Leaving a Strong Jewish Community for Her Children

Midge Perlman Shafton is someone who deftly manages tight schedules, embraces her family and supports her community. That was especially true on one of the most important days of her life – June 16, 1960. Midge and her husband drove from Milwaukee to Madison for her sister’s morning graduation from the University of Wisconsin, and then raced to Chicago to attend the Jewish Children’s Bureau’s last group meeting before fall for prospective adoptive parents.

“You had to be married for three years to start the adoption process and that day was our third wedding anniversary,” explains Midge, “So if we missed that meeting we would have had to wait until fall to start the process.” Nine months later they adopted their daughter, Karen, and two years after that they adopted their son, Mark.

The Jewish Children’s Bureau (JCB) merged with Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) to become Jewish Child & Family Services (JCFS) in 2006. Through those years and the evolution of the Agency, Midge became, and still is, a dedicated leader and supporter.

Adopting her children through JCB was Midge’s first connection to the Agency, but it didn’t take long for her to get more involved. She had a friend from college who was married to Chuck Stern, a JCB board member, and in 1972, he asked her to serve on the Board.

“I said yes,” remembers Midge. “I was thrilled by the opportunity to give back.”

In 1975 Midge became the first woman President of JCB and, after her tenure leading JCB, she moved on to leadership at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, becoming the second woman to serve as its Chair. She also served in an advisory leadership role during the merger of JCB and JFCS, watching for the “right time” when both agencies were in a strong position so the resulting agency, Jewish Child & Family Services, would start on solid ground.

Midge remembers making her first endowment gift at a Federation retreat when she was on the JCB Board. At the retreat, she learned about how the endowment fund would provide a source of support for generations to come and signed a Declaration of Intent to include the Agency in her will. She was going to direct the gift to just adoption, but her attorney suggested she give it unrestricted. She realizes that agency needs change over time and this allows the gift to be used where it’s needed most.

Midge’s collection of tzedakah boxes represents the tradition of philanthropy in which she was raised and has passed on to her children. Her parents were generous donors and leaders in the Jewish community. Midge follows in their footsteps, and her two children and seven grandchildren continue the family’s tradition of giving generously. “I owe the Jewish community for these seven grandchildren, for this whole family that I have.”

When she talks with her children and grandchildren about the gift in her estate for the JCFS Endowment Foundation, she tells them, “I’m not taking away from your inheritance. I’m just changing the form of it because it’s important that I help to leave you a strong Jewish community.”