When Steven B. Nasatir, ’67 AHS, retired, he got a party—and then some.
On May 29, 2019, 1,300 people gathered at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to honor Nasatir’s 40 years as CEO of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The guest list included his family—his wife, attorney Carolyn Rosenberg, and their six sons—hundreds of JUF colleagues, and Chicago boldface names such as businessman Lester Crown and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “Dr. Nasatir’s life and work personify what it means to give back, to be a public servant, to understand the importance of community, and to reach out to those most in need,” Lightfoot said.
Under his leadership, the JUF raised $8 billion to fund global, national and Chicago-area programs, including the JUF Uptown Café, which serves hot kosher meals to people in need, and JUF Right Start, which provides tuition vouchers for Jewish preschools.
My 40 years as president were an example of what can be achieved when you do things together,” Nasatir says. His remarks at his retirement dinner underscored that thought. “Jewish history teaches us that when a people are divided, great harm can come,” he said.
Wendy Berger, a longtime JUF board member, agrees. “None of us would be doing this without Steve’s leadership,” says Berger, CEO of Chicago-based real-estate firm WBS Equities and chair of the JUF’s 2019 annual fundraising campaign.
Nasatir joined the JUF as an entry-level fundraising employee in 1971. Eight years later, he was named CEO. In the four decades that followed, he met every sitting Israeli prime minister, including Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu; Nobel Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel; and human-rights activist Natan Sharansky. He played pivotal roles in the Jewish resettlement movement Operation Solomon and its predecessor, Operation Moses, as well as the resettling of 400,000 Soviet Jews to the U.S.
Nasatir, 74, continues to serve the JUF as part-time executive vice chair. His successor is his son Lonnie, former regional director at the Anti-Defamation League Greater Chicago–Upper Midwest. “We share a lot of things,” Nasatir says, “among them, a love of the Jewish people, and a strong sense of community.” It’s a sign, perhaps, that the second Nasatir tenure will be just as remarkable as the first.