Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses the JUF Vanguard Luncheon.
On Monday, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago welcomed 1,400 supporters to its annual Vanguard Luncheon on behalf of the 2014 JUF Annual Campaign.
The Vanguard event, held at the Sheraton Chicago, launched the 2014 Annual Campaign. Among the guests at the luncheon were Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who introduced guest speaker Former Secretary of State and Former U.S. Senator from New York Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Leslie Bluhm and Michael J. Sacks were co-chairs of the Vanguard Luncheon. Bradley Jarol, Jodi A. Newmark, and Tom Rivkin were vice chairs of the event.
"For me personally, it is deeply meaningful to assume a leadership role at JUF, and it's also an incredible responsibility," said Lee Miller, 2014 JUF Annual Campaign chair. "As leaders, I believe that it is our obligation to step up to the plate. That's why I accepted this position, and why I am here today."
The luncheon centered on the theme of protecting, sustaining, and enriching the Jewish community--as JUF has done for 113 years.
Next year, 2014, will mark a critical time for JUF and its agencies to help people in need. Since 2008, the JUF Annual Campaign has been bolstered through J-HELP funding, whereby generous donors have helped the neediest members of the Jewish community weather the recession. Although J-HELP is drawing to a close, in 2014 the community will have an opportunity to double the value and impact of its contribution through the 2014 Match Fund, which will provide a 100 percent match for certain new and increased gifts to the 2014 JUF Annual Campaign.
"The needs are still profound. The challenge before us is to meet these needs. To make that happen, we need to take responsibility..." Rivkin said. "…Giving more will mean more food for hungry children, more emergency assistance for single parents, more job assistance for unemployed workers, more medicine for destitute seniors, and more scholarships for struggling families."
Several people, recipients of JUF-funded services, spoke at the luncheon.
Stricken with Parkinson's Disease. Iris DeSalvo first came to the JUF Uptown Cafe after she lost her job. EZRA, the agency that houses the cafe, linked DeSalvo to its social services and helped her bring her disease under control. "It meant so much to me to be able to come to the Uptown Cafe for a nice meal, and to feel a sense of Jewish community. People really seemed to care about what I was going through," she said.
Iris DeSalvo (right), former Uptown Cafe client, speaks at luncheon, alongside Jodi A. Newmark, one of the Vanguard vice chairs.
Tiger Nigamatzyanov emigrated with his mother to Chicago from Russia in 2005 with just a few hundred dollars in their pocket. Living in Rogers Park at the time, they would receive food packages for the holidays from a JUF funded program, Maot Chitim, and health care through The ARK. Today, Nigamatzyanov has come a long way, starting a construction company with the help of a loan from JUF's Jewish Vocational Service. "JUF was there when we needed it the most. You helped to sustain my family when we came to Chicago and helped me achieve the American dream," he said.
Rotem Yehudai, now 23, first shared her story with the Chicago Jewish community as a teen. Terrorist rocket fire first started striking her Israeli hometown of Sderot, near Gaza, when she was just 9 years old. On her 14th birthday, she and her family came home to find their house destroyed. After serving in the Israeli army, she is now a student at Ben Gurion University. Recently, JUF helped rebuild Yehudai's high school in Sha'ar HaNegev. "The most important feature is that the entire building is reinforced and made of concrete," she told the Vanguard attendees. "I hate to put it this way, but it's like an enormous bomb shelter, it keeps the children protected. You keep our children protected."
And, as Bluhm explained, JUF makes lives better for non-Jews too, through services like foster care, subsidized health care, and job training for people with disabilities. "Jewish tradition does not only demand that Jews take responsibility for one another," she said. "It also demands that we not stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds. Through JUF, we honor that commandment every day."
Before the mayor introduced Clinton, he reiterated what he first said at JUF's 2011Annual Meeting--that he could not do his job as effectively as mayor without the work of JUF. "It's more true today," the mayor said, citing the social welfare challenges the residents of Chicago face, and JUF's role in addressing those challenges.The Vanguard Sponsors were DLA Piper, Greenberg Traurig, and Grosvenor Capital Management; the Title Sponsors were Kirkland & Ellis and The Sidley Austin Foundation; and the Presenting Sponsors were Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, Kovitz Investment Group and Much Shelist. The event was also underwritten in part by a grant from the Manfred & Fern Steinfeld Campaign Events Fund.