As charities around the country gear up for big winter events to celebrate the holiday season, philanthropists and others interested in contributing to charitable missions are facing a crowded calendar. Chicago’s Jewish community offers a wide range of events throughout the year in support of great causes. Whether one wants to attend a fancy banquet or an informal party, Jewish charities across Chicago have wonderful options for those looking to have a good time while supporting a good cause:
1. Hebrew Theological College’s Anniversary Banquet – One of the most longstanding events in Chicago’s Jewish community is the Anniversary Banquet hosted by Hebrew Theological College that has been held every year since 1922. The most recent banquet, which took place at the Westin O’Hare, included an awards ceremony for the College’s Parents of the Year and the winners of the Amudei Chesed Award. The most recent winners, Pnina Levinson and Zehava Krauss, were honored for their exceptional work with the Rabbi William Z. and Eda Bess Novick Bigdei Yisrael clothing drive.
2. Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Humanitarian Awards Dinner – A spring event that routinely draws more than 2,000 attendees from the community, the Humanitarian Awards Dinner has become the biggest fundraising dinner in Chicago. The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center holds the event to honor the work undertaken by local philanthropists, including past award winners such as Chicago Cubs Chairman Thomas S. Ricketts and Chicago Board Options Exchange CEO William Brodsky. The event also features keynote speeches from some of the most prominent men and women in America. Recent speakers have included Dr. Robert Gates, Bob Woodward, and Dr. Henry Kissinger.
3. Keshet’s Annual Rainbow Banquet – Keshet works to provide a variety of crucial services for children and adults with disabilities. One of the biggest ways it supports that mission is through its annual Rainbow Banquet, which celebrated its 27th year in 2015. A spring event, the Rainbow Banquet honors employers such as Athletico Physical Therapy, which earned its Employer of the Year award by working alongside Keshet to provide job training to those with disabilities. The event is generally headlined by a guest speaker. In 2015, the role was filled by award-winning actor Edward Asner.
4. Jean Therapy with the Center for Jewish Genetics – One of the core missions of the Center for Jewish Genetics is educating the community about hereditary cancer. The organization upholds this mission in part through its annual leadership event, Jean Therapy. The most recent event, subtitled “Feel Good in Your Genes,” took the form of a summer street fair held inside the Chicago Conrad Hilton. The event featured a variety of vendors, as well as educators and support groups eager to help people learn about genetic disorders and other related topics.
5. Jewish Federation Annual Meeting – The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) is one of the major supporters of the Jewish community across the greater Chicago region. The Jewish Federation’s annual meeting is a major event for its members. The organization’s next event, on September 17, will kick off with an Annual Business Meeting that includes an awards presentation and director elections. The meeting will be followed by a luncheon that will include guest speaker Deborah Lipstadt and the conferral of the Julius Rosenwald Memorial Award.
6. Jewish Community Center of Chicago’s Annual Benefit – The Jewish Community Center of Chicago (JCC Chicago) reaches 24,000 people across the city every year. The group celebrates its mission at its annual benefit. At a recent benefit titled “Give to Receive,” JCC Chicago feted its supporters at Chicago’s Primitive Gallery in late winter. The event included participation from the venue in the form of profits shared from the sales of the gallery’s artwork.
7. Jewish Child & Family Services’ A Striking Event – Jewish Child & Family Services is a crucial component of the Chicago Jewish community’s safety net. The organization annually hosts A Striking Event, which is one of the most enjoyable charity events in the city. The summer party features kosher BBQ and outdoor bowling. A Striking Event includes raffles, awards, speakers, and a carnival atmosphere. Among the accolades presented are the What’s Possible Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in philanthropic work, and the Irving B. Harris Leadership Award.
8. Celebrate CJE – Initially formed as the Council for Jewish Elderly, CJE SeniorLife supports 19,000 seniors and their families every year. The organization supports its mission in part through Celebrate CJE, which will observe its 10th year in 2015. An autumn banquet featuring music and fun, the October 13 event will include music from Ramsey Lewis and His Electric Band. Celebrate CJE also aims to recognize exceptional contributions to its mission. The 2015 honoree will be the first leader of Celebrate CJE, CJE SeniorLife board member James C. Mills.