Chicago's Jewish community received one last gift on the the eighth and final night of Chanukah when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the JUF to light the menorah during a ceremony co-sponsored by the City of Chicago. (Watch the video.)
JUF President Steven B. Nasatir introduced the mayor. "Chanukah is all about freedom," Nasatir said. "Here we are, thousands of years later, living in this great country, a country that has provided freedom for all Americans, in a wonderful community, in an extraordinary city that's headed by a mayor who exhibits vigor and wisdom every single day."
"I want to thank the Jewish United Fund for your commitment to helping lift others up," Emanuel said. "This holiday should help all of us recommit to helping others who are less fortunate in our city, remember them, not just today, and not just in the holiday season, but yearlong."
JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council sent condolences to the South African consulate in Chicago upon the death of Nelson Mandela (pictured left with Israel President Shimon Peres), 95, the country's first democratically elected president and a global leader on civil rights and social justice.
JCRC addressed a letter to South African Consul General Vuyiswa Tulelo honoring Mandela's legacy.
"We pay tribute to a giant of humanity who embodied true heroism, dignity, and courage," the letter says.
"On behalf of the citizens of Israel we mourn alongside the nations of the world and the people of South Africa, who lost an exceptional leader," Peres said, while Netanyahu remarked, "He was the father of his country, a man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence."
Mandela's relationship with the Jewish people and Israel and his political legacy as it relates to Zionism, was recalled in a recent article by Ben Cohen of JNS.org
"Mandela once wrote that Jews, in his experience, were far more sensitive about race because of their own history," Cohen wrote. "... Mandela’s diagnosis was that Africans should be the sovereigns of their own destiny. Similarly, the founders of Zionism wanted nothing less for the Jews."
JUF’s TOV Volunteer Network led a group of volunteers on a relief mission to Washington, Ill., Wednesday, one of the towns severely damaged by tornados on Nov. 17. Ten volunteers and three JUF staff members spent the day working on the home of a retired couple that had been ruined by the storm.
Volunteer Matt Rissien, youth director at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook and a 2013 Double Chai in the Chi 36 Under 36 honoree, wrote about his experience in a Facebook post. Because the mission occurred during Chanukah, he drew a connection from the Chanukah story and the rebuilding of the Temple.
“This town is down but not out,” Rissien wrote. “They are not destroyed. I am glad to have been able to have been a small part of their rebuilding miracle.”
JUF's Israel Education Center has created an advisory council of 12 distinguished individuals from across the United States and Israel, respresenting a wide range of disciplines and leadership positions. The IEC has worked with each of these individuals over the last 12 years in a varieyt of capactiies. Their expertise, ideas and input will further the IEC's work in inspiring the enxt generation to build as strong and enduring commitment to Israel.
“The commitment of academics and policymakers of this stature is a testament to the quality work and pluralistic approach of the IEC,” said Emily Briskman, director of the IEC.
The council includes Lee Gordon, Amos Guiora, Yossi Klein Halevi, Robert Johnston, Charles Lipson, Uzi Rabi, Martin Raffel, Elie Rekhess, Nachman Shai, Ilan Troen and Einat Wolff. Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, serves as an honorary member.
During the week leading up to Thanksgiving and Chanukah, more than a dozen volunteers participated in the Jewish Community SNAP Challenge, part of the JUF Hunger Awareness Project. Participants pledged to live on just $31.50 worth of food for an entire week – the equivalent of $1.50 per meal – which is the average food budget of a food stamp recipient.
Not all participants were able to complete the challenge, but all emerged with a better understanding of what life is like for millions of Americans living on food stamps.
The Chicago Tribune’s Barbara Brotman tried the SNAP Challenge and described her experience and many challenges. She wrote, “I’m thankful for my good luck, but also appreciative of my brief taste of other people’s misfortune.”
The SNAP Challenge provides participants with a meaningful way to demonstrate their personal commitment to understanding hunger in the United States. Read more about their experiences on the JUF Hunger Awareness Project blog.
Alan Gross, the 64-year-old New Jersey businessman who has been imprisoned in Cuba for the last four years, wrote President Barack Obama on Tuesday asking him to personally intervene in order to secure his release.
Gross was sent to Cuba in late 2009 as a subcontractor for the U.S. State Department to help connect a small Jewish community in Cuba to the Internet. He was arrested as he was leaving the country and is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”
Ron Dermer, a former top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, presented his credentials to President Obama at the White House on Tuesday, officially becoming Israel’s 18th ambassador to the U.S.
A day after the interim deal was reached with Iran, the Israel Air Force conducted a joint multilateral air drill with the United States, Greece and Italy. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shaprio said it was “not tied to any specific events.” Another exercise is planned for May.
IsraAID doctors, nurses and therapists currently bringing relief to the Philippines lit Chanukah candles with Filipino teachers and nurses, American paramedics and German volunteers earlier this week.
Thirty-six rabbis will shave their heads for St. Baldrick’s Foundation to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research, in honor of 8-year-old Sam Sommer, son of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer of Am Shalom in Glencoe. The boy was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2012.
Illinois college students still have time to apply for Onward Israel, a resume-building summer internship experience through JUF’s Israel Education Center and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Four hundred Chicagoland high school students taking Modern Hebrew courses were treated to a concert by contestants of Israel's version of the reality singing competition, "The Voice."
Israeli actress Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman in the forthcoming “Batman vs. Superman” film.
And in the latest JUF News blog posts:
Milt Zimmerman was placed in the care of Jewish Child & Family Services when he was 11 months old; now he serves on its executive board. Susan Schulman tells his story.
Northern Illinois Hillel's Israel intern, Daniel Gethner, explains what we tend to take for granted.
Is it time for mom or dad to move? CJE SeniorLife presents a guide to choosing the right place.
Chris Sierocki Lupella remembers her friend and former co-worker, Bonnie, who recently lost her battle with cancer, and the lesson Chris learned from her.
The mission of JUF News Express is to provide timely information about issues and events in Israel and the wider Jewish world. JUF News Express connects members of the Chicago Jewish community to these issues and mobilizes them to take action. JUF News Express is a product of JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council and JUF News, and is published as a service to the community by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
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