When JUF is your matchmaker

Getting involved can lead to ‘getting involved’

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Sheri and Steve Greenbaum--pictured with their children, Jake and Jordyn--have made Jewish life a throughline in their relationship since they met.

There are many reasons to engage in the community through JUF. But some donors, volunteers, and leaders have, through JUF, became engaged--to each other. Meet three couples that met through the JUF world.

Rachel & Jonah 

Rachel Silver and Jonah Kravitz, both 20-somethings, met online last year through Keshet, a JUF partner serving people with disabilities and special needs. Their meeting helped Rachel and Jonah feel connected during the isolation of the pandemic lockdown.

A long-time Keshet participant, Jonah attended JCC Chicago's Z Frank Apachi Day Camp and Camp Chi. Meeting a love interest through the organization seemed like the natural next step.

"I was looking for someone to be in a relationship with, and she seemed kinda funny," he said.

Rachel, too, wanted to find a match, and was thrilled her family approved of her choice, embracing Jonah from the start. "My parents are happy that I found someone that they truly trust," she said. "My whole family loves Jonah."

The couple has been together for a year. They enjoy hanging out on the weekends, seeing movies and plays, and just spending time together. 

"I think we are staying together for life," Rachel said. "I don't want anybody except Jonah."

Steve & Sheri 

Steve and Sheri Greenbaum, of Highland Park, have made Judaism a centerpiece of their lives since they first met through the Jewish Federations of North America's National Young Leadership Cabinet in 2008. 

"It wasn't even a 'looking thing' for me," Steve said. "I was engaged in the Jewish community, enjoyed the Cabinet programming, and had an opportunity to take on leadership roles."

Sheri's friend, who had met Steve on a JUF mission, encouraged Sheri to come to the Cabinet retreat that year, even though she was reluctant.

"I came late, walked into a ballroom, and we were immediately introduced," Sheri said. 

Steve said they had a "good connection," and they talked all weekend, sharing meals and sitting by the pool. After eight months of long-distance romance--with Steve in Chicago and Sheri in Detroit-- they decided to get married.

"Cabinet's a six-year program," Steve, the founder, owner, and president of Senior Housing Group, explained. "The third year we met. We went to the fourth year program engaged, we went to the fifth year married, and to the sixth year pregnant."

The Greenbaums focus on Jewish life continues to be a throughline for them. They now have two children, Jordyn, 10, and Jake, 9, who attend Solomon Schechter Day School. They co-chair Schechter's Machar Campaign Committee and Construction Task Force; Steve also serves on the JUF Board of Directors and co-chairs the Community Building and Jewish Continuity Commission.

"One of the phrases we always use is: 'The Jewish traditions are not going to die on our watch,'" Sheri said. "That's the way we live our lives."

Amyra & Ken 

Amyra and Ken Henry met in the summer of 1977 and have been married for 43 years. 

"I studied at Cornell and had very few friends in the Midwest," Amyra, a social worker, said. "I'm a rabbi's daughter--where else would I gravitate? JUF was the best fit. I loved the educational and public-interest programs. I found a place for me."

Ken, an employment lawyer, was very much in the dating market. "I got involved with YLD (Young Leadership Division) because I was interested in meeting Jewish women," he said.

He had seen Amyra's picture in Jewish Chicago magazine. He also knew of her through Temple Beth-El in Lincolnwood, where some of his family attended, and her father was a rabbi. 

Ken asked a mutual friend to introduce them at a tennis event she was chairing. At first, it was "love"--only in the tennis sense. "Not much clicked at the time, but I was persistent," he said. 

Eventually, Ken's patience paid off, and two started dating seriously. When he later proposed a ski trip together, Amyra's father wouldn't let her go without an engagement ring. So, she went to Israel with her mother instead, and Ken went skiing alone. They got engaged just days after returning to Chicago.

The couple, who live in Highland Park, have two children, Oren and Orly, and remain active in JUF and their synagogue. Years later, Orly, following in her parents' footsteps, met her own bashert, Ezra Hilton, through a YLD event.

Leslie Hill Hirschfeld is a freelance writer living in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  

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