Community leader celebrated for decades of service to Jewish community and beyond

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CHICAGO — After nearly 40 years of running Chicago’s largest Jewish organizations, Dr. Steve Nasatir decided to call it a day.

The former president of the United Fund and Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago was honored this summer when a crowd of more than 1,300 guests bid him a fond farewell. Those celebrating him included Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

"Dr. Nasatir and his life's work personify what it means to give back and to be a public servant," she said.

The Chicago native was just was just 34 years old when he took over the helm at the Jewish United Fund. He's only the fourth executive to hold the position since JUF was founded in 1900.

Under his leadership, JUF has grown steadily and has impacted Jews and people of all faiths. Helping earthquake victims in Haiti and those affected by Hurricane Katrina, Nasatir believes we are stronger together than as individuals.

"It’s the power of collective action; to do things together you can achieve a lot more than you can by yourself," he said.

It's this belief that has allowed JUF to assist the Jewish community both in America and abroad — supporting every aspect of life including human services, education and employment, to assisting Holocaust survivors in their final years. JUF also works to support these same causes in Israel.

But it could be Nasatir's knack for fundraising that has contributed to the organization's great success. During his tenure, he’s been able to raise $8 billion for JUF.

In the early 1990s, funding was needed as Nasatir and his team worked to resettle some 30,000 Soviet Jews to Chicago as borders opened.

"The resettlement here in Chicago, we did everything. We welcomed them when they came, we found a place for them to live, taught them how to speak English," he said.

David Lisker was just 4 years old when his family fled the Soviet Union with the help of JUF. Now a violinist, he said he is grateful for help his family received.

"This is extremely personal, and the extremely nurturing way this organization is run, it starts from the top," Lisker said.

As Nasatir reflects on his fond memories, he is also looking forward to the next chapter in his life.

“I’m gonna work a little less and I’m gonna worry a little less, too," he said.

Nasatir's son Lonnie now leads the organization, and Nasatir will remain the vice chair, as he has a few more projects he is working on.

Dr. Steve Nasatir — he's one of Chicago's Very Own.

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