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Fighting Hunger: The ARK's High Holiday Food Drive


Every night, thousands of people in our area go to bed hungry because they cannot afford to buy food. Among them are members of our Jewish community - many who never dreamed that they would one day need The ARK's help just to eat.

Together, we can fight hunger in our community.

The ARK’s Food Pantry Program is a safety net that hundreds of people each month rely on. It provides direct food assistance, vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as essential toiletries such as toilet paper that cannot be purchased using government benefits. But we cannot do this vital work without the support of individual community members.

The ARK’s High Holiday food drive is critical to helping ensure no family in our community goes to bed hungry. It stocks the shelves of our  food pantries in Northbrook and West Rogers Park nearly year-round.

Your participation in our food drive is a simple and direct way to make a real difference in lives. It's easy to help. Simply pick up a shopping bag at a participating congregation or organization, shop for needed items (see our list below if you do not have a bag), and drop the bag off at a participating location.  Please only donate items that have at least six months before their expiration date and are kosher (look for the symbol on the label on the front and/or by the nutrition information.)

Thank you in advance for your support. May the new year bring you health, peace and joy.

Shopping List

General Mills and Kelloggs cereals (Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc.)
Hunts or Barilla Tomato Sauce (meat-free)
Quaker Unflavored Oatmeal
Canola Oil
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil
Green Giant Canned Peas
Green Giant Canned Corn
Green Giant Canned Green Beans
Dole/Del Monte Canned Peaches
Dole/Del Monte Canned Pineapple
Dole/Del Monte Canned Pears
Chicken of the Sea Canned Tuna
Bumblebee Canned Tuna
Starkist Canned Tuna
Canned or Jarred Gefilte Fish
Goya Vegetarian Canned Beans
Heinz/Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans
JIF/Skippy/Peter Pan Peanut Butter
Smuckers Jam
Unprocessed Brown Rice
Manischewitz Brand Anything
Streit’s Brand Anything
Rokeach Brand Anything
Bath Tissue
Facial Tissue
Paper Towels
Laundry Detergent
Dishwashing Liquid
Bar Soap
Full-Size Toothpaste
Full-Size Shampoo
Full-Size Conditioner
Baby Wipes
Children’s Diapers
Adult Diapers
Feminine Products

Celebrating 25 Years at The ARK's Seymour H. Persky Building

Cramped waiting rooms. Hallways lined with filing cabinets. Twenty-five years ago, this described The ARK’s office at 2341 Devon Ave., as more and more people in need turned to The ARK for help. It was time to find a larger home.

The ARK's Seymour H. Persky Building DedicationIn the fall of 1991, The ARK moved into its current space, The Seymour H. Persky Building, at 6450 N. California Ave. The two-floor building gave The ARK the space it needed to provide services for thousands of people in need each year. The building is home to The ARK’s free medical, dental, and eye clinics, pharmacy, food pantry, social services, Intensive Day Program for adults with mental health needs, psychiatric services, spiritual services, and more.

This move was made possible in large part by the generosity of one man: the late Mr. Persky, a real-estate mogul who never forgot his humble beginnings. His gift of $1 million to The ARK through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Continuum Program provided tremendous support that The ARK needed. It’s a gift that continues to support The ARK’s vital work and make a difference in the lives of thousands of Chicagoland Jewish families.

We take this opportunity to recognize Mr. Persky and his family. May his memory forever be a blessing. Read more about Mr. Persky here and here.

The ARK's Rosh Hashanah Greeting Cards Are Available!


Rosh Hashanah Tribute Cards: Print and eCards Available

The ARK’s Rosh Hashanah cards are a meaningful way to wish your family and friends Shanah Tovah while helping to provide food, medicine and more to thousands of families in need.

The following designs are available in print cards. (eCards available in design 1 only.) Each card reads on the inside: “May the New Year bring all the blessings of joy, health, prosperity and peace.” The ARK's logo, mission, and contact information appear on the back of each card.

Design 1: Mosaic Jerusalem
Mosaic Jerusalem

Design 2: Doves Over Jerusalem

Doves Over Jerusalem

Design 3: The View From The Wall

The View From The Wall


Option 1: Order Printed Cards to Sign and Send Yourself. Click here to order now.

For multiple designs, or if you have any questions, please call 773. 681.8980 or email ygerstein@arkchicago.org

Blank cards are available in any quantity. Minimum donation is $6 for one card; 7 cards for $36; or 10 cards for $54.  Choose from card designs 1, 2 or 3. (Limited quantities of designs 2 and 3 are available.) Please specify design choice in the instructions box on the online order form. Or email ygerstein@arkchicago.org. You can pick up your cards or have them mailed to you.

Option 2: Let The ARK Send Printed Cards on Your Behalf. Click here to order now.

For multiple designs, or if you have any questions, please call 773.681.8980 or email ygerstein@arkchicago.org

At no additional charge we are happy to customize cards and mail them on your behalf. Email your list of names in excel format to ygerstein@arkchicago.org or call us at 773.681.8980. Please allow 3 business days from date of order to be processed (be sure to allow enough time for the post office to deliver your cards.) Minimum donation is $6 for one card; 7 cards for $36; or 10 cards for $54.

Option 3: Send eCards to an unlimited number of people with or without your photo. Design 1 only. Click here to order now.

Email a personalized eCard to as many people as you like for a minimum donation of $54. Please specify if you would like to use a photo or not. Submit your high resolution photo to pnutkis@arkchicago.org. Please allow 2 business days for your personalized eCard to be sent to you. Design 1 only.

If you have any questions, please call 773. 681.8980 or email ygerstein@arkchicago.org


As Costs Rise, So Do Financial Hardships

By anyone's standards, 2016 has been financially painful. Woman in Financial DistressProperty tax bills are rising. In Cook County, property tax bills are increasing by an average of 13 percent. Utility bills are also up in Illinois, thanks to a 3-year ComEd rate hike.

And that's on top of increases in just about everything else. Taxi fares were raised 15% at the start of the year, along with increases in monthly rents, public transit costs, and water bills. What is not going up for many: incomes. There will be no social security increase in 2016, and wages for many workers remain flat. The result: families who barely have been making ends meet are now in crises.

The ARK is here to help all Jewish families in financial crises. If you need help, please contact us at 773.973.1000. If you know someone in the community who can use our help, please refer them to The ARK. All inquiries are confidential.

The Need Next Door: Lynn's Story


Fact: 48% of all ARK Clients have completed college. Lynn is one of those clients. This is her story.

By all accounts, Lynn R.* was a talented artist. She wasn’t looking for fame, and supported herself by selling her work at art fairs and galleries, taking private commissions for ketubot, and occasionally teaching art classes at a local community college. She never married and had no children, and managed to save enough to live comfortably. As she got older, the arthritis in her hands made it harder and harder for her to work; but by that time she was old enough to start collecting Social Security, so she was able to cover her usual expenses, even though her rent, electric bill, and food costs went up a little bit each year. She thought everything would be fine. Then one day she received a letter from the IRS.

Since Lynn was mostly self-employed, she had been responsible for reporting her income and paying estimated taxes quarterly. Each year she would get either a small refund check or have to pay a small additional amount, but she’d carefully budgeted for this, so it wasn’t a problem. Now, though, it seemed that the IRS had taken a closer look, and said that she owed several thousand dollars in fines. 

“I went into a panic,” Lynn said. “I didn’t have that much of a cushion—if I had to pay this money, something else would have to go—my rent, or the gas bill, or food—I didn’t know what to do.” But in the end, she did: she called The ARK. She met with a social worker, who arranged for a volunteer tax attorney to help. The attorney secured an agreement from the IRS to waive the fines, leaving Lynn with only a small, more affordable tax bill.

Lynn later called The ARK to express her appreciation.  “I received the IRS receipt in the mail today, and I wanted to call to thank you very much," said Lynn. "I have a few more gray hairs after this incident, but it would be a lot worse if The ARK didn’t exist.  I cannot express how much I appreciate The ARK’s help.  You absolutely came through for me and kept me positive through it.  Thank you to Josh, Mr. L., and everyone else who had a hand in helping me.”

*Name and certain identifying details changed to protect client privacy.

Helping Kids: The ARK's Backpack Project


The ARK's Backpack ProjectFor parents who can barely afford to buy food and pay the rent, the start of school is a time of great anxiety as they scramble to afford school supplies.

Together, we can help.  The ARK’s Backpack Project provides our clients’ children with backpacks and age-appropriate school supplies. It's simple: The ARK gives participants a list of supplies needed by one or more (anonymous) child/children. Donors shop for and buy the backpack and items on the list, and deliver the filled backpack to The ARK. The ARK then distributes the backpacks to families, preserving the dignity of our clients.

Please sign up by June 30, 2016.

To learn more/participate in this great program, click here: http://www.arkchicago.org/backpack

De-Cluttering? What & What Not to Donate

If you are among the many Jewish Chicagoans cleaning out old clothes, toys, household goods, and other items in preparation for Pesach (or simply cleaning out unwanted items for any reason), you might be wondering what to do with them. Why not donate them to The ARK's Thrift Shop? Sales of donated items help The ARK provide food, medicine and more basic necessities to local Jewish families in need! Your donation may be tax-deductible- saving you money next year!

Donation BoxPlease keep in mind that not all used items may be useful to The ARK's Thrift Shop (or any other thrift store), especially items that would not give dignity to the person that may receive them.

Explained Marty Freed, The ARK's Thrift Shop Director, in a recent article about how organizations benefit from people cleaning out their homes of clutter: “People that are buying used clothing, for the most part, are buying it because they can’t afford to buy new, and we’re not going to put stuff out that they would not feel proud to wear just like anybody else that shops at a store and gets the satisfaction out of buying something and wearing it."

Read the full article in RedEye about the tidying up trends impact on local thrift store here.

Donations of spring and summer clothes, shoes and outerwear (for children and adults) would be greatly appreciated as many shoppers are currently in need of these items. Old TVs (pre-flatscreen), cribs and mattresses cannot be accepted.

Items can be donated to The ARK's Thrift Shop during store hours (call 773.862.5011773.862.5011 for hours.) The Shop is located on 1302 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Donated items cannot be accepted at The ARK's office on California Ave. or at The ARK Northwest. You can donate items the first Sunday of every month from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at The ARK Northwest, 3100 Dundee Rd., Suite 802, Northbrook.

For questions, or to schedule a pickup of large furniture items, please call the Shop at 773.862.5011773.862.5011. The ARK Thrift Shop is closed Friday afternoons and all day Saturday.

Make Your Jewish Legacy at The ARK

The ARK's Legacy Program is an opportunity to deepen your commitment to the Jewish value that we are all responsible for one another, today and well into the future. Anyone, regardless of their age and financial resources, can leave a legacy gift to The ARK through a bequest in a will, gift of life insurance, gift of IRA or pension funds, gift of cash or assets, charitable gift annuity, or other gifts. It's a gift that will make a difference in the lives of families in our community for years to come, and inspire others to care for our Jewish family.

Please join our Legacy Program by April 30 to help us reach our goal needed to receive a $10,000 grant from the JUF and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

To participate in The ARK's Legacy Program, simply fill out The ARK's non-binding Declaration of Intent (link is below) and return to us at mbriefman@arkchicago.org or fax to 773.973.6865, or email Marisa to have one sent to you.  All participants in The ARK's legacy program will be The ARK's guests at our Legacy Society Event at Ravinia this August.

For more information about The ARK's Legacy Program, please email Marisa at mbriefman@arkchicago.org (If you have already made a legacy gift to The ARK and would like us to be aware of it, please contact Marisa.)

"As my parents planted for me before I was born, so do I plant for those who will come after me." - Talmud        

Support for Create a Jewish Legacy comes from Life & Legacy, which is funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and an anonymous funder.

The ARK Dedicates Examination Room in Memory of Susan Sokol, a"h

Wife of ARK Co-Founder Remembered for Commitment to Helping Others

“Courageous.” “Kind.” “A role model.”

Those are just a few of the words used to describe Mrs. Susan Sokol, a"h, the late wife of ARK co-founder Dr. Binyomin Sokol. Mrs. Sokol was revered by many in the community for her extraordinary dedication and determination to help improve the lives of others, and for her unwavering support of her husband’s crucial role at The ARK. Dr. Sokol was instrumental in establishing The ARK. He served as The ARK’s first volunteer doctor when the agency opened its doors as a free medical clinic in 1971, and continued to serve in various roles at The ARK for decades – work that meant countless, unpaid hours away from his family.

As a fitting tribute to Mrs. Sokol, The ARK has named what was Dr. Sokol’s favorite medical examination room at The ARK in her memory. The ARK hosted a dedication ceremony on Friday, February 5 – an event that was attended by a standing-room only audience comprised of family members, friends, ARK clients, current and former board members, staff and volunteers.

“We could not be more proud of the fact that The ARK is so closely identified with the name Sokol. Dr. and Mrs. Sokol’s chesed has led to thousands of Jewish Chicagoans receiving the vital support and care they needed,” commented Dr. Marc Swatez, Executive Director of The ARK. “None of what Dr. Sokol accomplished would have been possible without his wife’s support. It is therefore fitting that we dedicate an examination room in our Medical Clinic to her memory."

Supporting her husband’s volunteer work was just one of the many ways that Mrs. Sokol had a tremendous impact on the community.

“My wife was a Dr. Sokol In Front of the Susan Sokol Examination Roomwoman who was very kind and giving,” described Dr. Sokol of his late wife. “She gave of herself, whatever she had…she would never give up, trying again and again to relieve the pain of an older boy or girl.”

“Mrs. Sokol was indescribably extraordinary,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Eichenstein. Rabbi Eichenstein, an esteemed community leader known for his visionary leadership, compassion and generosity, was instrumental in the founding of The ARK. “How she survived those early years when The ARK was being formed by our ad-hoc group that had miracles happening every day at that time, I don’t know. But what I do know is that it took superhuman strength of character and devotion.”

“She was a role model for all the women in the community,” explained Rabbi Shlomo Tenenbaum, Director of Spiritual Enrichment at The ARK. “She did chesed in her home at the highest level – things that almost nobody would do.”

Those “things” included taking in people who otherwise would have been homeless.

“When we went to the house, we would probably find somebody staying in the house that could have been from any segment of Klal Yisrael, and be living in the house anywhere from a few days to a few months,” recalled Dr. Sokol. “All these people, every guest, was treated…like the most important person in the world - because in Susan’s eyes, they were royalty.”

The plaque that hangs on the wall outside of the examination room is a testament to the Sokols’ legacy- a legacy that, in the words of Rabbi Tenenbaum, “will continue to live on in our hearts.” 


Donate to a family in need (Matanot Le'Evyonim)


100% of your donation will be distributed to the needy on Purim day.

3 easy ways to donate:

1. Donate online at www.arkchicago.org/donate
Select “Purim-Matanot Le'Evyonim” in the Gift Designation field; then enter the appropriate amount on the next page.

2. By phone: 773-681-8980

3. In person at either of our two offices:

The ARK, 6450 N. California, Chicago, IL 60645
**Special hours on Purim day, Thursday, March 24: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The ARK Northwest, 3100 Dundee Rd., Suite 802, Northbrook, IL, 60062
**Special hours on Purim day, Thursday, March 24: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Questions? Call Yehudis Gerstein at 773-681-8980 or email ygerstein@arkchicago.org.

Happy Purim!