Faith in the power of education and a love of books fueled the bond for 260 women who came together at ORT America's "Lunch with a View: Secrets Revealed" Sunday, April 27, at Bryn Mawr Country Club in Lincolnwood.
Featuring historical fiction authors Jillian Cantor ("Margot") and Jennifer Kaufman ("Freud's Mistress"), the event raised $150,000 for job-training programs at Chicago ORT Technical Institute geared to meet the needs of the Chicago-area Jewish community.
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"Our school is changing lives by educating people so that they can be employed," said Buffalo Grove resident Michele Movitz, director of Chicago ORT Technical Institute, at 5440 Fargo, in Skokie.
Underscoring the urgency of the mission in today's economy, Movitz stated that one in nine Jewish families in Chicago live below federal poverty standards and that Chicago ORT provides assistance with job placement, resulting in employment for at least 70 percent of ORT students.
"ORT America is dedicated to the highest form of charity, which is to educate people so that they can help themselves and their families," said National President Linda Kirshenbaum, a resident of Highland Park.
The afternoon began with a reception and viewing of raffles reflecting the theme of the day, grouped into packages like "Secrets of the North Shore," "What Happens in Highland Park Stays in Highland Park," "City Confidential" and others.
Winners netted gifts such as romantic getaways, luxury hotel stays, restaurant dinners, jewelry, art, spa visits, catered parties, theater tickets, a private party for 16 in the White Sox Diamond Suite, and a one-week trip to Israel.
Judy Levin of Riverwoods moderated a program devoted to historical fiction conveyed by a female perspective on real-life people and events.
In "Freud's Mistress," best-selling novelist and award-winning journalist Jennifer Kaufman weaves a story, set in turn-of-20th Century Vienna, of a love affair that scholars believe to have taken place between Sigmund Freud and his wife's sister.
For insights into the sensibility of an independent woman of that era, Kaufman said she turned to Freud's letters touting her 'spunk and intellectual curiosity,' as well as to the writings of modernist author Virginia Woolf.
Jillian Cantor's "Margot" offers an alternative history of Anne Frank's older sister, who also kept a diary -- but unlike Anne's, it was never found -- while hiding in the Amsterdam annex immortalized in Diary of a Young Girl.
Driven by her "complicated" relationship with her own sister, Cantor re-imagined Margot's life as a Holocaust survivor in late-1950s America, living in the shadow of Anne's fame.
"You love and hate your sister more than anyone else," she said, drawing a knowing response from the audience.
ORT was founded in 1880, in St. Petersburg, Russia, to provide job training to impoverished Jews who were barred from most schools, professions and trades.
Today, ORT supports schools and programs providing state-of-the-art education and job training to students of all faiths in America, Israel and more than 30 countries worldwide.
Kim Frankenthal of Highland Park and Gail Joseph of Chicago chaired the event. Linda Ring of Northbrook and Susie Rodriquez of Buffalo Grove chaired the raffle committee. Lori Kahn of Deerfield and Ellen Doppelt of Highland Park are president and executive vice president, respectively, of ORT America Metropolitan Chicago Region. Barbara Statland of Wilmette is Region director and Kathy Greenberg of Evanston is National Major Gifts director.
ORT America, 3701 Commercial Ave., Suite 13 in Northbrook, can be reached at (847) 291-0475 or visit ORTChicago.org.