They came together for laughs. They came together for community. They came together for good.
And they came together at one of the largest gatherings of young Jews in the country. This year, close to 1,500 people attended the 11th annual JUF Young Leadership Division's (YLD) Big Event Fundraiser featuring late night talk show host James Corden, held Saturday night, Dec. 15, at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel.
"Whether it's communities around the world in crisis, 500,000 Chicagoans of all faiths who need assistance overcoming life's challenges, or people like you and me who want to connect with our community through engaging programs and experiences -- JUF is there," 2019 YLD Campaign Chair Alex Entratter told the crowd.
The evening kicked off the 2019 JUF Annual Campaign for the next generation of Jewish Chicagoans. New this year, Entratter announced, you can donate to JUF through your Alexa-enabled devices.
Chicago singing group "Deep Dish A Capella" -- featuring YLD Board President Mike Schwartz -- warmed up the guests with a YLD-style rendition of the Bruno Mars hit "Just the Way You Are."
Then, it was on to the funny.
The crowd erupted when Corden came to the stage to perform standup. "I feel like I'm watching JDate live," he said.
"You are the next generation," he told the audience. "You are the people who are going to create the best society and help solve the world's problems. You are our future leaders, scientists, and educators. The world needs every single one of you."
A multi-talented British comedian, Corden is a Broadway, film, and TV star -- host of The Late Late Show with James Corden .
Though not Jewish himself, he expressed a deep affinity for the Jewish people, culture, and values. "I love the Jewish community because it's bred on hard work and it's good at its core," he said.
He first encountered Jewish life while residing in a heavily Jewish neighborhood of London. In Los Angeles, where he now lives, he has a close circle of Jewish friends and colleagues.
He lauded, in particular, the ritual of Shabbat dinner. "It's an incredible thing to make sure you have dinner with your kids on Friday," he said.
Then, he sat down for an interview with Chicago comedian Pat McGann, who quizzed him on rapid-fire Jewish-themed questions. He asked Corden everything from his favorite Jewish phrase ("I'm kvelling!) to his favorite Jewish Broadway star (Ben Platt) to his favorite Jewish food ( not gefilte fish).
Later, they discussed Corden's hugely popular viral "Carpool Karaoke" sketch series, which depicts Corden driving in his car, alongside celebrity musicians in the passenger seat, belting out tunes through the streets of Los Angeles. The idea, he explained, was borne out of a sketch created for a British charity event, in which he harmonized Wham! hits with his first-ever Karaoke passenger, the late British singer George Michael.
Corden broached with the audience that he'd been scheduled to headline last year's YLD's Big Event Fundraiser, but canceled last minute when his wife went into early labor with their third child. "If I hadn't stayed [with her], I would have received an entirely non-Jewish circumcision," he said.
Then, he told the crowd, "If we'd had a boy, we would have named him 'Juf.'"
Thankfully, his wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl and named her Charlotte.
To check out more photos, visit YLD's Facebook page.
A special thank you to YLD's Big Event Fundraiser Lead Sponsor: Eleven City Diner; Platinum Sponsors: Celebrity Cruises, The Cohn Weisskopf Oxman Group at Morgan Stanley, and Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants; Event Sponsor: HFF; Event Supporters: AV Chicago, Sheraton Grand Hotel; and DineAmic Group; and After-After Party Sponsor: Joy District.