We were made for this, too

While JUF has responded during difficult times during its 120 years, it is our staff who make it happen each and every day.

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This is what we're made for.

When the coronavirus stay-at-home orders took hold this past spring and many of us found ourselves changing our day-to-day routines to help flatten the curve, our lives were no longer the same.

For some, the virus has been devastating. A loss of a family member and an inability to mourn in a traditional way or say goodbye. A loss of a job or a business, and with that, financial strain or hunger. Feeling isolated and alone. 

For others, the most difficult aspect has been the unknown. How long will this last? How will it impact my children and their plans? Will someone in my family or one of my friends get sick? Will I?

But through it all, there was one thing I did know: This is what we're made for.

Through the decades, JUF and its partner agencies have responded to the Jewish community's biggest crises, challenges, and opportunities. Raising dollars to build the State of Israel and then emergency dollars in its time of need. Rescuing Jews from the far corners of the globe and bringing them to Israel or resettling them here in Chicago. Providing stabilizing funds to our agencies so they could serve those needing our help during the Great Recession. And in recent years, engaging with the next generation and building new community partnerships through innovative programs and ideas. 

Then came the pandemic. And we have risen to that challenge as well. 

While JUF has responded during difficult times during its 120 years, it is our staff who make it happen each and every day. And they are joined in this sacred work by our committed volunteers and dedicated colleagues at our community's agencies, schools, and synagogues.

But what makes our staff tick? What drives them to step up every day, lead on issues, and do their part to build our community and help those in need, especially during these past several months? The answer lies in a set of core values that are embedded in our approach to the work and to each other.

An organization's core values guide behaviors, shape a culture, and define its identity. Our core values, combined with passion and energy, have carried us through this unprecedented time.

We like to talk about three: Own the Outcome. Elevate Relationships. Pull Together. 

Those core values have guided us for years, but during this pandemic, a fourth value became even more evident, one which is a direct result of the other three: Deliver Results.

Since March, I have watched as my colleagues have delivered unbelievable results. They've worked side-by-side with our volunteers, helping in ways they never thought they would. From daily check-ins with constituents, donors, and service recipients, to surveying community organizations in assessing needs. From partnering with local foundations and funders in creating a special COVID Initiative Fund, to providing virtual programs that engage people of all ages. 

It is the JUF way, a culture that puts a premium on thinking strategically, collaborating, trusting one another, and getting things done. 

We deliver results because this is what we're made for. And we do so because we are taught by our Jewish tradition the importance of tikkun olam -repairing the world, chesed- being kind and compassionate, and Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh -all Jews are responsible for one other…and for that matter, the entire community.

Our staff have enormous pride in their work. They deliver results. And I couldn't be prouder to be their colleague. 

Jim Rosenberg is Chief of Staff of the Jewish United Fund of Chicago.


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