Yoni Sarason blends harmony and purpose in his personal and professional lives. Do you need a job? A meal for Pesach? A friendly face at shul? A lead to the best shakshuka in Israel? When Yoni isn’t leading Birthright trips, re-imagining the Jewish future or making music, he connects people to community; he’s like a professional and lay concierge for Chicago’s Jewish community. He has also been recognized by the Schusterman Foundation’s ROI Community and is a host for Moishe House Without Walls.
“Yoni is an extraordinary Jewish professional, an all-around mensch and a talented musician to boot,” writes nominator Katie Vogel, a fellow 2014 Double Chai in the Chi honoree. “When I led a Birthright trip with Yoni in 2012, I was blown away by his ability to connect with individuals and help them create a meaningful and kind bus community. Yoni is an extraordinary public speaker, peer educator, and is the kind of person who will drop everything before Shabbos starts to hold your hand in the hospital.”
Yoni is also frequently known as “that guy with the drum” at Mishkan Chicago, and he plays and sings in the band Azamra.
Senior Director, Midwest Region for NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, providing community and network building consulting, training and facilitation.
On the side:
Drums and voice for Azamra, a Hebrew kirtan band. Creative Consultant for Thoughtly Crew, the Inspirational Hip Hop Project.
How do you give back?
Learn every language, every musical instrument, become a scholar in every subject, visit every country, find the formula for contentment and pay for everyone else to do the same.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less:
Here's a funky introduction to how nice I am (Google it)
Celebrity doppelganger/who would play you in a movie:
My brother, Mike, a musician who opens for countless performing artists and was a runner for Bruno Mars.
How do you Jew in Chicago?
I “Jew” by being in dynamic tension with our traditions. As someone who works in the Jewish community, plays in the Jewish community and leads Birthright trips, I don’t consciously choose “to Jew” as much as try to find times not “to Jew” in order to maintain perspective.
Thought-provoking conversations, mood and movement-inducing music, sharing ideas, solving problems, biking and making connections that help people self-actualize. And Boom-Bap.
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
To avoid the gloom and doom predicted by the Pew study, Chicago’s Jewish community will thrive by being open, inclusive, diverse, supportive, immersed in meaning-making and politically active in creating a more just Chicago for all of its residents.
Me in 10 years:
Ten years older and, b’ezrat hashem, 18 years wiser. I hope to be on the road to finding balance and living a purpose-driven life.