Jewish Person of the Week – Ryan Klein

Ryan Klein Jewish Person of the Week with Sara ChiTribe

Let’s meet ChiTribe Jewish Person of the Week, Ryan Klein

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Skokie, so there’s a good chance I met your bubbie at Barnum and Bagel (RIP). My mother and father, from Buenos Aires and Chicago respectively, raised my younger sister Jen and I in a positive, Jewish home.  I was bar mitzvahed, confirmed, and shook many-a lulav at Temple Judea Mizpah (TJM).  A majority of our family-friends originated from the affiliation shared through the temple. Through our association with TJM, I was fortunate to spend 6 amazing summers at OSRUI.

Where did you go to school?

I went to The University of Illinois and graduated with a general communications degree.  Some of my best college memories originated through the friendships I made while in AEPi. We share similar values and it’s definitely something I’ve grown to appreciate as we get older. Being a part of their weddings, watching them progress to the next stage of life playing with their kids, it’s a cool thing to see. 

While on campus, I was also involved with a business fraternity and a dance group (true story!).  I always had a good idea for what I thought I wanted to be in terms of being Jewish, but it wasn’t until I got to college that those ideals were solidified. My mom is a retired educator and my dad has owned a small business for over 45 years, so it was instilled in me from a young age to take an opportunity to learn as much as I can while maximizing value on that return of knowledge.

Ryan Klein Jewish Person of the Week ChiTribe

I met Sara, my awesome wife, through a set up by a mutual friend in the Jewish Community. She was in AEPhi at Illinois, but we missed each other by a semester. Flash forward and we’ve been together for 6 years, married the last 3!  She, without a doubt, makes life exponentially better. We live in the West Loop now where we spend our evenings wrangling our lovable french bulldog while trying keep our DVR capacity under 50%. You’d be surprised how much space Law & Order episodes take up on that thing.

What do you do Jewish now?

A lot of my friends happen to be Jewish, lately it’s been a lot of horrah dances at weddings. It’s nice to be a part of lifecycle events together. One of my close friends is a rabbi at Chicago Sinai and I am involved in Link, their 20’s & 30’s group.

What do you do for work?

I design software as part of a team at Morningstar.  A few years ago, I had a career epiphany and did a design boot-camp. I was about a decade into a sales career that spanned a few different industries and wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I had to relearn everything in my life I thought I already knew. I’m glad I did. 

On the side,  I run a UX (user experience) meet up group,  &UX. After attending one of the group’s earlier meet ups, I was drawn to the group’s mission to promote and evangelize UX. I couldn’t stop talking and was asked to join by one of the founders shortly thereafter.  I’m a natural networker, so most of what I do is cultivate relationships with people and companies who have and/or want a UX prescience to align with us for events. I was taught as a kid that if you have the ability to be involved you have no right to complain. People began to look at the group and me more and more as our community continues to grow.  Our meet up has a healthy turnout.

What else do you do for fun?

As much as time and my body allow, I play soccer 3-4 times a week. I used to play a lot of basketball in my youth (that was the theme of my bar mitzvah) but realized in early high school my talents would be best appreciated playing sports close to ground. I have played soccer my whole life and used to play on a competitive, co-ed team  Now I am at the age where I am a bit older than all of the people that were on the team when I started playing years ago.

I’m always networking. I embody the phrase “I got-a-guy”, and have been able to connect many different people through the unique & meaningful relationships life has afforded me.

Dog Jewish Person of the Week Ryan Klein

Birthright Registration for Winter is open now, tell us about your Birthright trip.

I went in January of 2008.  It was my only time in Israel and have yet to make a return trip. 

I had heard all these stories about what is safe and what isn’t, it is really an in-person experience, you can’t just read about it to learn about Israel. It is still a place that there is more activity that happens than you realize. I remember being at a Burger King and seeing some soldiers leaving with their guns on the table as they ordered at the counter and I was kind of blown away. 

I found it important spiritually, Israel is important to the Jewish People.

Growing up, my Jewish upbringing seemed more devout than the Jewish-Israeli lifestyle. I found it interesting how interwoven judaism was to the everyday life of Israelis. For now, I don’t have plans to go back as I want to keep traveling the world. We went to Tokyo and Shanghai last year and are hoping to explore Italy, Spain, and Hawaii the next few years.

Where did you spend High Holidays

My wife’s family and mine reside in the north suburbs, so you know life is good when the biggest problem I have is deciding where we are breaking bread and for what holiday.

People make fun of it all the time, but I grew up in a house where you went to celebrate holidays and that means you don’t wear jeans.

I grew up in an Argentine-influenced home by way of my mom, so we had some foods that would raise some eyebrows to those on the outside looking in such as eating pickled eggplant and homemade gefilte fish–hot.

My grandmother did the bulk of the cooking before she passed a few years ago. She lived to 99, quite a life. We are lucky to have family traditions carried on and respected by my family, most notably my mom and aunt.

When the tribe gathers…everyone wants their Chase points. I’m kidding, kind of. Also, start your goodbye because the time you get to it you will never leave.

Who do you want to shout-out? 

Jews in Chicago should know Amanda Greene because she is a vibrant spirit helping to grow the young Chicago community. She also was the rabbi for my wedding!

Josh Gibbs

Josh Gibbs