We’ve gone fishin,’ but our tzedekah is hard at work

Summer's tell-tale signs abound. Camps are in full swing. Phone calls get picked up by voicemail more frequently than by a person. Our email inboxes are mostly idle, and "I'm out of the office" seems to be the default automated response.

Despite our hyper-connected, 24/7 world (or 24/6 for the Shabbat observers among us), summer still has a different pace, a more relaxed feel than the rest of the year. Since the rest of Chicago's year can last as long as 10 months, it means we should cherish summer that much more.

After all, "it's summertime and the livin' is easy," or so the song goes.

Thankfully, for what needs to be done for our community today, and the plans that need to be made for its future, the tzedekah provided to JUF earlier in the year, when the temps were lower and the days shorter, is now hard at work.

For example, the only fishing poles one is likely to see around Jewish facilities are those being cast into various Wisconsin lakes and ponds by hundreds of kids at Jewish summer camps.

Speaking of camps, for two decades, JCC Chicago and Keshet have partnered in providing fully inclusive day and overnight camp experiences, this summer welcoming 200 special need campers.

The JCC's Rose and Sidney N. Shure Kehilla Program welcomed over 700 young professionals for its "Shabbat on the Lake" celebration.

CJE SeniorLife is busy, among its other pressing activities, ramping up services to Holocaust survivors, a program expansion made possible by the fabulously successful Defiant Requiem fundraiser held back in March at Chicago Symphony Center.

JCFS, amidst its many services to families and children, and with a particular eye towards the upcoming High Holidays, is working with synagogues to be more inclusive and accommodating of people with special needs.

With summer comes heat, and there's a correlation between rising temperatures and rising violence, so Sinai Health System is undertaking a significant research project to help design more successful violence prevention programs.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership convened its master's and doctoral students from across North America for a week-long Jewish Studies graduate seminar and, with input from dozens of Chicago Jewish organizations, is launching an online adult Jewish learning portal.

In addition to the typical summer upgrades to their facilities and last-minute recruitment efforts, Chicago's Jewish day schools are offering professional development opportunities and are participating in a new assessment program evaluating strategy building, program oversight, finances, management, and board meeting effectiveness.

Dozens of college students are spending the summer as Lewis Summer Interns at JUF and its affiliated agencies, beefing up their resumes, learning about Jewish communal services, and connecting with peers.

Hundreds of other local teens and college students are in Israel through Write On For Israel, Diller Fellows, MASA, and Onward Israel internship programs, to say nothing of hundreds of Birthright Israel participants.

In Springfield and Washington, D.C., JUF advocates are working on priority public policy issues, from urging a budget be passed to urging that they not be balanced on the backs of society's most vulnerable.

In early June, 16 Chicagoans went to our Partnership Together region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish, and Shafir where, in true partnership with an equal number of their Israeli peers, they visited non-profit programs and made difficult allocation decisions with a $900,000 budget.

The Hillels of Illinois-operating on 17 campuses throughout the state-are gearing up for a new crop of freshmen, mapping out the semester's program offerings and, on four of the campuses, preparing to coordinate with JUF's visiting Israeli scholars who will be teaching in a variety of university classrooms.

The Jewish Community Relations Council is active on the interfaith front, pushing back against UNESCO's latest outrages and planning for another group of non-Jewish civic leaders to visit Israel.

Summer is not a slow time for JUF's Young Family program which, as always, can be found in play spaces, synagogues, grocery stores, Jewish preschools and living rooms, welcoming new babies with gifts from our community, from free Jewish books to vouchers helping with the first year of Jewish pre-school.

So, while many of us have gone fishin' or its relaxin' equivalent, and have perhaps not thought much about that JUF pledge we made months ago, our tzedekah is clearly hard at work. And that's no fish tale.

Jay Tcath is executive vice president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.


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