Lion Event to honor Wendy C. Abrams, feature Marlee Matlin

Wendy C. Abrams will receive Chicago Kipnis/ Friedland Award 

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Just before we usher in the Jewish new year, hundreds of women in our community-dedicated to making the year ahead a brighter one for so many--will gather. They will hear from two extraordinary women who each in her own way have also brightened the future for countless others.  

The JUF Women's Philanthropy 2023 Lion Event--to be held Thursday, Sept. 22, at 11 a.m. at Chicago's Rockwell on the River--will honor JUF Board member and Women's Board Honorary Director Wendy C. Abrams and feature Oscar-winning actress and activist Marlee Matlin .   

The Lion Event honors philanthropic women who contribute to JUF at the Lion of Judah Level of $5,000 or above. This year marks Lion of Judah's golden anniversary. "The 50th anniversary of Lion of Judah celebrates a commitment to and passion for women's philanthropy and leadership giving," said Linda Schottenstein Fisher, JUF Women's Board President. "It enables like-minded women to engage in tikkun olam--repairing the world."  

The event will feature the presentation of the 2022 Chicago Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award to Abrams, given biennially to a woman who demonstrates an exceptional commitment to the Jewish community. (Read an article about Abrams below) 

The Lion Event will be chaired by Lisa Roth (Women's Board), co-chaired by Jacqueline Lotzof (Young Women's Board), Patti Prince (Women's City Council), and Amy Siegel (Young Women's City Council), and Devra Resnick Shutan is the Women's Board Vice President of the 2023 Campaign. 


A conversation with Wendy C. Abrams 

Executive Editor  

Wendy C. Abrams hopes that her three granddaughters, now toddlers, will one day discover a purpose that drives them to give back. "I hope they understand that giving back is so rewarding," Abrams said. "For me, it has always provided great balance and perspective."  

That purpose for Abrams is using her Jewish values to make the world a better place-giving back through the organized Jewish community in Chicago and beyond.

The commitment to tikkun olam was fostered in Abrams from an early age by parents who were passionate about the Chicago Jewish community. "I grew up in a house where JUF and Federation were part of the daily lexicon," she said. "The value of giving back was instilled in me for as long as I can remember."  

Abrams, a speech pathologist, is a JUF Board member and Honorary Director of the Women's Board; she will receive the 2022 Chicago Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. The honor is given biennially to a woman in each major Jewish community in the United States and Canada who exemplifies the spirit of the Lion of Judah through leadership in her local Jewish community, nationally, and in Israel. Abrams will be honored with the award at the 2023 JUF Women's Philanthropy Lion Event in Chicago, and at the International Lion of Judah Conference--co-chaired by JUF Board member and JUF Women's Board member Deborah Schrayer Karmin--in Phoenix, Ariz. in December. 

"I look at the names of the women that have received this award before me and that list is so impressive," she said. "These are women who are smart and passionate and dedicated, and I am thrilled and honored to be named among them."

In 2002, Abrams received the Federation's Davis, Gidwitz & Glasser Young Leadership Award. She has served as President and Campaign Vice President of the JUF Women's Board and Young Women's Board and has participated in and chaired many JUF committees. For the last two years, Abrams has served as Vice Chair of the JUF Board and as Chair of the Overall Planning and Allocations Committee. She is also a former board member of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park.

Nationally, Abrams served as chair of the Jewish Federations of North America National Women's Philanthropy. As an active member of the JFNA Board, she currently chairs the Emergency Committee.   

"Wendy is a truly deserving recipient of this award," said Jane Cadden Lederman, Women's Board Honorary Director and former JUF Board member. "During her many years of devoted involvement with the Jewish community, she has continually provided wise and discerning leadership both locally and nationally."  

Abrams has traveled on many Jewish community missions around the world. Most recently, she visited the Poland/Ukraine border, alongside fellow JUF Board member David T. Brown, to witness the Ukraine crisis firsthand and to see how JUF funds are helping Ukrainian refugees flee the besieged country.  

She and her husband, Steve, live in Deerfield and have three children and three granddaughters.   

Abrams has another wish for her granddaughters: She hopes they open themselves up to possibility. "When you're given an opportunity, always say yes, even if it's outside your comfort zone," she said. "You never know what path it will lead you on." 

To inspire future generations and to ensure the continuity of our traditions of tzedakah, attendees are invited to bring their daughters, daughters-in-law, and/or granddaughters to this event. By attending the event, you attest to having completed your initial series of COVID-19 vaccinations.   

Register at Questions? Please contact at or 312-357-4862.  


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