Let’s Meet Jewish Person of the Week David Kaplinsky
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. I moved to Chicago in 2006 a year after Hurricane Katrina, and lived in the South Loop with my family. After a year back in New Orleans after college, I moved back to Chicago, this time in Lakeview.
Where did you go to school?
I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I majored in acting.
What do you do Jewish now?
I am currently in the 9-week S&M (Svara + Mishkan) Beit Midrash. Svara is a “traditionally radical” yeshiva where people of all ages learn a part of a Talmud text, going one word at a time to discover some new meaning and some old meaning. I also attend Rose Crown Minyan, a lay-led (no Rabbi officiating) egalitarian minyan that’s hosted at Anshe Emet Synagogue on Shabbat mornings at 9:30am. It’s a great community made up of about 100 people a week including young adults, families, and older folks. There are a lot of kids these days. It spans the ages.
Tell us about Jewish Chicago from your perspective?
It’s a really wonderful and welcoming community on the whole. There are so many options! Often people pick one or two groups they like, but they may have never heard of or been to other Jewish happenings. So there’s a lot of opportunity, but it’s easy to miss out on other things that might appeal to you because of how vast the community and geography of Chicago is.
What did you do Jewish in NOLA?
It was hard in New Orleans, because I wanted to celebrate Shabbat, but it felt like not many people my age were interested in that. I loved being back at my home synagogue, Shir Chadash, but I was one of the only young adults, and it sometimes felt pretty lonely. So a friend of mine and I started NOSH (New Orleans Shabbat Hospitality), a Facebook group to help facilitate and share Shabbat events throughout NOLA. I love Chicago because of all the options for celebrating Shabbat.
What do you do for work?
I’m an actor. For the last four and half years I have been doing plays and musicals of all types in Chicago. I did an episode of Chicago Justice on NBC which was awesome, and have spent the last three summers doing Shakespeare in the park in Evanston. I am also a B’nei Mitzvah tutor on the northside, specifically for Anshe Sholom, Mishkan, Anshe Emet, and unaffiliated families. I also work at Cheesies on Belmont as a cashier.
What is your favorite order from Cheesie’s?
The funny thing is I haven’t eaten half of the sandwiches because they are not kosher. My favorite Cheesie’s KOSHER-ish thing to eat there is the MAC, a mac-and-cheese grilled cheese. Also the Popper or Frenchie without bacon!
What is your favorite Chicago Jewish Event?
Windy City Minyan which happens every third Friday of the month. Great singing and schmoozing in nice intimate spaces. I also loved attending Limmud Chicago’s first ever retreat weekend last year at Beber Camp, learning from and getting to know amazing Jews across the Jewish spectrum and from places across the Midwest and country!
What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
I love to be able to daven (pray) with other friends, sing together, to have a nice Shabbat dinner and hopefully wake up for shul in the morning and take a nice Shabbos nap after in the afternoon. Also great when there are opportunities to do some Jewish learning during Shabbat.
What are the top things that should be on peoples’ Chicago bucket list?
- If you have not gone to the Art Institute, are you even here?
- The Green Mill: they have live music every night of the week, but my favorite is “Soul Jazz Night” on Sunday’s around 11pm. An amazing trio plays, and it’s super classy and chill environment. Thalia Hall for concerts in Pilsen is also awesome. It is the best music venue in Chicago. It’s a beautiful old theatre, large but intimate enough.
- Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S across the street for some amazing Chicago style blues.
- And, of course, Cheesies…
What is it like being on the Windy City Minyan Steering Committee?
It’s a great team! We always have fun working together. I like that it is sort of low commitment, and yet brings such large value to the community. It’s hard to know how many people will come, some months it’s 50 people while other times it’s 20. Since we host the minyan in people’s homes instead of at a synagogue, we are thinking about how to expand, for example using party rooms, because the community is so vibrant and constantly growing.
Tell us about your involvement with Limmud Chicago?
I am the co-chair of Limmud Chicago + Midwest 2019. Limmud Chicago started in 2005. The Limmud organization is a grassroots, international movement to transform Jewish community by connecting Jews of all backgrounds and empowering them to share their Jewish knowledge with each other. Limmud started in the UK, and now is in over 80 communities across the world. My job is to put together learning opportunities taking place throughout Chicagoland and the Midwest, as well as helping to plan our 2019 retreat, which will be a great celebration of Jewish culture and a chance for folks to get out of their Jewish bubbles and connect with people they might not otherwise encounter!
When the tribe gathers…There will be a Party!!!