Two weeks before Chanukah, 2,000 young Chicago Jews got some early gifts: the gift of laughter with a performance by comedy duo Key & Peele--and the gift of being part of, and supporting, Chicago's vibrant Jewish community.
It was all part of the ninth annual YLD's Big Event Fundraiser, JUF's premiere fundraising event for young Jewish Chicagoans and the kickoff for YLD's 2017 Annual Campaign.
"It is incredible to be in the company of 2,000 Jewish young adults. We are so proud that YLD's Big Event Fundraiser remains the largest annual gathering of Jewish young adults in the country," YLD President Orly Henry said. "JUF is proud to help you support the things you care about most, like building Jewish communities and fighting hunger."
The fundraiser and comedy show, held Dec. 10 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel, raised more than $200,000; while many have supported YLD and JUF for years, the evening brought in 700 first-time donors.
The show was preceded by a party at Public House sponsored by DineAmic Group, and a VIP reception for the Ben-Gurion Society (BGS) at the Loews Chicago Hotel.
BGS is a national donor recognition society for adults age 25-45 who make a contribution of at least $1,000 to the JUF Annual Campaign. Here in Chicago, there are over 700 BGS members, accounting for almost $3 million of the annual campaign. The event offered an exclusive opportunity to join BGS with double the impact, thanks to the 2017 JUF Match Fund. New gifts of, or increased to, $1,000 were matched, resulting in nine new BGS members.
The show was followed by an after-party, also at the Loews, featuring two hours of open bar, late-night food, and live music.
"I personally have seen JUF's life-changing work here in Chicago and around the world," said 2017 YLD Campaign Chair Katie Berger. "Whatever you care about, JUF is there. JUF really does it all."
YLD's Big Event Fundraiser is an evening for the Jewish young adult community come together to make a big impact, and it's a gateway into the community for young Jewish Chicagoans, according to Michelle Kallick, a past YLD board member, who has attended the fundraiser every year. "The evening is a great example for older generations of Chicago Jews to see how much the younger generations of Jews care about the community," she said.
A Key & Peele Reunion
Then Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele--best known as Key & Peele--treated young Jewish Chicagoans to a rare Key & Peele reunion.
Key & Peele embodied hundreds of provocative characters on their Comedy Central sketch show, titled Key & Peele . On the show--which has won both an Emmy and Peabody and ran from 2012 to 2015--Key & Peele, both themselves biracial, explored complicated subjects like complicated racial identities, racism, and even slavery.
The format of their YLD show was presented as a discussion with the duo, moderated by Annoyance Theater founder and The Second City director Mick Napier. As he asked them about their various TV sketches, however, they rose from their seats and assumed their famous characters, in improvised scenes. These included henpecked husbands, substitute teachers, terrorist-wary airline passengers, and movie-mad valets.
They also discussed their partnership's origins at Chicago's Second City , where they trained in improv. "The friend who introduced us? Jewish," noted Key, "and we fell in comedy love." Key described how many of the characters they now perform were inspired by people they observed in Chicago, including the bickering couple André and Meegan from Wrigleyville. Unlike that pair, they said they had one had just one fight in their years as partners, when they realized that whatever their dispute, "The answer is in each other," said Peele.
That was 13 years ago, they said, and who better to spend their bar mitzvah celebration with than a roomful of Jews? In fact, they told the crowd they had played a bar mitzvah and learned about "party motivators," hired for such events to encourage shy teens to dance. This inspired a Key & Peele sketch about two such entertainers named "Gefilta Fresh & Dr. Dreidel."
But we'll stick with Key & Peele.
A special thank you to YLD's Big Event Fundraiser Corporate Sponsors: Lead Sponsors - Eleven City Diner and Exhibit on Superior. Platinum Sponsors - The Cohn Weisskopf Oxman Group at Morgan Stanley, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc., and The Second City Training Center. Event Sponsors - Dreamtown Realty and HFF. Table Host Program Sponsor - DineAmic group. Supporters - Sheraton Grand and Cloudspotter. Another special thank you to the 150 Table Hosts whose support of this event made it an enormous success.