During a holiday gift drive early in Stacey Shor's career with the Jewish Children's Bureau (JCB), she recalls meeting a young ward of the state asking for a CD player. When Shor told her the item was above her budget and asked her to "tell me something you really want," the girl replied, "what I really want is to live with my parents, but I can't, so I want this CD player."
"What can we give her that can replace that?" Shor recently said in an interview. "Her voice has always…reminded me that people's needs are so personal and will come out in different ways, and our job is to stop and listen."
Shor has been listening to clients' voices ever since, and this summer--30 years after beginning her career at JUF partner agency JCFS Chicago--she is taking the helm as president and CEO.
She first became involved with Jewish Children's Bureau before it merged with JCFS Chicago, working in a residential group home as a childcare worker. She worked in that role for two years, took a short break and moved away, and when she came back in 1998, she took a job leading the volunteer program and has served JCFS Chicago ever since.
"The position appealed to me because there are so many ways to help the community," she said. "I started my career with direct service, and over time I thought I could have better impact if I help people help others."
Shor soon started reporting directly to the then-executive director, Bob Bloom; working with the auxiliary; writing grants; and developing goals with the board.
"I have a can-do spirit," Shor said of her willingness to change her role so dramatically. "Also, I was incredibly well supported. The organization was great to me, lay leaders were great to me, and there was no lack of opportunities to learn."
In her work, which would grow into a position as Chief Development Officer, she watched and helped the agency evolve. She also assisted with merging JCB with JFCS and then JCFS with JVS, HIAS, and Response, helping each agency find its niche within the larger organization.
In the last couple years, Shor has been guiding JCFS through a management redesign, rebranding, and revamp of its program portfolio as the Chief Operating Officer. She also served as project manager during the construction of the Abe and Ida Cooper Center.
Shor succeeds Howard Sitron, who is retiring, in leading the agency. "Without Howard's guidance, mentorship, and leadership by example, I would not be stepping into this role," she said.
Looking forward to her new job, she hopes to "learn from and honor the past of the organization while recognizing that one of the reasons JCFS has become a 160-year organization is we never shied from change and the ability to address emerging needs in new ways."
This includes ensuring that the agency can address wide needs within the same family, enhance programming for people with disabilities, and learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to serve a wider geographic area with telehealth and other resources.
In addition to her ambitious goals at work, Shor, a mother of two, recently finished grad school, and spends her free time reading, listening to podcasts, cooking, and taking long walks with her husband.
Shor will hold a special role as the first female CEO of JCFS as a merged organization. Each predecessor agency has a history of female executive directors, and "I'm following in that tradition of strong female leadership as opposed to breaking ground," she said. "It's unusual to have a female CEO of an agency of this size, but it's important to recognize the women who did this work for so long."