Defining Moments - Spring 2021

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JUNE 24, 2021 | 7-8PM CDT | Virtual Event



JCFS is thrilled to present H. Debra Levin with this year’s Irving B. Harris Leadership Award in recognition of her leadership throughout the community. Debra, Co-Chair at Jenner & Block’s Private Wealth Practice, has been a long-time champion of JCFS. She is a past president of the JCFS Board of Directors and currently serves as an Honorary Director.

JCFS is excited to recognize Marshall J. Hartman with this year’s What’s Possible Award. Marshall and his siblings were placed in foster homes by the JCB (JCFS predecessor) after their mother died. Marshall’s foster family played a crucial role in his life. He dedicated his career to providing indigent defendants fair counsel on a national scale, published legal books and articles, and is a distinguished professor.



For more information, contact Miles Robin at 224.585.8278 or


President & CEO JCFS Chicago


Joy Faith Knapp Children’s Center Esther Knapp Campus 3145 W Pratt Blvd Chicago, IL 60645


855.275.5237 | CONTACT

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Defining Moments print edition comes out once a year, but you can get updates, news and events information in our monthly email version. To subscribe, send your name and email address to or visit! JCFS Chicago is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. We embrace diversity. Our commitment to inclusivity is woven throughout our services, programs and welcoming workplace. Licensed by the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services. Accredited by the Council on Accreditation.

I cannot recall a spring as welcome as this one. As plants begin to emerge, so too do we feel our own impending re-emergence. We have learned so much in this past year. As you’ll read in the pages of this newsletter, these have not been months to slow down. Job loss, grief, the ongoing impacts of isolation and increasing anxiety are just some of the markers of the pandemic. Using a mix of in-person and virtual services, JCFS Chicago has been and will continue to be central to keeping our community strong. Some of these new ways of working are here to stay. Virtual therapy sessions and support groups have allowed access to services for more people in need. Virtual meetings have allowed more collaboration with the added benefit of decreased travel between offices. Even once our offices are fully open, these new tools will allow us to better serve those in need. This month marks the opening of our new Seigle Campus. Counseling, Career Services, Community Services and HIAS Immigration & Citizenship return to the Goldie Bachman Luftig Building, now reconfigured with more welcoming lobbies, up-to-date conference spaces, comfortable offices and a sizable staff lounge. Next door, Response for Teens moves into the new Seigle Building which also includes a large, light-filled conference room and an indoor/outdoor meeting space. Not only will this new campus well-serve Skokie and the surrounding communities, but it serves as a home-base for mental health education and awareness programming that stretches throughout the city and suburbs. Thank you to Harry Seigle and the many, many donors who have made this project possible. We look forward to a summer celebration. Though spring is a time to look forward, I can’t help but look back to everyone who has had a hand in keeping JCFS strong over these difficult months. Certainly, our staff has redoubled their efforts. From those whose in-person work has continued uninterrupted, albeit with new PPE and procedures, to those who had to learn new technology and find ways to ensure human connection in an online world, the question was never whether to provide services but how. Our board and funding partners have been true partners every step along this new path. Together, we are working to ensure that JCFS Chicago emerges from this pandemic even stronger than we entered.

Stacey Shor President & Chief Executive Officer


Initially, Evelyn was skeptical when Early Evelyn described how her mindset has changed since Intervention (EI) was recommended for her son Jennie advised her how to shift her thinking and Samuel. EI are the services and supports that help communicate with her kids. “I do the therapeutic babies and toddlers with developmental delays or exercises I was taught by Jennie (and IPT occupational disabilities learn and grow. Samuel was diagnosed therapist Marci Kreiner), and it’s helped me adapt with a congenital heart defect at birth, which Evelyn as a parent. I have seen so much growth in Lillian explained can lead to a myriad of developmental developmentally, and she is slowly getting on track. I delays and other issues. When he was two months old, am so thankful.” the doctors at Lurie Children’s Hospital signed Samuel Samuel and Lillian have continued working with up for EI and recommended JCFS Chicago Integrated IPT throughout the pandemic, shifting to teletherapy. Pediatric Therapies. Evelyn said the IPT clinicians helped her every step of Evelyn expressed her reluctancy when Samuel the way. “It was a difficult transition, but that pushed first started to work with Jennie Marble, the director me even more because now I am the one doing handsof Integrated Pediatric Therapies (IPT). “My son is so on therapy with my children.” medically complex that I had him in a bubble,” Evelyn Evelyn now describes herself as a huge advocate shared. “But as time went on, I realized what a blessing of therapy and Early Intervention. To parents who may this was. It wasn’t just therapy for him, it was therapy also be reluctant or skeptical about EI, Evelyn says, “It for me.” can only help. As parents we always want what’s best “Birth to three years old is a critical period for for our kids and getting them that help is what is best brain development,” says Jennie. “Starting early for them.” intervention can significantly change a child’s If you are interested in Early Intervention services developmental path and increase their success in both for your child, contact Integrated Pediatric Therapies school and life.” at 847.412.4379 or It’s been two years since Samuel started EI, and now his younger sister Lillian also receives services.


When Elle came to Knapp School & Yeshiva, her teachers described her as shy and withdrawn. She would often arrive late to school and would sleep in class. As a team, the Knapp staff came up with a plan to support Elle to be successful and reach her goals. One of those goals was for her to earn a job. “The best part of my work is watching a student transform after earning a school job,” Carrie Patterson, the work development and employment specialist at Knapp School said. “It gives them a purpose, promotes growth, social skills and affords the chance to make friendships. No matter how big or small, it has always changed their life.” Elle started out by volunteering, playing the ukulele and singing in the lobby for the customers of School Grounds, a coffee that provides jobs to students and coffee to staff and visitors. Through hard work and staff support, Elle earned a permanent job at the coffee cart, then a second job working with the JCFS Chicago IT team restoring laptops. Being part of the school job program required good attendance, behavior and grades. Elle became a very social member of the coffee cart team and enjoyed getting to know staff and students. The many months of remote learning could have sent Elle back into school avoidance. Instead, the opposite happened—she flourished. She has kept her job at the virtual coffee cart, never missing a day, and

has perfect school attendance. Elle is currently looking to participate in dual enrollment, where she would take part-time classes at a city college while attending high school. She is currently researching colleges to attend after graduation, taking virtual tours and working with JVS Career & Employment and school staff to find community-based employment. Last month, Elle was able to secure a paid internship with Midlane Esports, with the help of the JVS youth work program. Working alongside the owner, Elle handles tasks such as, redesigning menus, creating business cards, collaborating with outside organizations to host events, as well as basic house keeping duties around the venue. “While listening to Elle perform virtually at the coffee cart, we got to talking about how much we would all miss the annual Knapp School talent show this year. It’s the staff and students’ favorite day of the school year,” Carrie said. Then Elle had the amazing idea for a virtual talent show! She was not only the originator and a participant but took charge of editing each student’s video clips and created flyers. It was a wonderful collaboration, and Elle was an integral part of the team. “We are all beyond proud of her and what she has accomplished and very grateful she has had the support of the entire agency to help her reach her dreams,” Carrie said.


Improved advocacy is a clear goal of JCFS Chicago’s current three-year strategic plan. As an agency, we participate in several joint advocacy efforts including the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies advocacy committee, Illinois Coalition on Youth, and others. Our staff work to leverage relationships at all levels of government to influence the decisions that ultimately impact the work we do. As one recent example of our efforts, Chief Executive Officer Stacey Shor, board member Linda Kellough and HIAS Immigration & Citizenship director Jessica Schaffer joined six other Jewish communal agencies to present our advocacy priorities to city, state and federal legislators. The following topics were addressed: access to Covid vaccines, postCovid access to telehealth, improved IM+CANS (a comprehensive tool for assessing the needs and strengths of individuals who require mental health treatment in Illinois) process, improved funding for

services for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, support of raising refugee resettlement limits (JCFS was poised to welcome refugees when the doors were effectively closed several years ago). We are in support of President Biden’s plan to increase limits through Fiscal Year 2022. In addition, Jessica Schaffer leads the Chicago Jewish Coalition for Refugees, which convenes synagogues and other Jewish institutions and groups to act in support of refugees and asylum seekers by: engaging dialogue about issues impacting refugees and asylum seekers; connecting to volunteer opportunities to support refugees and asylum seekers locally, and advocating for policies that protect refugees and asylum seekers. “Our ability to advocate effectively for our programs, for our clients and our community will require us to focus and prioritize. I look forward to future opportunities for action, both broad and targeted,” says Stacey Shor.


We are in the home stretch of the development of the Seigle Campus in Skokie! The site includes the renovated Goldie Bachman Luftig building and the soon to be finished Seigle Building, the future home of Response for Teens. With a lead gift, philanthropist and JUF board member Harry J. Seigle launched our the vision of a multi-service hub for counseling, career services, immigration and citizenship and other community supports. Construction began in June of 2020 with the official kick-off of the new Seigle Campus in Skokie on September 2, 2020. Sara Manewith, the Response for Teens Director, shared, “I had the opportunity to visit the building while under construction, and it’s really exciting to see it transforming to a space that will support our programs so well.” The new home for Response for Teens features a teen-friendly, lounge-like lobby, modern space for counseling and community education as well as flexible programming rooms. A safe, welcoming space where teens receive support to deal with life’s challenges, Response for Teens supports young people and their families by providing leadership development, counseling and inclusive, comprehensive sexual health education. “The vision for the Seigle Building would not be possible without the generous support of our amazing community of donors. Members of the Response Advisory Council (RAC), a group of volunteers who provide leadership, policy, and program guidance to Response, have been instrumental in garnering support for the project,” Stacey Shor said. When asked about the RAC’s participation on the project, Nanci Dobkin, RAC Chairperson said, “I am so excited to report that we are almost at 100% RAC engagement in the Seigle Campus project. Members are so thrilled to have a new home for Response for Teens, and we all feel honored to be part of this project and cannot wait to visit our new home!” Over these short months, it has been a delight to watch the transformation from old to new. The buildings are nearly ready to welcome our staff. The final touches like artwork, room numbers and, of course, plaques in honor of the numerous donors who have made this project possible will be completed very soon. We look forward to safely celebrating the opening this summer.


Aliza Gross is a burgeoning young philanthropist, community leader, early childhood educator, and now, a new donor to JCFS Chicago. Born in Highland Park, Illinois, she attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she studied Psychology and Communications. After working in public relations for several years, Aliza realized she was not satisfied with her career and wanted to make a change. Looking to make an impact on her community, it wasn’t long before she made the decision to become a preschool teacher. Growing up, she was a camp counselor for many years, volunteered after school at the local Montessori school, and worked on philanthropic projects with her mom who was on the board at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Over time, working with children turned into a true passion, and becoming a teacher was a natural fit. Aliza’s enthusiasm for philanthropy and volunteering developed at a young age and today she sits on numerous boards. Recently, she joined the Lurie Children Hospital’s Junior Board, where she volunteers every week, and she also gives her time to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Next Generation Board and the Young Women’s City Council at Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. A commitment to both children and philanthropy inspired Aliza to make her first gift to JCFS Chicago. Last month, Aliza made a $50,000 donation to sponsor a full year of service at the Virginia Frank Child Development Center Consultation and Training

Institute. The Institute provides consulting, training, and evaluation to early childhood centers throughout the Chicagoland area and promotes the social and emotional development of young children. As an early childhood teacher, Aliza sees children with a range of social, behavioral, and academic abilities, and she understands the positive impact of early intervention. Many times, the key to a child’s success is simply the extra attention or support from a trained specialist that might not be available in a general classroom. As such, Aliza believes it’s crucial to provide teachers and intervention specialists with the resources and training necessary to deliver these additional services, particularly in underserved communities. Moving forward, Aliza plans on being a hands-on, involved donor, meeting with the program’s executive leaders, interacting directly with the children receiving services, and supporting the various milestones and goals the Institute strives to achieve. As a dedicated volunteer and passionate philanthropist, Aliza is setting an example for the next generation of leaders in our community. She believes it’s imperative that her generation and future generations find ways to connect to the community, understand the needs of those who are less fortunate, and take action to better their lives. Her advice to young professionals who are looking to make a meaningful impact in their community is to find organizations with missions that align with their personal passions and values. Working alongside like-minded people who care about others is a really grounding experience, and for those who are graduating college and starting their careers, it can be an excellent social outlet as well. Overall, when it comes to philanthropy, Aliza believes it’s important to lead by example. As she always says, “If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?” Through her career and volunteer work, Aliza’s commitment to children and philanthropy work in harmony to fulfill her life.

“If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?”


At any time, you can make a meaningful donation to JCFS Chicago either online at or through the mail. Your tax-deductible contribution brings the gift of health, hope, and better lives to thousands in our community who need it most. Once again, this year, thanks to a challenge grant from an anonymous donor, all new and increased donations will be matched, doubling the impact you can have.


Log into AmazonSmile, choose JCFS Chicago as your charity, and make a purchase. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to JCFS Chicago. Amazon Prime still applies, and no extra surcharges are applied to your account.


Whether it’s a Happy Birthday, In Honor of, Sympathy, or all-around Mazel Tov, JCFS Chicago has the right Tribute Card for you! Order online at, 24 hours a day!


For many of the families served by JCFS Chicago, tangible basic needs are out of financial reach. Through in-kind donations, JCFS can fill these otherwise unmet needs. Particular items are in higher demand this year due to the pandemic, so please visit or call 773.467.3746 to see which items are need most and how you can purchase them online.


Thinking about selling you car, boat, motorcycle, truck, or another vehicle? Donate it to JCFS Chicago instead! Our Vehicle Donation Program converts your car into funds to support our family of services. Includes free pick-up! Call our dedicated toll-free number, 855.700.JCFS (855.700.5237). | | 773.467.3895


The ongoing stress, fear, grief, isolation and uncertainty created by the pandemic can wear anyone down, but many teens have had an especially tough time coping emotionally. In a recent WebMD poll, researchers found that 46% of 977 parents of teens said their child has shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition since the start of the pandemic. Teen depression during the pandemic is associated with teens’ own fears and uncertainties, as well as high levels of parental stress. Many teens may feel frustrated, anxious and disconnected due to social distancing and missing usual social outlets, like sports, extracurricular activities and hanging out with friends. Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, and angry may be signs they could benefit from more support. They may try to hide their struggles because of fear, shame, or a sense of responsibility to avoid burdening others. Throughout the pandemic JCFS Response for Teens has served the mental health needs of young people through telehealth services, individual, family, and group therapy, and online support groups. “We are committed to educating parents and professionals to listen and respond when young people are in crisis,” says Sara Manewith, director of JCFS Response for Teens. “Our trained therapists and mental health clinicians specialize in working with tweens, teens, and college-age young adults and their families, and really

understand the issues they may be dealing with.” For example, Response for Teens community education manager Lisa Erhlich developed “Living and Loving Your Quaranteenager,” a program designed during the pandemic to help parents and caregivers find balance between empowering young people and supporting them as they adapted to school, socializing, relationships, screen time, boredom, and the family that doesn’t always get it. “For many young people and their families, making a connection with others or talking to a counselor can be a life-changing experience,” Lisa adds.


Response for Teens helped young people receive support through outreach and education in the community. July 1 - December 31, 2020

Qmmunity Qmmunity is JCFS Chicago’s new safe, supportive and social space for our LGBTQIA+ community. Since August, our staff has met virtually on the second Wednesday of every month to eat lunch, get to know each other and talk about topics relevant to the LGBTQIA+ community. “I’m proud of how far this committee has come and grateful for the wonderful folks who have dedicated their time and all their hard work to propel the agency towards an affirming work environment for LGBT+ staff,” shared Carly Gusto, the facilitator of Qmmunity.

Employer Inclusion Video With funder support, we are creating a video to raise awareness about the importance of inclusivity and the benefits of employing people with intellectual/ developmental disabilities. The JCFS Chicago team can help your business get started with a formal program for attracting, hiring, and employing people with disabilities. Call us at 855.275.5237 to explore a partnership.

Grant Update In February, JCFS Chicago received a generous grant from the JUF COVID-19 Action Fund in support of our financial assistance services. This allows JCFS to continue to provide emergency cash grants for housing, food and other necessities to individuals who are directly impacted by the pandemic. We are truly grateful for our partnership and JUF’s continued support.

Career and Employment Services Throughout the pandemic, JVS Career & Employment has remained committed to helping people find meaningful employment, whether they are looking for a new opportunity or experienced job loss due to COVID. Sean and Ilona are examples of two successful JVS clients who found work in 2020. Sean came to our Contracted Employment Services with the goal of becoming more independent. He secured a janitorial position at Elgin Air Traffic Control, where he works on the front lines as an essential

worker, ensuring that door handles and the air traffic console are up to COVID prevention cleanliness standards. “It’s going great,” Sean reports enthusiastically. “JVS has definitely helped me and allowed me to grow and change. I speak up more and get out of my comfort zone.” Ilona recently immigrated to the United States with her family. Our employment specialist helped her enroll in a local training program through a scholarship program for Jewish refugees entering the medical field. Within a few

Back to School There was excitement in the air when the Knapp School & Yeshiva students and staff transitioned back to in-person classes earlier this year. Stephanie Norman, a middle school teacher, shared her experience on the first day back in the building. “From the moment I walked in the doors, I was immediately reminded why I love my school. My colleagues are everything!” She described that Indira Buzaljko, the assistant principal, greeted everyone at the door with treats. “On my way to my classroom I was reunited with so many missed and familiar faces. I even got to ‘meet’ some people for the very first time,even though we’ve been working together all year,” Stephanie said. months, Ilona was offered a fulltime position with benefits — she was so happy she could barely contain herself. Ilona came to JVS without any medical background, but with the support and encouragement of her employment specialist she was transformed into a self-sufficient professional. “Ilona has been a great example of success during the pandemic,” Jeff Blumenfeld, the director of Career Services shared.


The mission of JCFS Chicago is to provide help, healing and caring services infused with Jewish values to strengthen lives in the community.

Joy Faith Knapp Children’s Center Esther Knapp Campus 3145 W Pratt Blvd. Chicago, IL 60645