In many respects, the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) serves as the central pillar of Chicago’s Jewish community. Offering a broad array of programs, it is one of the primary sources of funding for hundreds of organizations in the United States and abroad. JUF funds have contributed to missions that range from providing aid overseas through World ORT to helping community members in need through Jewish Child and Family Services.
So far, 2015 has been an excellent year for JUF, which was able to help more people than ever due to the overwhelming generosity of the Jewish community. Through its various initiatives, including the Centennial Campaign and the 2014 JUF Annual Campaign, JUF has accomplished everything from strengthening Israeli supporters on Illinois college campuses to helping hundreds of thousands of people in need throughout Chicago, Eastern Europe, Russia, and elsewhere.
2015 by the Numbers
Chicago’s Jewish population has always been eager to help others, which was evidenced by the incredible fundraising totals that JUF achieved in 2015. The organization allocated $202.71 million during fiscal year 2015, the majority of which was dispersed to global charities through its Donor Advised Funds and other partnering organizations. The 2014 Annual Campaign alone brought in $82.1 million, which went toward a fundraising effort that resulted in $198 million to support JUF programs.
Of course, the financial success of JUF is only part of the story compared to the lives that the organization was able to change for the better. In Chicago alone, JUF funded over half-a-million meals for Jews in need. JUF also managed to fund the education of more than 23,000 Israeli students while simultaneously ensuring that more than 70 percent of Jewish day school students in Chicago received financial assistance. In addition to these philanthropic endeavors, JUF oversaw the Chicago Jewish community’s growth, providing free Jewish literature and music to nearly 7,000 new parents and hosting more than 140 events around the city to help instruct the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Solidarity Inside and Outside the Faith
While JUF accomplished great things in Chicago, much of its funding was directed overseas, where the organization’s partners were able to stand in support of Jews and other people in need across the globe. When Israel faced attacks, JUF was quick to respond with emergency funding totaling nearly $10 million. However, the organization also stuck around to help tens of thousands of Israelis in need to improve their lives. JUF also responded with alacrity to conflict in Ukraine, working alongside the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel to provide Jews in the area with supplies and opportunities for making “aliyah” to the homeland.
While it primarily focuses on Jewish issues, JUF has also sought out many ways to stand alongside all people in need. In 2013, the TOV Volunteer Network offered aid to Oklahoma communities recovering from tornadoes and worked with the Jewish Community Relations Council in order to strengthen ties with Chicago’s African-American community. Furthermore, JUF worked with organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and others to provide disaster relief following the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.
Standing Firm Against Anti-Semitism
In addition, JUF has focused considerable attention on anti-Semitism, which has resulted in atrocities such as the murders of Jews in Paris and Copenhagen. In France, JUF provided assistance through a French Terror Relief Fund while simultaneously offering assistance to French Jews who sought aliyah in record numbers. JUF joined Jewish Federations from across the nation in order to respond to these events, an effort that can be seen in the 10,000 new Israeli immigrants.
JUF’s efforts at home included combating anti-Semitism on college campuses, where efforts to boycott Israel required organized resistance. Through its Israel Education Center, JUF supported pro-Israeli students with a wide range of educational and organizational tools. While Northwestern and Loyola Universities’ student governments passed divestment resolutions, JUF had more success at DePaul University and at the state level, where JUF advocates were able to encourage Illinois lawmakers to ban divestment efforts.
JUF Grant Recipients Pay It Forward
While JUF accomplished many things on its own, its reach has been most visible through the millions of dollars in grants awarded to a variety of partnering nonprofits. Its Breakthrough Fund provided $2.3 million in grants to promising initiatives such as the Ready4Work Customized Employment Program and A Wider Bridge Chicago, among other innovative projects seeking to address the needs of all Jewish people. Other programs that received grants include the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, the cornerstone of Jewish social justice efforts in Chicago, and UpStart: Chicago, an R&D incubator and entrepreneurial workshop designed to help foster further innovation. JUF also continued to provide funding to partners it has worked with for decades, ranging from the Jewish Community Center of Chicago to Yeshiva University.
Naturally, JUF would not be able to continue its work without the support of the wider Jewish community, and it welcomes donations of all sizes. Individuals interested in contributing to the multifaceted mission of JUF can visit the organization’s website at www.juf.org in order to learn more.