My work at PolicyMic, including short news articles, opinion essays and listicles, is available at esther.policymic.com.
The following published clips fall into four categories:
- Medill News Service, covering veterans and military families
- Personal and critical essays from Magpie & Whale and elsewhere
- Genetic health and culture features and blogging for JUF News and Oy!Chicago
- Personal and cultural essays for Oy!Chicago
I created the veterans and military families beat for the Urban Affairs section of Medill Reports Chicago.
- Military suicide epidemic compels survivor families to speak out (June 6, 2013)
Of the military families the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors looks after, as many have lost a veteran family member to suicide as to combat. Andy and Julianne Weiss of Naperville are of that number: their son, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Danny Weiss, took his own life in March 2012. The Weiss family is determined to confront the issues of mental health and suicide risk among veterans, especially given that, according to government statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
- Warrior artists explore art therapy for veterans (June 5, 2013)
Veterans and art therapists are working together to formulate new counseling programs using creative arts therapies outside of the VA system. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Albany Park Community Center have just completed the pilot year of their VetCAT program, using a variety of approaches to bring veterans healing.
- Veterans without VA health care eligible for Medicaid through Obamacare (June 5, 2013)
Thousands of uninsured Illinois veterans could start receiving health coverage when the Affordable Care Act provisions expanding Medicaid eligibility kick in on Jan. 1, according to a study released in March. Many factors could be keeping these veterans from using VA health care benefits, including, in some instances, a choice to avoid the VA entirely.
- Healing through art for veterans at Portage Park museum (May 28, 2013)
A new exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum shares and explores the work of veterans who are artists, and why art has been valuable to them.
- Hope for homeless veterans in Garfield Park, Englewood (May 21, 2013)
Hope Manor is a West Side housing facility for homeless and at-risk veterans. While many residents credit the program for turning their lives around, some residents and outsiders are worried about Hope Manor II, a new project that has just broken ground in Englewood, said by some to be an epicenter of the self-destructive behavior these veterans are trying to escape. (Print, audio, photo)
- Stress and resilience in children of deployed parents drive two new studies (May 16, 2013)
How do children of military parents really respond to a parent’s deployment? Two new studies are breaking ground by examining the physiology of how children experience stress when a parent is deployed, which means this is the first time objective evidence, in conjunction with psychological interviews, can teach us about risk factors and resilience.
- Mothers in the military face adjustments during deployments, homecomings (May 15, 2013)
For mothers serving in the military, deployments can shape their relationships with their children and their families long after they’ve come home. Spc. Spring Sullivent, 33, of Elk Grove Village, is one of more than 150,000 single parents serving in the U.S. military. When she left to spend a year in Kuwait with the Illinois Army National Guard, her son was 5 years old.
- VIDEO: Veterans eager for Illinois marriage equality (May 2, 2013)
Same-sex marriage is likely to come to a vote in Illinois as soon as next week. For gay veterans, this could mean spousal recognition that affects federal veterans benefits. Many have set on a larger goal, though: repealing DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
- VA, minority veterans both frustrated by benefits claims backlog (April 25, 2013)
Veterans and administrators both expressed frustrations with the VA at a meeting for minority veterans, each side wishing the department could expand and improve services for aging and vulnerable veterans and their spouses.
- Family of slain Chicago cop sues pawn broker who sold gun (April 24, 2013)
The family of a slain Chicago police officer and Iraq war veteran is suing the Mississippi pawnshop that sold the weapon used to kill him, highlighting the role of out-of-state gun purchases in crimes committed in Chicago.
- Cybersecurity bill agitates privacy advocates on eve of House debate (April 16, 2013)
CISPA is a cyber security bill that allows companies to hand over data collected about online users directly to federal spy agencies. Critics say it’s a major erosion of privacy and civil liberties; supporters say it protects vital U.S. economic interests. Congress will begin debating the bill Wednesday.
Many shorter, more informal pieces may be found in the Nonfiction category, but these are the most polished and meaningful essays on this site.
- My dad, the mensch (JUF News, February 2014)
He was calling to tell me my mother had just died. Ignatz, as she’d named her brain tumor, had finally taken her from us.
- Half of the first year (March 2, 2013)
She died on a Friday, but the date was August 24, and February 24 was a Sunday, and I wasn’t quite sure which day to commemorate. I know I stood in my kitchen, in the morning sunlight, thinking about the ride to the airport, thinking, “Huh, so this is how it feels to be a person whose mother has been dead for six months.”
- Miraculously, down its own street: Why I love dogs (Feb. 28, 2012)
Homecoming is sacred to me, or near enough. The stories that hit me hardest are those about coming home, or not being able to.
I wrote occasional items and features about Jewish genetic health issues for JUF News, the monthly publication of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and Oy!Chicago, a JUF-affiliated blog for young Jewish Chicagoans.
- Major gift to genetics center reinforces importance of carrier screening
JUF News, November 2, 2012
- Kindness and cancer: How you can help
Oy!Chicago, October 4, 2012
- Giant leaps for baby steps
Michelle Gilats with Esther Bergdahl, JUF News, June 28, 2012
- Swimmy and the fight against rare diseases
Oy!Chicago, February 23, 2012
- Beyond the organ recital
Oy!Chicago, November 3, 2011
- More Than Pink and Teal
Oy!Chicago, October 6, 2011
- Ten more ways to help your future family
Oy!Chicago, June 16, 2011
- Genetic Shabbat opens dialogue on family health
JUF News, June 3, 2011
- The Unfunniest Thing in the World
Oy!Chicago, October 7, 2010
- Genetic testing requires more than a saliva sample kit
JUF News, July 1, 2010
- Do your genes belong to you?
Oy!Chicago, April 22, 2010
- Which experts are right? New mammogram guidelines confuse everyone
JUF News, January 2010
- “Genes are personal”: Center celebrates 10 years of education and service
JUF News, December 2009
- Who says I can’t have a mammogram?
Oy!Chicago, November 24, 2009
Oy!Chicago is a blog for young Jewish Chicagoans and is run by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, my employer from 2009 to 2012. The blog as a whole won a first-place prize for outstanding website at the 2012 Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. My complete Oy!Chicago profile is available here.
- People in and of the Book (March 11, 2014)
Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan made me too angry to finish it.
- Late to the Animorphs Party (Nov. 2, 2013)
There are some stories that, no matter how dodgy the premise, I will always inhale.
- 29 and Braces-Free at Last (Oct. 2, 2013)
Hilariously enough, this spring, as soon as I announced that I would be getting braces again, everyone cheered me on.
- Those Blue-and-Yellow Box Store Blues (July 23, 2013)
There’s no better setting for an existential crisis than IKEA. This one starts and ends with a TIDAFORS EDSKEN dark gray sofa.
- It’s Good to Be the Queen (Feb. 21, 2013)
Ah, to be an Esther during Purim.
- How to change everything in one month or less (Jan. 24, 2013)
I may have figured out the shortest route between Fisk Hall and the Evanston Davis Metra station—a dire necessity in Winter Quarter, when your first class starts at 9 a.m. sharp.
- I Made It to Wyoming (Nov. 29, 2013)
I don’t want to depress too many people, but I think holiday travel might be a metaphor for existence—or, at the very least, our 20s.
- My November 50K (Nov. 1, 2013)
How we spend October 31 can say a lot about us as people. Some of us hand out candy from the front porch. Some of us go wild and hit the town in costume. Some of us go about our day business as usual. And some of us stay up until midnight, furiously outlining the 50,000-word novel we’ll start writing when the clock strikes.
- That “Shouldn’t I be in class?” feeling (Aug. 9, 2012)
Most of my friends love autumn; I would mind it less if it didn’t mean sixteen months of winter were close on its heels.
- Those were our times: Just Kids by Patti Smith (July 12, 2012)
How I learned to love the Godmother of Punk
*Also available on Magpie & Whale
- Fifteen miles and a killer soundtrack (June 14, 2012)
I’m not usually the one who posts the stories about inspirational athletic moments.
- The Human Voice at 100 (May 17, 2012)
On celebrating Studs Terkel, the man I want to be when I grow up
- Me and Amtrak: A Buddy Comedy (April 19, 2012)
Two straight days with no shower, no bed and no familiar faces. Don’t dismiss it as a vacation option just yet.
*Home on the Range, JUF News (May 7, 2012)
Passover began just outside of Gallup, New Mexico.
- A History of a Campus Coffee Shop (Jan. 26, 2012)
“No worries,” I said to the girl behind the counter. “I was a coffee shop wench for four years. I understand.”
- Hamlet and the Ukulele (Dec. 1, 2011)
Even the undiscovered country sounds sunny on a ukulele. I’m beginning to suspect that it is actually impossible to be sad with a uke in hand.
- Esther and the airplane (Sept. 9, 2011)
I was standing in front of Bockscar, the plane that dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki. Seventy thousand casualties happened under this plane. And then an impossibly brutal war ended. How do you reconcile that?
- Buy local: Bookstores that aren’t Borders (Aug. 12, 2011)
My hometown has an admirable, almost perverse dedication to shopping local. During my high school years, “Support your local economy” bumper stickers were as ubiquitous as college logos and Dave Matthews Band sprites.
- Keep calm and Potter on (July 15, 2011)
The ones we love never truly leave us: this may be the most fundamental message of the Harry Potter books.
- Is @MayorEmanuel coming back? (May 19, 2011)
Dan Sinker, the Columbia College journalism professor behind the foul, hilarious, gripping Twitter epic, isn’t saying a word one way or another.
- Two months to 27 (May 11, 2011)
That’s definitely out of the mid-twenties, and it’s definitely closer to 30 than I’m used to contemplating.
- Goodnight, sweet nine-and-a-half-fingered prince (Feb. 24, 2011)
The world lost a great Chicagoan last night. I am talking, of course, about @MayorEmanuel, who disappeared into a time vortex just as a bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder rocked the city in real time.
- The notebook maven (Jan. 27, 2011)
I had an hour to kill before meeting up with a friend, so I wandered into the Blick art supply store on State. Trust me, guys: it’s a miracle that I made it out at all.
- Apartment-dwelling for dummies (Dec. 2, 2010)
My favorite hashtag on Twitter is #firstworldproblems.
- Harriet the Spy Rides the Brown Line (Nov. 4, 2010)
I sincerely believe that every day on public transit is an adventure.
- A self-guiding tour of the Mediterranean (Aug. 12, 2010)
We found ourselves in the Jewish Quarter by accident: one tight medieval street led to another, and suddenly we spotted Calle de Samuel Levi—where else could we be?
- Apartment dweller abroad (July 6, 2010)
I am a homebody who loves to travel. By the time you read this, I will have switched modes from nester to nomad, hopping a plane with a dear childhood friend and spending a significant portion of July in Spain, Italy and Israel.
- How much for that dog in my browser window? (May 25, 2010)
I have a problem with my new apartment. Namely, the possibility that I could have a dog there.
- I Went to Middle-Earth and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt (Feb. 25, 2010)
Michael Weingrad makes a number of claims, some insightful, others bewildering, about the Jewish relationship with the fantasy genre. Namely, he claims that while Jews like to consume fantasy, we just don’t write it, and that disappoints him.
- Sleep is for the weak? Count me in! (Jan. 28, 2010)
For some reason I am convinced that the whole world needs constant updates on my sleep schedule.
- At least you have your health (Jan. 5, 2010)
The week that ended in Christmas was going to be productive, if not entirely jolly.