The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's 112th Annual Meeting Sept. 24, at the Hilton Chicago, featured a keynote address by Ambassador Dennis Ross and recognized David A. Sherman, Glencoe, for his lifetime of service to the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the global Jewish community.
During the morning business meeting, 2012-13 JUF/JF board members were unanimously elected, while outgoing directors of the board were honored for their Jewish community service.
Steve Miller, chair of the JUF Tikkun Olam Volunteer Network (TOV) committee, reported that during the past year, 15,000 volunteers devoted 250,000 hours to Jewish services and organizations through TOV/Federation agencies, representing an in-kind contribution of more than $5.7 million.
"When our neighbor is suffering, Jews do not stand idly by. We roll up our sleeves and help—serving meals, visiting the homebound, cleaning up parks, tutoring disadvantaged children, delivering groceries and much more," Miller said. "Our volunteers are true role models for others in the community."
Two outstanding young Jewish professionals received the 23rd annual Samuel A. Goldsmith award, which is given to individuals under age 40 who have served with distinction in a Chicago-area Jewish communal agency for one to five years. The award includes a cash grant of up to $3,000 to help defray expenses of participating in a continuing education project to advance and enhance the recipients' professional career while enriching his or her Jewish knowledge. Federation President Steven B. Nasatir presented the awards to Emily Briskman and Robyn Gottlieb.
"These outstanding professionals could have successful careers in most any professional arena, and they have chosen to dedicate their lives to serving the Jewish people," Nasatir said.
Emily Briskman: Facilitating Jewish journeys
Briskman, of Chicago, is Director of JUF's Israel Education Center, a program of the Jewish Community Relations Council. She was nominated for her work overseeing JUF's seven major Israel-related programs that reach out to both Jewish and non-Jewish high school and college students and faculty. Briskman initially joined JCRC in 2009 as the program director for Reach Across Illinois Campuses for Israel. She began working for the Hillels of Illinois in 2004 as a Program Associate, and became the Program Director for Hillels Around Chicago in 2006.
"Because of Emily, our city and state are light-years ahead of time of any other Jewish community in developing Israel education and advocacy on campus," Nasatir said.
Accepting the award, Briskman said that she is a "legacy employee" of the Federation. "My great aunt, Lois Payne, began working with the United Jewish Appeal in the 1950s and then served as the Director of our Federation's Women's Division in the 60s and 70s. She was a bold, caring and honest individual and I come to work every day with her in mind."
Briskman often talks about Jewish journeys in her work with Hillel and now with the Department of Campus Affairs and Student Engagement. "Over the years, I have been privileged to be a part of so many students' journeys. There is nothing quite like watching someone embrace their Jewish identity and Israel because of something you did."
Robyn Gottlieb: Making things happen
Gottlieb, also of Chicago, is Director of JUF's Trades, Industries, and Professions Division. Prior to her current position, she served as Assistant Director, overseeing all administrative tasks related to TIP and its annual fundraising dinners, as well as staffing the Financial Services Division and the Vanguard Dinner. She began professionally with JUF in 2006 as a Division Director, supervising TIP's Real Estate & Building Trades Division and its Chicago Jewish Entrepreneurs Forum. Her first position with JUF was as a Campaign Department intern in 2004.
"Robyn has truly distinguished herself through her tremendous ability to engage with donors of all backgrounds and to build and sustain rapport with donors of every age, denomination, profession and level," Nasatir said.
Gottlieb, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, talked about coming from a family with two businesses: "one of diamond manufacturing, started by my grandfather and the other, the 'unofficial' family business of Jewish communal service, started by my grandparents and then continued on by my parents."
"Instead of manufacturing beautiful jewelry, I'm working to build a strong Jewish community, something that I was exposed to from a very young age," she said.
She described the experience that helped her know she was meant to be a Jewish communal professional. "As a young adult, I had the opportunity sit on a board through the Cleveland Federation that was tasked with allocating $50,000 to beneficiary agencies.
"Not only did the process explain the depth and breadth of the services provided by Federation beneficiary agencies, but it taught me the importance of community building, of working with one another to talk about the challenges our community faced, and the needs of its members," Gottlieb said.
Young Leadership Awards
Skip Schrayer, chairman of the JUF/JF Board, then presented the 2012 Davis, Gidwitz & Glasser Young Leadership Award to Sarna Lee Goldenberg and Joshua B. Herz. "If anyone is worried about the future of the Jewish community, you're going to know we're in good hands," Schrayer said. Each year since 1964, the Federation has honored one or more young lay leaders who have demonstrated unusual dedication, commitment and leadership in the Jewish community. Goldenberg and Herz will be recognized at the November General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which will be held in Baltimore.
Sarna Lee Goldenberg: Paying it forward
"Sarna is a natural leader who has taken on significant leadership roles in the community and has successfully brought in new donors to JUF," Schrayer said. "She has been involved with JUF in many significant ways, and is a true role model for this generation."
Goldenberg, of Chicago, is Chair of the JUF Young Women's City Council. She has served on its executive committee since 2009, and last year co-chaired the Council's Spring Event. She recently graduated from the inaugural Jewish Leaders Institute class. She is a trustee of the Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, and has served on a number of other JUF boards and committees.
At the national level, Goldenberg served on the Jewish Federations of North America's National Young Leadership Cabinet from 2006-2012, and was appointed National Ben Gurion Society Vice Chair in 2009.
She is Vice President, Marketing at Performics, a Publicis Groupe company.
Accepting the award, Goldenberg said her favorite part of any JUF event is hearing from those who have received help. "The recipients bring our involvement to life and remind us of what is important.
"I received a lot more than I gave. I wanted to pay it forward with a larger commitment to JUF," she said.
Goldenberg said she considers the award "an invitation…to challenge myself, inspire my peers and community and empower my extended family around the world."
Joshua B. Herz: 'A real pied piper'
Schrayer also presented the YLD Award to Joshua B. Herz, of Highland Park.
"Josh is the type of leader who gets people involved. He is warm and engaging. Over the past 10 years, he has devoted most of his free time to Jewish causes, and he shows no signs of slowing down," Schrayer said. "He's a real pied piper. Everyone wants to be close to Josh."
Herz co-founded and is the current Chair of the TIP Entrepreneurs Forum, which was designed to engage a key group that did not have a place within the existing TIP division structure. He served as Vice-Chair of JUF's Real Estate/Building Trades Dinner. He has participated in YLD Missions and in the 2006 Tel Aviv One Mission/Conference. He recently returned from the Nachshon Mission and next year, will lead the Nachshon Mission to Poland and Germany.
Herz is active in the general JUF Campaign, serving on the 2010 Campaign Cabinet and on the Vanguard Dinner committee. In 2012-13, Herz will serve on the JUF/Federation Board of Directors. He served on the YLD Board and has been YLD Campaign Vice President.
He recently graduated from JUF's inaugural Jewish Leaders Institute class.
Nationally, he is vice-chair of this year's Jewish Theological Seminary event honoring Rahm Emanuel and is a member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America.
He is a Senior Vice President at Associated Agencies, Inc., where he works with Schrayer in their family business. He and Schrayer are cousins.
Accepting the award, Herz—the son of a Holocaust survivor—said one of his first life lessons was Jewish community service when his mother and several other families started a Jewish Reform Day School in Milwaukee with help from that city's Federation.
He said that through Missions, he has seen first-hand how Federation dollars help people at home and overseas. "I drew on these experiences to help explain the importance of JUF," he said. "I am thankful. This community has given me the chance to see up close the critical work that JUF does around the world.
"I have learned that the power of us all working together is far greater than any of us could do on our own," Herz said. "This award is more about what I will do than what I have done."
Investing in the future
The Department of Campus Affairs and Student Engagement reaches 10,000 students each year through Hillels on 17 Illinois college and university campuses. Michael Simon, Director of the Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University, said, "We are developing 21st Century Jewish citizens."
Hillel offers students a sense of belonging, tradition and history. "It's an understanding that will not fade," he said. Hillel offers leadership training through opportunities for students to volunteer and take charge of projects that are important to them.
"Through Hillel, I have expanded my network," said Roxie Zeller, President, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Hillel. "I am more than just a leader, I am a community builder."
John Lowenstein, Vice President for Campus Affairs, said that this past year, Hillels have collaborated with Federation agencies to enrich the lives of Jewish college students. "Today, we seek not only to enrich, but to inspire…Our Hillels are not just the Main Street of Jewish life, we also teach leadership skills."
"Our investment in these students is considerable, and it is worth it," he said. "They will enrich our community, the Jewish people of the world."