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The Big Idea Is Jewish

Back in September, shortly before I was unwisely pushed out of left my gig managing the online footprint of the National MS Society’s Chicago chapter (seriously, take a look at how outdated their front page is now), I realized something about my own online presence. That is, for the past two years I’ve been trying to do two things at once here: write about Judaism; and write about everything else.

Ever since mid-2010 when I began my Jewish journey, I’ve tried to convey on my blog the meaning I’ve found along the way. Trouble is, for the first five years of my blog I wrote much more widely about my life in Chicago, including opining on civic issues, sometimes even making headlines and helping change happen based on my blog posts.

I’m happy about my older content and it’s all still here and not going anywhere, but things change, including me. I’m still an urbanist, transit lover, and after almost ten years in Chicago (my Windy City decade anniversary arrives early next year) still in love with city life in this specific city. But when you write about your life, you have to be clear why you’re doing it.

I do it because I know the things in which I find meaning have similar meaning for other people. But the things in which we find meaning, the lessons we’re learning, and the challenges we face change over time, as we change. For more than two years, my life has been lived in an increasingly Jewish context. Torn between writing about Judaism and writing about civic issues, a lot of the time I’ve stymied myself into writing nothing on here.

I love that this blog connects with many people, but you can’t connect with everyone and you have to be true to your journey. As I’ve written about Jewish things, I know I’ve gained readers interested in those things and lost readers who missed my past rants on community blogging, City Hall, and the CTA.

That’s OK.

In September, I knew it was finally time to focus. It hit me as I accepted the microphone at Community Media Workshop’s New News conference to ask the same researcher the same question I asked two years before–and got the same answer as before, as well. As I did my best not to give outer voice to the merry-go-round theme that began playing in my head as he and I debated the online news space, I realized I’m a lot more fulfilled by different debates now.

And then (the otherwise kind of overblown) Chicago Ideas Week happened in October. Sitting in the Goodman Theatre and listening to Lilly Ledbetter and Steven Bradberry talk about staying true to your message and to yourself as the only real ways to be true to your community, a light bulb as big as the giant silly prop hanging over the stage (can you say grant money to burn?) went off in my head. Just do it. Just let go off the other stuff and do it.

So I did. I’ve changed the focus of Chicago Carless to be a presentation of my life through the lens of my Jewish journey. Really, there’s no other way that I live my life now, anyway. It’s not much of a lens anymore. I’m a religious Jewish convert and that’s the way it is.

So what does that mean? I have adopted a new tagline, “A Jew-By-Choice Blog About Judaism,” because that’s what my blog is now, and has been for some time. I’ve updated the blog’s navigation to simply and clearly highlights my Jewishly themed content. My pending posts are and will likely remain on exclusively Jewish topics or will take a decidedly Jewish look at secular topics. And I’ve decided to use my Hebrew name as my first name now–Michael Benami–both on this blog and everywhere else I am online.

I regularly get kindly worded email from readers kind enough themselves to read my blog, and for the past two years, a lot of those readers have thanked me for writing about my Jewish journey and helping to inspire theirs. I’m grateful for it. My heart and mind are much more inspired by debates about God than debates about City Hall. When you get right down to it, they’re both never-ending debates.

But in a city like Chicago, there’s a lot better chance of being heard by God.

Categories: LIFE Update

Tagged as:

Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion


4 replies

  1. Heya.

    I found your blog because of your articles on the CTA, but became a regular reader (you’re on my blog roll) because of your articles on Judaism – the articles are always well-written, informative and humorous (when appropriate).

    I think it’s great that you’re focusing your work exclusively on Judaism.

    I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog – I’m an atheist and know very little about religion, nor do I know many folks who would share their personal experiences with faith, so reading this blog gives me some insight – and has gotten me to read other articles as well.

    Good luck!

  2. “It’s kind of fun to create that “persona” only to realize that this IS you, that your life now revolves around THIS (whatever that “this” may be).”

    Rick, exactly, I totally get that! In fact, I plan to eventually legally change my middle name. From Thaddeus–the Catholic saint name that my mother gave me–to Benami. And I am honored to have been a resource and positive influence in your conversion process.

    As far as blogging, Rick and Violet [note to readers–good friends with whom Ryan and I have shared secular and Jewish holidays–we all know each other!], yasher koach! GO for it! I’d love to read your stories. I always say, everyone can blog. The only people who can’t write their stories are the ones who think they can’t. And EVERYONE’s interesting!

    So, get going yet? 🙂

  3. Shalom Michael,

    I love this post! I like that your blog will now be exclusively dealing with Jewish issues and Jewish topics. And I love that you’re going to be using your Hebrew name exclusively when you’re online. I’ve thought of doing the same thing, so I might as well begin now, eh? It’s kind of fun to create that “persona” only to realize that this IS you, that your life now revolves around THIS (whatever that “this” may be).

    I keep toying with the idea of blogging; have been for several years. Ever since I became a Jew, it just seems logical to want to document my ongoing adventures as a Jew, and I’d love to combine that with my love of cities, and love of Chicago specifically. This post has given me renewed motivation to start doing that, so thanks. As I mentioned to you before, your blog was very helpful to me in my conversion process, and that hasn’t changed. Your wisdom does make a difference out there, but you know that already.

    Have you considered changing the name of your blog to reflect its new approach? Just a thought.

    Thank you for your insight and Yasher Koach!


    (aka Rick)

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