This week, ChiTribe is launching into the Windy City!
This GatherDC-inspired organization is making it easier for young adults in Chicago’s huge Jewish community to connect to Jewish life. We scored an interview with co-founders Sam Getz-Sheftel (who just so happens to be a former GatherDC Open Doors Fellow) and Rebecca Joey Schwab.
Side note: Sam and Rebecca are starting up ChiTribe outside of their full-time jobs: ChiTribe is 100% volunteer-run, and we have no idea where they get all this energy from. But we’re digging it.
Allie: What is ChiTribe?
Sam: ChiTribe is an initiative inspired by GatherDC. I started it by building a calendar of Jewish events like Gather has for DC, but for Chicago. As we built up the calendar, this idea started to develop into something more. It was all focused on helping connect individuals.
Allie: What are your goals for ChiTribe?
Sam: Something I learned in DC is how important it is to have space for individuals to make the Jewish community their own. The main principles of ChiTribe are to help young adults in Chicago have access to Jewish events, to promote and create opportunities for meaningful connections to Jewish experiences and individuals, and to engage young adults in Jewish life.
Allie: What motivated you to start ChiTribe?
Sam: I moved to Chicago two years ago from Tel Aviv. Before that, I had been living in DC for nine years. I tried to get involved in Jewish life in Chicago, and found some great community. There are a lot of large organizations doing incredible work here. But, there didn’t seem to be as many lay-leaders creating opportunities like there are in DC.
I had an “Aha” moment when I started building a calendar of Jewish events in Chicago. I looked at calendar for the first time and was like, “Oh my gosh! There are a ton of things going on!” The calendar can provide so many different forms of engagement for the community. It’s like if you’re hungry, but aren’t sure what you want to eat. Sometimes, you might want to look at a complete menu to decide what you want.
Rebecca: I moved to Chicago two years ago from Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is a very small place, and I moved back to Chicago so I could find a larger Jewish community. I knew about Gather because I traveled a lot to DC. I couldn’t believe it was so easy to find Jewish community in DC, and in Chicago it was so much harder. It’s clear that people don’t know what Jewish events are going on.
Sam: I really believe in ChiTribe because I’ve seen what Gather has done, and I see what Jewish community could be. There is something not being done in Chicago that I know works, and I know can change community.
Allie: What are your dreams for ChiTribe?
Rebecca: Success would be that young adults can easily find their Jewish community in Chicago. We want to create more meaningful and more populated Jewish experiences. ChiTribe could evolve to be many things according to the current needs of the community.
Sam: We want to listen to and understand what Chicago’s Jewish community needs and make it stronger.
Rebecca: It’s so cool there are organizations like GatherDC and TC JewFolk out there. These kinds of organizations need to exist in more places throughout the country. There’s so much potential in big cities like LA and Chicago, and we need to make it easier for people to get involved in Jewish life.
Allie: What are your plans for the immediate future of ChiTribe?
Sam: I really liked the the EDCJCC’s Shabbat Clusters program that I took part in when living in DC. Shabbat Clusters gave you a way to connect to people that didn’t exist through happy hours. We’re trying to start something like that here.
Rebeca: We’d love to expand the local Jewish organizational reach and for Jews to be able to be their best selves in Chicago. We’re also going to roll out a “Jewish Person of the Week” feature like Gather has. Also, because the high holidays are coming up, we’re creating a section of the ChiTribe website that has all the opportunities for young adults. It’ll be High Holiday central.
Allie: Who is a part of the ChiTribe team?
Rebecca: Sam and I are co-founders. We have a team of 5-6 people. We are all volunteers. We don’t have funding yet, so we’re doing all of this on a shoestring budget.