His wife Carolyn Rosenberg described her husband best: "The weight of the Jewish world was and is on your shoulders," she said, "and you embraced that."
That's why on Wednesday evening, more than 1,300 people paid tribute to her husband -- Dr. Steven B. Nasatir -- at a special community event in his honor. Lester Crown served as Honorary Event Chair, while Michael H. Zaransky was Event Chair of the gathering.
Nasatir has served as the President of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Chicago for a remarkable four decades and first came to work for JUF almost 50 years ago.
Dignitaries, elected officials, friends, and family spoke at the celebration.
New Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot equated the good work of Nasatir and JUF with her vision for the City of Chicago. "Dr. Nasatir's life and his work personify what it means to give back, to be a public servant, to understand the importance of community, and to reach out to those most in need, she said. "Dr. Nasatir's incredible work on behalf of the Jewish community worldwide really exemplifies the importance of that common thread that runs through all religions -- that we must be our brother's keepers."
Since Nasatir has been President, more than eight billion dollars has been raised to help people in need, to strengthen community connections, and to create Jewish experiences in Chicago, in Israel, and around the world.
One such family helped by Nasatir's work is violinist David Lisker, who was born in Russia and moved to Chicago at age 4 with his family through the assistance of JUF and HIAS Chicago. He and his father, pianist Art Lisker, wowed the crowd with a father/son musical interlude during the gathering.
On July 1, Nasatir will step into the new role of Executive Vice Chairman, where he will devote significant attention to the Fund for the Future, helping to accelerate Jewish Chicago's investment in Next generation outreach and engagement. To date, $52.6 million dollars has been raised for the Fund for the Future, chaired by Bill Silverstein.
"For thousands of years, Jews have been worrying about passing on our Torah, our traditions, and values to the next generation. Despite all the pain, dislocation, change, and loss,
here we are
," Nasatir said. "Does anyone doubt we are an eternal people -- and the inheritors of a rich tradition? It is our responsibility to do all that we can, to work as hard as we can with families, young parents, synagogues, schools, centers, and camps so as to provide outstanding Jewish learning experiences for life within the setting of the greater American society we live in. I'm optimistic we will succeed."
In a palpable display of
l'dor vador --
from generation to generation -- Nasatir's two young granddaughters led the crowd in
Nasatir's tenure has been a testament to the power of the collective responsibility of the Jewish people even though, as he said, individuality over the collective seems to be more en vogue these days. "Jewish history teaches us when the people are divided and weak and without power, great harm can occur. But when we are united and strong, there are no challenges too large; no evil we cannot defeat. There isn't anything the Jewish people can't do if we are together. Together for good. Together forever."
For Nasatir's full remarks,