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8 Questions for Caryn Peretz, Director of JUF’s Young Leadership Division, Jewish activist, partygoer

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Caryn, leader of the young leaders

Caryn Peretz is not only a professional Jew; she is a philanthropic and social Jew too. As the director of the JUF’s Young Leadership Division (YLD), she plays a key role in developing programs and activities that serve the department’s outreach, leadership development and fundraising goals. She began her Jewish communal career with JUF’s YLD in 2001. A year later, in response to the anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses across the country, Caryn founded the ZAP Israel Advocacy Program, the first city-wide, non-denominational Israel education program for high school students in Chicago. This program was adopted by Shorashim, where Caryn spent four years working as the Director of High School Programs. In her volunteer life, Caryn serves on the executive committee of AIPAC’s Young Leadership Council, and on the Board of Directors of Citypac, Chicago’s bipartisan pro-Israel political action committee

So whether you’re a young Jew looking for ways to get involved in the community, you love rocking out to Israeli music after hours or you too spend your Saturday nights at Hub51, Caryn Peretz is a Jew you should know!

1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was very young, I wanted to work at The Jewel (I think because of the little orange stickers they used to give out). As I grew up, I went through many career changes - I wanted to be an artist, a teacher, and a photographer for National Geographic. Only in college did I discover what I really wanted to do - serve as a Jewish Communal Professional, which I have been doing ever since.

2. What do you love about what you do today?
I love working in the Jewish community. It allows me to turn my life’s passions into a full time job.  I grew up in a household that emphasized a love of Judaism and Israel, and I feel lucky that I still get to spend everyday of my life surrounded by the same values. Any time there are Jews in need, anywhere in the world, JUF rises to the occasion and is there to help. I am proud to work for such an organization, and especially to be part of a Federation that so deeply values young leadership and the next generation’s role within the institution.

3. What are you reading? 
Leadership on the Line - a professional development recommendation from my boss.

4. What’s your favorite place to eat in Chicago? 
This is definitely not a question with just one answer. I need to break this one up into categories.
Casual Fun: Wildfire (best salad in Chicago, and I have many great memories of celebrations with family and friends), and Uncle Julio's Hacienda 
Upscale Fun: Joe's
Late-Night: Tempo 
Workday Lunch: Salad Spinners 

5. If money and logistical reality played no part, what would you invent?
I won't go so far as to say "world peace" (standard beauty pageant answer), but if I could invent a way to have peace in the Middle East and protect Israel, I would do that.

6. Would you rather have the ability of fly or the ability to be invisible?
Invisible for sure! But I would have to be careful not to abuse this power.

7. If I scrolled through your iPod, what guilty pleasure song would I find?
A lot of Israeli and country music. And "We are the World," one of the best songs ever recorded. The Israeli music somehow finds its way out in the later hours of my parties.

8. What’s your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago—in other words, how do you Jew?
My favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago is to be actively involved with organizations that serve the causes I believe in (JUF/YLD, AIPAC, and Citypac). I love attending meaningful and fun events, and meeting people who share my values. On a lighter note, another Jewish activity of late is going to Hub51, where every Jew in Chicago seems to be hanging out on the weekends.

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