Meet Tzuriel Amster
Meet Tzuriel Amster Jewish Person of the Week. Tzuriel grew up in Chicago and attended a Yeshiva school in Baltimore, where he graduated with a Rabbinic Degree in Talmudic Law. He now practices commercial real estate law in Chicago and remains involved in the Jewish community. Tzuriel is passionate about music, travel, and experiencing different cultures, and he hosts a podcast called The Yid and the Shiksa.
“Judaism is still very much a big part of my life, and although I am no longer observant, I love being involved in the Jewish life of Chicago. I am passionate about all shapes and sizes of Judaism and I appreciate how robust the Jewish community is here. Beyond events, Shabbat, and holidays, there is truly a familial feeling to the Jews of Chicago.”Tzuriel Amster
Where did you grow up?
I started growing up in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago and I am currently continuing my growing up journey in the Wicker Park area. Although I love Lakeview, Wicker needs some love.
What did you do Jewish growing up?
I come from a religiously observant family so Judaism was omnipresent in my life from a young age. My beautiful Israeli mother also added some culture and history to my otherwise very Ashkenazi upbringing.
Where did you go to school?
For ninth grade I left Chicago to go to a highly regarded Yeshiva in Baltimore, Ner Israel Rabbinical College, which I attended all through high school and college, graduating with a Rabbinic Degree in Talmudic Law in 2017. After a quick teaching gig at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, Israel, I came back to Chicago (after not having been here for almost a decade) and started working at Starbucks. I used my latte art phase as a time to redirect and plan for my next life-chapter. Thankfully, after leaving “the pulpit”, I was able to parlay my Rabbinic Degree into law school and I graduated from Chicago Kent College of Law in the spring of 2021.
What do you do for work? Tell us about it!
I currently practice commercial real estate law for a small law firm, representing real estate sponsors in Chicago and throughout the states. Interestingly enough, not only is my Talmudic background helpful with the need to be attentive to detail in the legal world, but the legal similarities in the law are insightful as well. It has been a long journey and I enjoy my practice very much.
What do you do Jewish now?
Judaism is still very much a big part of my life, and although I am no longer observant, I love being involved in the Jewish life of Chicago. I am passionate about all shapes and sizes of Judaism and I appreciate how robust the Jewish community is here. Beyond events, Shabbat, and holidays, there is truly a familial feeling to the Jews of Chicago.
What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Lucky for me, besides the Jewish community at large, I am fortunate to have my parents and 7 siblings all living in Chicago, my best friends. Although very different, we all share a deep connection to Judaism and undoubtedly our Shabbat tables are always a highlight for me. At the Amster family Shabbat, we analyze Rhianna’s (poor) Super Bowl performance and then bust out into a melodious Shabbat song, it’s truly special. They make me smile all the time (see photos).
Top 3 things on your Chicago bucket list?
My Chicago Bucket List is simple and easy, and definitely doable over a quick weekend. I’d start with a great restaurant, there are many, but some fresh pasta at Tortello’s is incredible. After a comedy (Laugh Factory) or improv (Second City) show, the live music till the wee hours of the morning at Howl at the Moon is unbeatable. If you’ve never seen the Chicago skyline from above, the John Hancock Signature Lounge doesn’t disappoint.
What is your favorite Jewish Chicago event?
I don’t know if I have a favorite Chicago Jewish event, but rather, the collection of constant opportunities is what makes Chicago special. If I had to pick though, the Purim scene in the city is a rager.
What do you do for fun/to relax?
Besides being Jewish, I geek out on my guitar and I love to travel. Most recently, I got to wear a Kurta Pajama in New Delhi, India, for a friend’s wedding. You can hear the details on my podcast, The Yid and the Shiksa.
What is the best piece of wisdom you’ve received from your (or any) Jewish mother?
Because the Israeli decibel level isn’t exactly the same as the American one, my childhood friends always assumed my mom was angry. In reality, she was probably just using one of her Israeli colloquialisms such as “מי שאוכל לבד, מת לבד”, which translates into “someone who eats alone, dies alone.” Very Israeli.
If you could get a meal with any famous Jewish person (living or not), who would it be and why?
If I had the privilege to have a meal with one Jew throughout history it would be Maimonides. Moses or King David would have way too long of a waiting list, and Maimonides was arguably equally if not more influential to Jewry. Besides his Halachik Code which has become the basis for modern Jewish Law, his philosophical and medical works are unparalleled.