As the Jewish community celebrates the start of the new Jewish year, Chicago-based Spertus Institute proudly announces attorney Harold D. Israel, a Deerfield resident, as the new Chairman of its Board of Trustees.
Harold is a partner in the Financial Services & Restructuring Practice Group at Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC.
A Spertus Trustee since 2014, he served as Vice Chairman for the past year, working closely with outgoing chairperson Dr. Sharon Silverman and the Spertus leadership team.
About his appointment, Spertus President & CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell said, “Harold is a long-standing community leader and a remarkable Spertus trustee. As Chairman of our Governance Committee, he guided important future-focused work. He is a respected thought leader who gets things done and I’m excited by the opportunity to expand our work together in the coming years.”
Since the early 2000s, Israel has shared his leadership expertise with a range of community organizations. Among them, he is a past president of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association, past Chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Bankruptcy and Reorganization Committee, and past President of Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois. He serves on the Community Outreach and Scholarship Committees of Chicago’s Jewish United Fund and on the Board of Directors of Illini Hillel at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Tributes in honor of Harold Israel’s appointment will support important educational initiatives.
Spertus Director of Marketing & Communications Betsy Gomberg recently spoke with Harold Israel about his Spertus experiences and his thoughts on his new role. This is an excerpt from their conversation.
How did you first get involved with Spertus Institute?
Amazingly, I first visited Spertus as a confirmation student on a synagogue field trip from suburban Detroit! It was one of our stops as we explored institutions important to the Jewish community. Clearly that experience left a mark.
A more substantial experience was at the invitation of board member Bruce Hecktman, who I’d worked with and knew from the board of Temple Beth-El in Northbrook.
He felt that my expertise would be beneficial on the Spertus board and urged me to become involved after my board term at Temple Beth-El was complete.
Why is our work important to you?
As someone who had been serving on my synagogue board, the first thing that struck me was the resources that Spertus Institute provides for lay leaders, both here in Chicago and across North America.
The volunteer leaders of many Jewish nonprofits have stepped into their positions on boards or committees because of their passion for the organization’s mission and for the Jewish community as a whole. But they often come without substantive, targeted training. Spertus is one of very few places that addresses this important need.
I’ve since learned that there is a parallel for many Jewish community professionals. The fact that Spertus offers leadership training designed for those who serve the Jewish community is one of the best parts about Spertus.
What else is on your list of favorite Spertus activities?
I enjoy the Jewish Community Networking Night that Spertus hosts for Chicago’s Jewish community. It brings together lay and professional leaders in a fun and informal way to meet, learn, and trade stories. By creating community connections, it provides a critical community service.
What are your goals for your term as Chair?
Knowing that the organization is planning for its Centennial, I see my term as a time devoted to expanding our reach and building for the future.
As an organization that teaches about leadership, Spertus Institute has often served as a model in terms of strategic planning. To maintain that reputation, I want to make sure we’re looking ahead and taking steps now that focus on our next 100 years.
Some examples include plans for increased alumni involvement (something both alumni and staff members are enthusiastic about) as well as expansion of our important initiatives to combat antisemitism.
If someone was thinking about supporting Spertus financially or getting involved with the board, what would you say to them?
I would say that this is their opportunity to support the preeminent center for applied Jewish learning.
Spertus strengthens Jewish communities by providing vital educational resources that have real-world application. The work Spertus does should be important to anyone who cares about the Jewish future.
Furthermore, by being nondenominational, Spertus provides a kind of Jewish community square where Jews of all kinds — from a wide range of different places — can learn together and bring knowledge and expertise home to their own communities. ■