The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's 113th Annual Meeting, held Sept. 12 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, featured a keynote address by Ambassador Michael B. Oren and recognized Lawrence E. Glick, of Chicago, for his lifetime of service to the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the global Jewish community. Read more about the afternoon session of the meeting
The morning business meeting kicked off with the unanimous election of the 2013-14 JUF/Federation board, while outgoing directors of the board were honored for their Jewish community service.
Following the election, several prestigious awards were presented to promising leaders.
Davis, Gidwitz and Glasser Young Leadership Awards
Josh D. Rinkov, David T. Brown and Jennifer D. Leemis
Each year since 1964, the Federation honors one or more young lay leaders who have demonstrated unusual dedication, commitment and leadership in the Jewish community. David T. Brown, JUF/Federation Chairman of the Board, presented the 2013 Davis, Gidwitz & Glasser Leadership Award to Jennifer D. Leemis and Josh D. Rinkov. Leemis and Rinkov also will receive recognition at the November General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which this year takes place in Israel.
Jennifer D. Leemis: Finding meaning through leadership
Jennifer D. Leemis, of Chicago, serves as Campaign Chair on the board of the Young Women's City Council of the JUF/Federation as Campaign Chair, and also is a member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet, a program of the Jewish Federations of North America. She previously has served as President of JUF's Young Leadership Division. Watch the video of her speech
"Given Jen's multitude of leadership roles within our community, it comes as no surprise that she was recently featured on YLD and Oy!Chicago's "Double Chai in the Chi" list of 36 under 36 young Jewish movers and shakers in Chicago," Brown said. "Jen is tenaciously committed to making a difference in our community, and for that we cannot thank her enough."
Most recently, Leemis served as a Vice Chair for the Women's Division's Spring Event and as Vice President of the YWC's Winter Campaign Event. Professionally, Leemis is the Senior Manager of Consumer Marketing at Cars.com.
In her remarks, Leemis spoke about coming alive through her volunteer work, and the many avenues she has found to get involved.
"Probably like some of you, I have spent some time in the past just existing; going through the motions of working and daily life," she said. "About 4 or 5 years ago I started to wake up. During my time as Campaign VP and President of YLD, I really started to feel passionate about my involvement with JUF, balancing the demands of work. As I expose others to all that JUF does and the community you can be a part of, I love seeing them find this same feeling of fulfillment. I love that JUF makes my job of inspiring others so easy - there are so many different ways to connect and find meaning."
Josh D. Rinkov: Building a strong Jewish future
Josh D. Rinkov, of Chicago, recently was named Chairman of Metro Chicago Hillel, and also serves on the Jewish Federation Legacies & Endowments Committee. He is the Chicago chair for the National Young Leadership Cabinet, and is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the JUF/Federation's Jewish Leaders Institute. In 2011, Rinkov became the youngest recipient of the Jewish Council for Youth Services Director for Life award.Watch the video of his speech
"Josh is a natural leader whose passion for the Jewish community inspires everyone he meets," Brown said. "He is an avid supporter of JUF, and has successfully helped connect many others to our mission through his hard work, dedication and passion."
Rinkov also participated in two Nachshon Mission trips to Israel, and has helped recruit and engage younger Nachshon participants. Professionally, Rinkov is the Director of Private Client Services at Credit Suisse Securities.
Accepting the award, Rinkov credited his success as a Jewish leader to his mother, whose footsteps he has largely followed.
"As a kid, it was my mom who was president of YLD, it was my mom who participated in the first Wexner class, and it was my mom who later in life was on the board of Ohio State's Hillel," he said. He cited a volunteer project cleaning up a riverbank in New Orleans with college Hillel students as the moment he truly connected with the importance of Hillel's work.
"After that experience, I knew what my mother had known so many years earlier. Hillel is the place for me to be. Simply said, at Hillel we have the opportunity to be the place that students connect with the larger Jewish community. It's our opportunity to be the voice of Israel on campus. Today, Jewish students have a choice. We at Hillel have the ability to make that choice the Jewish choice by providing students with offerings, activities, events and experiences to build a strong Jewish future for our people."
Samuel A. Goldsmith Awards
Emily Muskovitz Sweet, Steven B. Nasatir and Rachel H. Schwartz
Two outstanding young Jewish professionals received the 24th annual Samuel A. Goldsmith Award, given to individuals under age 40 who have served with distinction in a Chicago-area Jewish communal agency. Federation President Dr. Steven B. Nasatir presented the award to Emily Muskovitz Sweet and Rachel H. Schwartz.
Emily Muskovitz Sweet: Changing women's stories
Emily Muskovitz Sweet, of Chicago, is Executive Director of the Jewish Women's Foundation of Chicago.
"Anyone who knows Emily knows that she is a passionate advocate for women," Nasatir said. "Her incredible leadership, drive, and contagious enthusiasm have further strengthened and invigorated a foundation that grew from a small group of committed donors into the largest Jewish Women's Foundation in the country." Watch the video of her speech
During her tenure, Sweet has engaged 73 new women as trustees of the Foundation, and raised close to $1 million in new pledges to the Foundation's endowment. She spearheaded the JUF/Federation's participation in the national Women Moving Millions campaign, a project of the international Women's Funding Network, and recently participated in Leadership Greater Chicago's 2013 fellows program.
Accepting her award, Sweet spoke about the power of stories to inspire people to action. Sharing a bit about her own journey, she discussed growing up in one of the first generations where girls were told they could grow up to be whatever they wanted to be.
"In addition to being blessed with many wonderful opportunities, my story was also shaped by watching girls and women struggle with eating disorders, date abusive partners, shy away from leadership roles, and survive sexual assaults. These were the stories that led me to pursue a career in social justice."
Today, Sweet's work with the Jewish Women's Foundation has a powerful impact in Chicago and around the world, awarding critically needed funds to innovative and deserving projects.
"Together our work is changing stories for thousands of Jewish women and girls," said Sweet. "How incredible to know that our grants are creating new stories, stories about personal empowerment, economic security, and freedom from violence and abuse. What an incredible privilege it has been to be part of something like this."
Rachel H. Schwartz: Instilling Jewish foundations
Rachel H. Schwartz, of Buffalo Grove, is the Early Childhood Program and Social Services Manager at JCC Chicago.
"Rachel is an exceptional, caring individual who strongly advocates for every child she serves through JCC's programs," Nasatir said. "She is highly regarded for her ability to think creatively and ensure that each child gets the best services available. We are extremely grateful for her dedication and proud of all that she has accomplished to support the youngest members of our community." Watch the video of her speech
Schwartz, who began working for the JCC in 2002 as a social worker supporting Early Childhood teachers and children, also has served as the Early Childhood Site Director at the Mayer Kaplan JCC. She has represented the JCC on the JUF/Federation's Jewish Community Emergency Resilience Team (J-CERT) and also serves on the advisory committee of Project Esther, a Jewish adoption support project of Jewish Child & Family Services.
"I truly believe it is a gift to work in the field of Early Childhood Education," Schwartz said. "Every day I get to witness children growing, achieving milestones, taking risks and learning something new. I am able to celebrate this with them, their families and their teachers. To do all this, but in a Jewish context and environment, allows me to naturally focus my work on lessons of Jewish values, instilling the foundation for a lifelong love of Judaism and learning. To be able to do what I love, watch children and families develop and work toward reaching their full potential - whatever that might look like for them - has truly been a blessing."
The business meeting culminated in the launch of the JUF Hunger Awareness Project and a heartfelt call to action on hunger issues in the Chicago community.
"Hunger is an urgent problem," said Skip Schrayer, Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council. "JUF is already doing much to assist the neediest among us. But we can do more. And we need your help."
Several JUF agencies and programs presented updates on their work to alleviate hunger, including The ARK, Maot Chitim, JUF's Uptown Café, and Feed Chicago.
Schrayer reported that approximately 4,900 Jews in Chicago are sustained through daily or weekly JUF-funded food programs. That amounts to over 490,000 meals served, more than 19,000 food bags provided and more than 12,000 grocery cards distributed. And the needs are increasing, he noted: JUF-funded agencies provided food bags and grocery cards to twice as many people in 2012 as in 2008.
"The JUF Hunger Awareness Project was initiated to allow all of us to engage in the fight against a problem affecting every community in America," said Schrayer. "We invite you to get educated, volunteer and participate in a number of programs throughout the year."
Jodi Newmark, Chairman of the JUF's Community Outreach and Engagement Committee, reported that in the past year, more than 15,000 volunteers contributed the equivalent of $5.1 million of volunteer service to the community through JUF's TOV Volunteer Network and Federation agencies.
"Our volunteers should take tremendous pride in the acts of loving kindness they have accomplished, which are priceless," she said.