The Chicago Jewish Entrepreneurs Forum, a program developed under the auspices of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, serves as an educational, networking, and leadership development group for businesspeople in the area. Members can take advantage of opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs who have achieved local and national renown, and receive expert advice on best practices for sustaining and growing their own companies. In addition, the CJEF’s peer advisory groups provide their fellow members with in-depth counsel from at least half a dozen experienced entrepreneurs in non-competing fields.
The business climate in Chicago is dynamic and globally focused, and the city’s Jewish community has long had a reputation for its philanthropy and efforts to provide solutions to broader social issues. Chicago has a long history as a financial and trading hub, and has emerged as a premier destination for companies focused on information technology, communications, and high-tech medical fields.
In order to become a member of the CJEF, an entrepreneur needs to have at least half a million dollars in annual revenue or five employees. He or she also needs to have owned his or her own company for a minimum of a year. Those who are not themselves business owners need to be on a leadership track within their own family business and to have worked there for at least one year.
In addition, members demonstrate their commitment to community involvement by contributing a minimum gift of $1,250 to the Jewish United Fund’s annual campaign. The JUF uses members’ contributions to build up a strong Jewish life both in the United States and in Israel. The funds also support programs that provide care for people in need in the Jewish and broader communities.
The CJEF is part of the JUF’s Trades, Industries and Professions (TIP) division, which oversees a total of 10 interest groups that cross professional lines. Other professional affiliate groups under the TIP umbrella include those focusing on health and medical professions, real estate, law, and financial services. The TIP division also offers a group for young professionals, as well as the newly created Jewish Professional Women’s Forum.
The TIP Young Professionals group comprises several sections of its own, offering activities, educational sessions, and networking opportunities to younger entrepreneurs, attorneys, medical professionals, and those employed in real estate and financial fields. The Young Entrepreneurs Group offers an entrée to the CJEF for graduate students, emerging businessmen and businesswomen, and individuals with innovative commercial ideas.
TIP’s Financial Services Division offers another example of a dynamic professional organization. Members include approximately 7,000 of the Chicago area’s most noted leaders in that industry. Some 2,500 accountants, representing prominent Chicago-based firms as well as international organizations, maintain membership in the Financial Services Division. The group additionally includes 4,000 knowledgeable professionals working in banking, securities trading, investment and wealth management, and related fields.
The Health and Medical Professions Division of TIP is open to physicians, surgeons, dentists, optometrists, veterinarians, and those in affiliated professions. A number of these professionals are additionally members of the Maimonides Society, which honors the work of the revered medieval Jewish doctor and philosopher. Maimonides Society members give at least $5,000 each year to the JUF annual campaign, and participate in a variety of social, networking, and volunteer events.
Other representative affinity groups within the TIP organizational structure include the Educators Division, open to public and private school teachers, university professors, and yeshiva instructors; the Foods and Hospitality Division, which serves the professional needs of manufacturers, restaurant owners, bakers, and others; and the Marketing and Media, High Tech, and Government Agencies divisions.
There is even a TIP division for individuals employed in nonprofit organizations operating within the Jewish and general communities. Members include professionals working for JUF constituent agencies that serve the needs of children, families, and seniors.
The Trades, Industries and Professions division of the JUF maintains a social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other platforms. The group’s Twitter page offers members information about upcoming events, and about a wide variety of business and philanthropic topics.
The TIP division sponsors several annual dinners and special events that serve to strengthen the JUF annual campaign. These events book nationally known figures, who share their experiences and insights with a cross-section of Chicago leaders.
For example, the most recent Educators and Medical Professionals Divisions dinner featured journalist David Gregory, formerly the host of Meet the Press on NBC. Other divisional fundraising dinners have offered headliners such as General Stan McChrystal, who formerly served as commander of American and international troops in Afghanistan, and David Stern, who spent three decades as commissioner of the National Basketball Association before his retirement in 2014.
For Yosef Meystel, a Chicago-area business leader with a long history of support for JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago causes, the efforts of organizations such as the CJEF and its TIP division exemplify the value of tikkun olam—creating a better world.