Let’s Meet Jewish Person of the Week – Angela Van Der Pluym
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Schaumburg and moved to Lake Zurich my sophomore year of high school. I was always one of two to three Jews.
Where did you go to school?
I studied Political Science with an emphasis on Public Law at Northern Illinois University.
What do you do for work?
I found out I had severe fibromyalgia two years ago. So, for right now, I have had the blessing of healing myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. During this time, I have done a lot of Social Action and Justice work. I’ve helped and spoken for a lot of issues, the two most important being: The Opioid Crisis Awareness (including alcohol and other drugs) and, most importantly, Antisemitism. Luckily, I have time to decide what I want to do moving forward that will not exasperate my disability. I have aspirations of going back to school and getting my masters in Librarian Sciences so that I can become an archivist because I am fascinated by history.
What did you do Jewish growing up?
My great grandma lived until she was 100 and I was around the age of 12 when she passed away. She was the matriarch of the family and got us together for all Jewish holidays, but never Shabbat. The family celebrations on Jewish holidays passed away with her.
I went to the JCC in Arlington heights for preschool and kindergarten where I fell in love with the traditions as a child. Purim was my favorite because I got to be Ester. When we would make Christmas ornaments during class in elementary school, I would politely demand something blue and white that I could make for Hanukkah. I felt it was my job, even at a young age, to educate people about Jewish culture and the Jewish holiday.
What do you do Jewish now?
I am a loud and proud Ashkenazi Jew, but from the age of 12 until my mid-twenties I didn’t do ANYTHING Jewish. It was not until after getting sober at 27 that I realized how unhappy I was with myself and with G-d. When my great grandma passed away, my grandmother and my mother gave me a Star of David necklace. I wore it for a while until I was made fun of. I put that necklace back on when I got sober and haven’t taken it off since.
Last year, I decided to go to Israel on Birthright to reconnect with my roots and my identity, and I got VERY involved in Jewish life after returning to America. After Birthright, I joined my local synagogue and I go most Fridays for Shabbat services and additionally I joined the Social Justice committee at the congregation. I have also reconnected with family and now attend all together, even second, third, or distant cousins. When I have children, I want them to always have this because tradition and family are very important to me.
Tell us more about your involvement with RAJE
Meeting Jews my age and feeling like I belong is something I never thought would happen.
My friend’s boyfriend was involved with RAJE a few years back and told me about the amazing experience he had. I decided to try it myself. I find it to be meaningful in many different ways. Discovering what it means to be a Jew is very powerful. Open and honest discussions about G-d, our lives, and how they relate to Judaism has helped me gain an entire new perspective on life. Meeting Jews my age and feeling like I belong is something I never thought would happen. I am currently participating in the RAJE seminar and Rabbi Lazarus has invited some fantastic people to come and speak to us. Their stories are so inspirational. I hope to help our community and powerfully impact it like our guest speakers have.
What do you do for fun/to relax?
I am an avid reader. If you hand me a book, I could finish it within the day. When I am not reading, I am tending to my garden and cooking food with the freshly picked vegetables. Also, I have a two-year-old English Bulldog named Kylo, he’s usually attached to my hip. He takes long road trips with me while I’m traveling. He likes to say hi to everyone while we go on long walks.
I love to travel! I try to travel as much as I possibly can. Last year alone I was in: Israel, Mexico, Door County a few times, and North Carolina. I am planning on going back to Israel and Amsterdam next year.
What is your favorite Jewish event in Chicago?
There’s nothing better for the soul than tuning out and unplugging from technology. I enjoy the Shabbat weekends (shabbatons) immensely as I am learning what it means to be a Jew and getting more involved with the Jewish community.
What is your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?
I am a sucker for anywhere that sells REALLY good coffee, food, or desserts. I used to go to The Pick Me Up in Wrigleyville on a nightly basis with a bunch of friends. The best conversations and laughs were always had there. There’s also this great coffee spot called Osmium Coffee Bar in boys town.
Top three things on your Chicago bucket list?
- I have never been to the Hancock building. I want to also go in the tilting glass.
- I have yet to go and eat in Chinatown. I love Chinese food so that is a must.
- I would love to go on a helicopter tour of the city
When the Tribe Gathers…We Shall Eat!