Since I was a kid growing up in Wilmette, many of my life experiences were built by JCC Chicago. With every turn I took and every choice I faced; the J was there with a program that fit my needs as I moved along my own personal “Game of Life.” Looking back, I realized my family has been part of the JCC community for three generations.
As a child and teen, I built my Jewish identity and learned valuable life skills through summers at Camp Chi and on a teen trip to Poland and Israel. As a young adult, JCC Chicago provided the support I needed to lay the groundwork to live a meaningful Jewish life. When I first became a parent, the J offered flexible options that fit our families’ needs. And now, as a professional, JCC Chicago continues to offer a warm and welcoming community with many opportunities for leadership and growth.
Spending New Year’s weekend 1983 at Camp Chi’s Perlstein Resort was my first experience with JCC Chicago. That weekend, I told my parents that I wanted to go to summer camp HERE because of the beautiful grounds, the promise of lasting friendships, and the belief that this could be a home away from home. The very next summer, as I was going into 4th grade, I spent four weeks at Camp Chi and never looked back. From 1984 – 1991, I was a Camp Chi camper, culminating as a SIT (Staff in Training).
My Teen Years
My CCP Poland/Israel trip (1992) made me realize I wanted to live a Jewish life. After spending every summer at Camp Chi, I knew going to Israel with JCC Chicago would be a worthwhile experience, so I signed up for CCP, JCC Chicago’s 1992 Poland/Israel trip. Along with a diverse group of teens from all over Chicagoland, I spent the summer travelling with Israelis, spending weekends at their homes, and experiencing all the spiritual, cultural, and historic sites in Israel. Upon returning from Israel, my friend Rebecca Levy and I worked out most afternoons at the fitness center at the Mayer Kaplan JCC, where both of our mothers worked. My mother, Enid Roth, was the Director of Information Services and Rebecca’s mother, Gigi Stein, was a fitness instructor.
Being a Camp Chi counselor allowed me to carry on traditions with campers and learn leadership skills. As I developed into an adult, my Jewish values helped guide my life choices and career path. While dating my now-husband, Dan, and living in Lakeview, we joined the Sidney Shure Kehillah program to get the flavor of the different congregations in the neighborhood. Thanks to that program we eventually got married at Anshe Emet Synagogue.
As a parent living in Chicago, and now Evanston, I needed flexible and high-quality programming for my children. Once again, JCC Chicago was there for me offering swim lessons, all-day summer camp and special family events. It all came full circle when we dropped my oldest child at the bus stop in Skokie to head to Camp Chi for his first summer in 2016. Now, all three of my children will be at Camp Chi in 2021, for their 100th summer, which they are anticipating immensely.
I am so grateful for these experiences, especially now, as I join JCC Chicago as the Chief Advancement Officer, responsible for fundraising, marketing, and development. My career as a non-profit professional is built upon the independence, confidence and leadership skills gained throughout my life. So many of those experiences are connected to the J, and I am excited to have the opportunity to ensure the future of the place that was present in my life every step of the way. And my J journey continues…
Megan joins JCC Chicago from Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders in Real Estate Initiative where she served as Executive Director since 2016. Having worked for both secular and Jewish mission-driven organizations, Megan has deep experience in non-profit and fundraising work, board development, and marketing and outreach campaigns. Megan brings a track record of fundraising success to her position at the J, as well as a solid understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing Chicago’s Jewish community. She is a graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and DePaul University, where she earned a Master’s in Non-profit Management.