent him to live with a Jewish family in Detroit, where he found it easy to fit in with the family's religious observances.

"By the time I met my wife, I had been exposed to a variety of Jewish influences and felt quite at home with a Jewish wife and Jewish kids," Bob continued. "Carol's mother, Marie Armin, clearly wanted our kids to have a Jewish education, and she was such a sweetie, who could resist?"

Carol and Bob have three sons: David, Ken and Mike. David's wife, Lois Griff, comes from a traditional Jewish background; Ken's wife, Ellen Hanson, who is not Jewish, graciously hosts our rather large seder gathering each year; and Mike's partner, Susan Lowance, was raised Episcopalian.

Mike usually brings a salad to the seder, and this year he and Susan will also be bringing their 11-month-old son, Sam, the newest addition to our table.

Our seders are always filled with moments of fun, meaning, connections, music and more.

While Mike shared that he enjoys relaxing with and seeing family, Susan said she enjoys "watching my partner struggle to explain how he is related to everyone in the room."

As a group, we are always open to enhancing our seder experience, and Mike said he would like to add a matzah-ball-eating-contest. I'm leading this year, so I'll think about how we might incorporate that into our Passover meal, especially if Mike can be talked into making extra matzah balls.

Many of the men in our family love to cook, and my husband, also named Mike, is no exception. Raised in a traditional Catholic home, with eight years of Catholic school under his belt, Mike spends days making a mean batch of horseradish from scratch for the seder each year.

Some of our relatives travel from Canada for the seder. Linda Fried, whose late husband, Joel, was a first cousin of my mother's, makes the trip down each year. She's always been so involved in our family's Jewish gatherings that for years I thought she was the Jewish link.

"I come from an agnostic background," Linda said. "My father was a Quaker who left his religion in the second World War and joined the Navy. My mother's background is less established, but she may have been Unitarian, the only religion we were raised in, for a brief period."

Each year, Linda brings the matzah balls to the seder. I've never done a count, but I'm sure it's at least 75 matzah balls. She also makes a wonderful flourless chocolate cake. "It's based on ground almonds, eggs and chocolate. Every year Lois (one of Carol's daughters-in-law) asks me what's in it. And Joel wouldn't eat it because he said it mimics cake that is leavened," she said.

Linda has two grown children, Judith and Ben, who both live on the West Coast. Ben and his partner, Jennifer, whom Linda considers her daughter-in-law, as they've been together for many years, make it in for seder when they can.

In her musings about our melting pot of a family, Linda added that "Jennifer provides an interesting mix. Her mother is Quebecois and her father is African American, with some Native American mixed in. Her background is Catholic, though I don't know how observant."

Another cousin, Laura Black--her maternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother were sisters--comes to us from Ohio. She has her own unique interfaith mix.

"My religious background is closet Jewish, born and raised Unitarian. I consider myself a Jewish Unitarian," she said.

Eloquently expressing the feelings shared by many of our family members, Laura said: "What I love most about our family's seder celebration is the chance to connect with my larger Chicago family. I love the traditions of our seder celebration. For me, it's both a connection to my Jewish heritage and to the customs celebrated by this larger family, of which I am proud to be a part. I am a more recent participant/celebrant, so it's a learning experience as well. Sometimes what I think I can contribute the best for now is an attitude of appreciation.

"The food is almost secondary; although it's always good, and there are food traditions, like Mike's horseradish. It's just great to be there with folks who respect each other enough to maintain such a treasured connection. Even if I cannot always come to the seder myself every year, I still feel a part of it all."

Laura did not grow up in a Jewish home. Her father, who grew up surrounded by the Pueblo Indian culture of the American Southwest, instilled her with many of those values and sensitivities. But interestingly enough, it's a ceramic seder plate she crafted some years ago that encompasses her religious and spiritual influences.

"What I like to bring to our seder," said Laura, "is a ceramic slab-built seder plate I made a long time ago that has amazingly survived many moves, and that I always keep on display in my dining room. When I made it, I pressed various seashells I'd collected into the clay to make some interesting textures and designs, and to remind me of my reverence for the two most important things in my life: the natural world, and my 'Chicago family' roots."

From a size 24 to a size 4: Geneva woman shares weight loss strategies

By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 5/10/2010

"How'd she do that?" is a question Maureen Bliss hears, now and then, especially when people recognize her, which might not be easy.

Bliss is less than half the woman she used to be. Currently weighing in at 127 lbs., Bliss has lost 156 lbs. since June 2007.

"I'm so proud of myself," said Bliss, after going from a size 24 to a size 4. "I never thought this was possible."

It has taken a lifetime for Bliss to look her best. At 60 years old, this 5 ft. 4 in. woman, can look back and wonder at all that's behind her.

"As a young child, I was thin. We ate healthy, but we always loved our bread," said Bliss, who grew up in the western suburbs and has lived in Geneva for the past 10 years, with her husband Lee and their two dogs.

"In high school, I started gaining weight. I remember being teased about being fat, but it didn't keep me down."

Over the years, Bliss has tried diet pills, which helped for a while, but then she put the weight back on. She even looked into gastric bypass surgery as well as the lap band, but decided neither was for her. Both she and her husband tried Atkins, but she "never found a diet I could live with."

Then one day a neighbor invited her to come along to a Weight Watchers meeting, at the center at 2041 Lincoln Hwy. (Rt. 38), in St. Charles.

"I guess I never learned the tools to be thin. I owe it all to Weight Watchers," she said.

"Anybody who's overweight - the last thing you want to do is step on a scale in front of other people. Once I did that, I went home, cleaned out the pantry, and started (the program) the next day."

Bliss took it week-by-week, pound by pound. Her husband was so supportive. "We've been married 32 years, and he never ever said you need to lose weight." He also dieted alongside her, and lost 65 lbs., himself.

"Since I've done the Weight Watchers, he's gotten so involved in the kitchen. We eat so healthy and enjoy what we eat," Bliss said.

Offering tips for others, Bliss said one of the most important things to do is to always be prepared for anything. Her suggestions include: carry healthy snacks, don't keep "junk food" around the house, and keep a daily record of all you eat.

She and her husband also don't eat out as much as they used to, but when they do, Bliss brings her own bread, spray butter, fat free coffee creamer, and sugar substitute.

"How successful you are is really about choices," she explained. "We never aimlessly eat. It's a great program, and it really taught me how to eat.

"I equate how it works for me like a budget. You have so much to spend each day. When you eat more than allocated, you have to pay the interest, and that's added weight."

Attending the weekly Weight Watchers meetings provided Bliss with an enormous amount of support, with the combination of information shared at each meeting, as well as through the exchanges and friendships formed with other members. Now a lifetime member, Bliss still attends regular meetings, with the same group she's been with throughout her journey.

For the 21 months it took to lose the weight, Bliss said, "the (Weight Watchers) meetings were a priority. I didn't want to go in and weigh myself and see a weight gain; that was a big motivator. The first week I only lost 1.2 lbs., and I was really disappointed. But I talked to myself about how losing that once a week is a lot, in one year. All the women at Weight Watchers helped me too, from the people who weigh you in, to Terra Ayers, the leader who runs the meetings, they're all very, very good. And all the (members) are helpful, sharing stories and tips."

Not only has Bliss taken off all that weight, she's kept it off for over a year.

Although she didn't initially exercise, she now works out 30 minutes to an hour each day with her Wii Fit, or takes walks with her active husband, who has a third degree black belt in Hapkido.

One of the things people do wonder about is, after all that weight loss, what happens to your skin?

Not to worry, says Bliss, as "for the most part, it shrinks with you. I don't have sacks of skin hanging. It hasn't shrunk 100 percent; I do have bat wings under my arms.

"And whatever issues you had when you were fat, like if you were pear shaped before, you'll still be pear shaped after."

Now she can look at the one pair of capri pants, one pair of jeans, and one shirt she kept: "I hold them up and just can't believe how big I was."

Not surprisingly, the weight loss has brought some big changes to Bliss's life, besides multiple wardrobe changes.

"Before, when I was heavy, I never wanted to be in pictures, I didn't want to see old, old friends, and I didn't want to meet new people," she shared. "Now, bring it on!"

Civil War ball, encampment to mark 150th anniversary of Camp Kane

By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 4/28/2010

Enjoy an evening that will transport you all the way back to the 1860s, with a Civil War ball to benefit the Farnsworth Mansion Foundation's efforts to rebuild the Farnsworth Mansion, once an important historic landmark in St. Charles.

On Saturday, May 1, the public is invited to help the Farnsworth Mansion Foundation celebrate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, starting with a real Civil War encampment at 10 a.m., with closing ceremonies at 4 p.m., followed by the Civil War ball at 5 p.m.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the construction of the original Farnsworth Mansion, and it's just a year shy of the 150th anniversary of Camp Kane, the Civil War training camp, which was based in St. Charles.

Kim Malay, president of the Foundation, said this annual event is to "bring out awareness of this (mansion) project, and the importance of it. We also want to get the word out as we need additional volunteers and board members."

While the Civil War was raging, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed; Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain were writing (among many others); liquid soap, coffee percolators and root beer were invented. Chicago got the first water supply tunnel in the U.S. It was undoubtedly a busy time of change.

At the same time, much was happening in St. Charles. Action began on September 18, 1861, when the 8th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, commanded by Col. John Farnsworth, brought 1,164 men into service on the eastern bank of the Fox River, at Camp Kane, in what is known as Langum Park.

Right at this same site, visitors will be able to walk through a realistic Civil War encampment on Saturday, May 1, as re-enactment troops train on battlefield tactics and drills. This is a free event, but donations to the Farnsworth Museum Foundation will be accepted.

Tickets are already on sale for the evening's Civil War ball. Guests are encouraged to dress in 1860s period costumes, which can be homemade or rented at All Dressed Up in Batavia, but Malay said, "You don't have to come in costume. Especially if it's your first year, just come check it out."

The ball will begin with a buffet dinner, followed by a short program.

"If everyone wants a taste of Underground Railroad history, we'll be talking about that, too," said Malay.

Period music and dancing, featuring the Century Air Minstrels, will highlight the evening. Dance lessons will be provided by Terrance Welch, so everyone will be able to join in the Virginia reel, the broom dance, the hat dance, and more.

All ages are welcome to the ball. Students from Wredling Middle School in St. Charles may even be attending, as an extension of their Civil War Week activities at school.

Farnsworth, an attorney and an Illinois congressman, owned the property on the east bank of the Fox River at the time of Camp Kane, and built his mansion in 1860, just west of the river. He died in 1897 and is buried in North Cemetery in St. Charles. The site of his home later became Mount St. Mary's Academy in 1907.

In 1993, the mansion was completely demolished, although the stone facade and the interior trim were salvaged. Not to be forever a footnote in local history, in 2000, the City Council approved the rebuilding of Farnsworth Mansion, on the south end of Langum Park.

When finished, the mansion will house an Underground Railroad and Civil War museum, which will feature the importance of the Civil War in Kane County and nationwide, as well as the local and national history of the Underground Railroad.

Local research shows that St. Charles has possibly more than 20 properties which were either stops along the Underground Railroad, or their first owners were members of the Kane County Anti-Slavery Society.

The Foundation was hoping to break ground on the museum by this year, but "the economy hit hard, and put a damper on our plans," said Malay.

But the delay has come with benefits. In 2009, the Farnsworth Foundation formed a partnership with The African Scientific Research Institute, which is affiliated with the University of Illinois in Chicago.

"We are working with the ASRI. The project is going to be a nationwide thing on the Freedom Trail, what the Underground Railroad is known as," Malay explained.

"The Mansion will definitely be a major focal point and will be a national resource for the project. Farnsworth was so involved in the abolitionist movement that this just seemed like the right thing to do."

Earth Day events in the Fox Valley

By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald Correspondent Published: 4/14/2010

When Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea for Earth Day, first held on April 22, 1970, was he worried about global warming? Did he think about recycling?

According to the Web site, Nelson, who died in 2005, began pushing this idea back in 1962, as a way to get politicians to address environmental issues.

"Forty years ago was the height of American consumerism," said Pam Otto, nature programs manager at the St. Charles Park District. "A lot was done at the expense of the environment."

By 1970, due to unregulated industrial practices, rivers were catching on fire, forests were being leveled, pesticide use was rampant and unchecked, and more. The inaugural Earth Day observance certainly focused on combating pollution and destruction of the environment.

During his years as Senator (1963 - 1981), Nelson said he "continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences in some twenty-five states. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not."

Since Nelson's efforts got the ball rolling, many changes have been enacted: eight months after the first Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created; the Clean Air Act was expanded in 1970 and again in 1977; the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 and 1980; and Congress established Superfund to clean up hazardous waste.

"There was a lot of push; a lot of focus, back then," Otto said. "Earth Day should be every day, but this annual event helps remind people this is our only planet, and we have to take care of it."

People are still concerned, and since the first official Earth Day celebration, grass-roots efforts have blossomed all across the country, in an effort to educate us and get us involved in helping not only our planet, but ourselves as well.

On the 40th annual Earth Day (coincidentally on April 22, once again) there are many events and activities in your communities. Take an opportunity to learn, share ideas, have fun, and whether it's on a local or a global level, help the planet.

(To see list of events held in April 2010, visit

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lawrence Graver

Loved & missed. May his memory be for blessing. זיכרונו לברכה

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Combining Ancient and Modern Medicine Makes for Better Health and More Jobs

Posted on: Thursday, 10 February 2005, 21:00 CST
by Rachel Baruch Yackley

"Not only does this mean better care for all patients, but it opens up a whole new range of occupations for people wanting to work in medicine"

In the medical world, "integrated medicine" is a new term we are starting to hear, more and more.

If you are not yet familiar with integrated medicine, it is the combination of what has been referred to as alternative medicine and western medicine - that with which we are all familiar.

Integrated medicine combines the latest medical advances with ancient healing systems such as acupuncture, ayurveda, reiki, Chinese herbology, and much more.

Not only does this mean better care for all patients, but it opens up a whole new range of occupations for people wanting to work in medicine.

Different types of modalities

A long list of available alternative therapies exist, many of which are now recognized practices that are accepted by conventional medical doctors as valid treatments. Among these are: chiropractic; homeopathy; massage; naturopathy; traditional Chinese medicine; aromatherapy; hydrotherapy; reflexology; shiatsu; yoga; and many more (an extensive list can be found at

This won't hurt a bit

Oriental medicine includes acupuncture, which, when practiced by a trained and licensed acupuncturist, is a safe, highly successful treatment, which really doesn't hurt a bit.

Using an energetic rather than a biochemical model of medicine, ancient Chinese practitioners discovered that energy flows along pathways called meridians, each of which is associated with a physiological system and an internal organ. They believed dis-ease occurs when a deficiency or imbalance of energy exists in the meridians.

Acupuncture points are specific sites along the meridians, and each point effects the vital energy, or qi, which passes through that point. Modern science has actually been able to measure the electrical charge at these points, and has corroborated on the locations of the meridians.

Support from the big guys

Georgiy Lifschits is a licensed acupuncturist at Gathering Valley Center in Skokie - an acupuncture, massage, and Chinese herbs clinic. He has been a practicing acupuncturist for 10 years in the United States, and prior to that, for 15 years in Russia.
Over the past 10 years, Lifschits has experienced a definite increase in clients, which he said is due, in part, to recognition of this therapy by insurance companies. In fact, Lifschits was able to finally join an insurance network about four years ago. This acknowledgment and support from insurance companies has been becoming available for several alternative therapies.

According to the Natural Healers web site, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recognizes acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine as valid treatments for numerous common ailments including: peptic ulcer; constipation; anorexia; urinary tract infections; infertility; premenstrual syndrome; respiratory disorders; disorders of the bones, muscles, joints and nervous system; circulatory disorders such as angina pectoris and arteriosclerosis; emotional and psychological disorders; additions; and much more.

More than half of the states, including Illinois, regulate Oriental medicine and acupuncture. In Illinois, there are formal schooling requirements in order to obtain NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) certification, and in order to practice acupuncture, one must pass the NCCAOM examination. At least 32 states use NCCAOM Certification as the main examination criteria for licensure.

Detailed information on these requirements is available from" Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, 320 W. Washington St., Springfield, IL 62786, (217) 782-8556.

Where there's a will, there's a school

Not surprisingly, the western world is responding to the increased interest in these alternative therapies, and more and more schools are adding coursework and even degrees in several of these modalities. One local school is: Midwest College of Oriental Medicine, (branch campus) 4334 N. Hazel, Chicago, 60613, (773) 975- 1295. This is an ACAOM accredited school that offers a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine.

Another local school is: Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, (branch campus) 3646 N. Broadway, Chicago, 60613, (773) 477-4822. This is also an ACAOM accredited school which offers a Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine; a Diploma of Acupuncture; and a Diploma of Traditional Oriental Medicine.

In addition, several area colleges, including Northwestern University, Rush Medical College, and University of Illinois at Chicago, offer coursework in alternative and complementary medicine, holistic health care, and more.

Many acupuncture schools prefer their applicants have a bachelor's degree prior to applying to their programs. All ACAOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) accredited schools require at least two years of previous undergraduate study.

Believe it or not, financial assistance is available to students who attend colleges accredited by the ACAOM.

Lifschits, who has a Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from University of Wisconsin in Racine, said that at the time he attended the program, it took five years to complete, but now he believes it to be a four year program.

See what's out there

If you think you might be interested in a career in alternative or integrated medicine, take the time to visit what's already out there.

Healing Junction, 2622 N. Halsted St., Chicago, (773) 880-9120, is a great place to start, as it offers integrated health care, combining western and several different complementary therapies.

Kirk Moulton, a licensed acupuncturist at this location, said, "I treat asthma, migraines, infertility, digestive disorders, and so much more. In China, someone with my training is considered a primary care physician."

Moulton is a big proponent of acupuncture as a health care occupation, and said that everything from the affordable education to the availability of state licensure, is helping to make this a growing profession.

- Rachel Baruch Yackley is a Daily Herald Correspondent. If you have an idea for a future health care story or topic, please email:

Source: Daily Herald; Arlington Heights, Ill.

Fresh approach Market offers locally grown fruits, vegetables and dairy

Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date: Friday, June 22 2007

Byline: Rachel Baruch Yackley

Would you like to get your hands on some fresh produce? I mean really fresh, like grown on a farm in your own community. How about pesticide-free, hormone-free fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products?

You can tour the farm, shop at the store, or just chat with other patrons and the folks who run the Heritage Prairie Market and Education Center, which just opened last month in Elburn.

The market is the product of two couples: Bronwyn Weaver and Bob Archibald, and Tim Fuller and Beth Propst.

"We're building our business on three different aspects," said Weaver, who lives on the farm with Archibald, her husband, and their twochildren, Margaret, 12, and Grace, 9. Fuller and Propst run Erehwon Farm just down the road.

"First is our CSA (community-supported agriculture) program. This gives a level of predictability to the farm. We have a limit of 150 families that we are going to be growing for," Weaver said. "People can understand and control where their food comes from. They can eat healthier, enjoy what comes in seasonally, and support local farmers atthe same time.

"Most farmers, and we ourselves, go to the local farmers markets. Part of what we're doing is creating a year-round market. The more people who decide to buy local, the better for the farmers, and the better for us."

Customer and CSA subscriber Liz Westberry said, "I like it (the CSA) because we try stuff I never cooked before. I was driving all overthe place for this before. We were in the CSA for three years through Erehwon Farms."

Turning to another customer who was curious about the CSA produce selection, Westberry explained, "We trade. You can pick broccoli if you like broccoli. If you don't like something, you put it in the trade-in box."

The second aspect of this farm is the retail store, which is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Inside, customers can find fresh fruits and veggies in season, meat and dairy products, snacks, gourmet food items, garden plants, gardening tools, teas, honey, ceramics and other gift items.

"This is kind of a farmers market environment, but open year- round," Weaver said.

On the farm itself, there is a hoop house in which lettuce, spinach and chard are currently growing. Vegetables, herbs and flowers can be found growing both indoors and out.

"If it's not grown here, it's still local. We currently have eightdifferent family farms, as local as we can get, in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan," Weaver said.

For example, mushrooms found in the store come from Burlington, Wis. They are fresh as can be, as they actually come to the Heritage Prairie Market before they hit the Chicago markets.

Beyond the store is a barn that houses four horses, a donkey, several chickens, a couple roosters and two cats, which, according to Margaret Weaver, "eat mice and cat food, but they're lazy right now, andare only eating cat food."

A smaller building on the approximately 6-acre farm is home to about half a dozen Nubian goats, including two kids, which visitors are welcome to pet.

Margaret took me around the barn and showed me where she and her sister milk the goats. Outside, she pointed out where seeds are sprouted and explained what vegetables were growing in different parts of the gardens.

"We've lived here five years. Before that, we lived in Antigua in the Caribbean. I was born in Pennsylvania," said Margaret, who attends the Montessori Academy in Batavia when not working on the farm. "Mymom, Grace and I decide what jobs we're going to do over the summer,and how much we're going to get paid. We're saving up to buy a laptop computer."

The third aspect of this farm's business is education. The public is encouraged to come out and learn.

"We want people to walk around, see our fields, see our animals," Weaver said.

Food preservation classes, and gardening classes for individuals, children and families will be offered here. Cooking classes will takeplace in collaboration with Past Basket in Geneva, which has a custom kitchen at its South Third Street location.

Although the Heritage Prairie Market just opened, there are already plans to expand.

"We've got big plans for what we want to do here," Weaver said. "We are planning on building more greenhouses. We plan to expand the store size."

The surrounding community has been quick to embrace all that the Heritage Prairie Market has to offer. Three high-quality Geneva businesses - Movable Feast catering and retail shop, Inglenook Pantry restaurant, and Niche, a restaurant on Third - use produce supplied by themarket.

For information about the Heritage Prairie Market or the CSA, visit, or call (630) 715-5475.

Better yet, stop by the Heritage Prairie Market, 2N308 Brundige Road, two miles west of Randall Road, just south of Route 38.

Antique Toys on Display (2008)

Band Trio To China (2007)

Healthcare Needs You

St. Charles Singers (from 2006)