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Jewish Community Networking Night Expands Its Reach

Jewish Community Networking Night Expands Its Reach

Jewish professionals and volunteers from organizations across North America are invited to gather virtually for Spertus Institute’s annual Jewish Community Networking Night

This year's special guest is Moth StorySLAM champ Hillary Rea, founder and host of Tell Me A Story.

KOVAL Distillery to receive Innovation Award for their adept addressing of urgent community needs.

For years, Chicago-based Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership has been hosting a free annual event for Jewish community volunteers, consultants, and professionals. Called Jewish Community Networking Night, it has become a favorite evening on Chicago’s community calendar, bringing hundreds of participants together to mingle, build contacts across organizations, enjoy each other’s company, and learn something new to add to their professional tool kits.

The evening has become known for seeding new partnerships, spurring program ideas, matching qualified candidates to key positions, and fostering lasting connections.

This year, Spertus Institute is taking the event online, opening the virtual doors on Monday, September 14 (4:00-5:30 pm central time) to participants from Jewish communities across North America and beyond.

This year's special guest is Moth StorySLAM winner Hillary Rea (above left), the founder/host of Tell Me A Story and the producer/host of the storytelling podcast Rashomon. Rea works with leaders across the county, teaching them to use narrative to communicate and connect. For Networking Night, she will lead an interactive workshop, teaching participants to craft their own five-word life stories as a way to build connections, even online.

Also part of this year’s event, the 2020 Innovation Award will be presented to KOVAL Distillery. KOVAL, the first distillery to open in Chicago since Prohibition, is known for its award-winning, handcrafted, organic, and kosher whiskeys, liqueurs, and spirits. As COVID-19 struck and many on the front lines were without adequate supplies, KOVAL founders Sonat and Robert Birnecker (above right) and their staff made an extraordinary decision and a truly impressive pivot to produce alcohol-based sanitizer for first responders, community organizations, medical institutions, essential businesses, and the general public. In doing so, they saved jobs and lives.

In previous years, Jewish Community Networking Night has included plentiful food, specialty cocktails, and lots of time for participants to catch up with old friends and meet new acquaintances. Although this year’s event is online, fun and festivities will still be part of the agenda.

Ticket holders will receive pre-event tips and tools from presenter Hillary Rea. Program partner Zelda’s Catering will provide a how-to video on making this year’s Spertini, should attendees want to make the event their happy hour from home. Participants will be entered to win raffle prizes, including Speak Up Kits from Hillary Rea, online cooking classes from Zelda’s Executive Chef John Hudak, and cocktail kits from KOVAL.

A post-event Networking Night Directory will foster continued connection, because more than just a celebration, the purpose of the event is to build community and create opportunities for professional growth.

Networking Night is presented under the auspices of Spertus Institute's Center for Jewish Leadership, and these goals—community and opportunity—underpin everything that the center does. Dr. Keren E. Fraiman, Spertus Institute's Dean and Chief Academic Officer, said, "As we develop programs, we consider the multiple demands facing Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders. Our programs address today's challenges and look ahead to the emerging needs our communities will face going forward. Our hope is that what you learn will be resonant and relevant to the work that you do, so much so that you apply it the next day in the office, boardroom, or living room."

Advance reservations are required at The program will take place via Zoom. Login information and instructions will be provided to ticket holders by email 24 hours in advance.

Spertus Institute is grateful to sponsors ACS, Associated Advisors, and Zelda's Catering for their support. Spertus Institute's Center for Jewish Leadership is supported in part by a generous grant from the Crown Family. Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020