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From REO Speedwagon To Ted Cruz, Rabbi Doug's Cable Show Hosts Them All

 Rabbi Doug Zelden with Mark Hudson of The Hudson Brothers.
Rabbi Doug Zelden with Mark Hudson of The Hudson Brothers.
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Doug Zelden

WEST RIDGE — Call him the People's Rabbi, the Rock and Roll Rabbi or the TV Rabbi, but Doug Zelden simply prefers Rabbi Doug.

For nearly the last 25 years, the West Ridge-based rabbi has hosted a weekly TV show called "Taped With Rabbi Doug." The 30-minute show features the rabbi with guests, from politicians like Ted Cruz to performers like REO Speedwagon.

In Chicago, the show appears on CAN-TV (Ch. 19) on Mondays at 8:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m., in addition to online. This week's show features Jewish a cappella groups from some of the country's top universities.

"The show focuses on things that interest the Jewish community that also interest the general community," the Orthodox rabbi and Northeastern Illinois graduate said.

Rabbi Doug — he prefers to be called that instead of Rabbi Zelden in professional settings — said the nearly quarter century of shows has allowed him to be creative and have a voice in the Jewish community.

Sr. Editor Justin Breen talks about the appeal of Rabbi Doug.

"There are a lot of people in Chicago and suburbs that are not affiliated with anything Jewish, and I end up being their rabbi," he said. "I walk down Michigan Avenue, and people come up to me and say, 'Oh, it's Rabbi Doug!' It helps me get calls for funerals, weddings and baby namings."

The rabbi was originally a guest on the show in 1993 but did such a good job he was asked to co-host. Eventually, he become the lone host with the show changing its name as well.

The rabbi, 56, has been a longtime music lover. He worked as an usher for years at Downtown theaters to meet musical acts. Some, he said, appeared on his show. He also hosts shows at Beatlefest, the annual fest for Beatles fans.

Rabbi Doug doesn't make a dime for the TV work — and he also edits the shows. He dedicates the hours each week for his love of the craft, which started when he appeared on Ida Crown's high school and NEIU's radio stations. He also was a longtime contributor on the Steve and Garry show.

"It's been kind of a cool thing," he said.

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