Our History

Jewish Council for Youth Services (JCYS) is an independent, not-for-profit agency dedicated to serving both Chicagoland’s Jewish and greater communities and developing leaders who continue its tradition of volunteer service.

Guided by Jewish values and culture, Jewish Council for Youth Services provides educational and recreational programs for Chicagoland’s children and, through board service, develops the next generation of Jewish civic leaders.

JCYS celebrates over 100 years of tradition, leadership and growth in the greater metropolitan Chicago community.

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JCYS – first known as “Young Men’s Associated Jewish Charities” and later as “Young Men’s Jewish Council” – was founded. The agency’s initial purpose was to engage a group of young male leaders in securing financial support for various Jewish charities and philanthropies.  full history here

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While the leadership experience has continued to be a key part of the agency’s mission, JCYS sought a new direction in 1914 – to directly serve the youth of Jewish immigrants, who desperately needed social and recreational services.  full history here

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JCYS’s active summer camp near Wooster Lake was renamed upon the passing of Illinois Governor Henry Horner who was our Young Men Jewish Council’s president in 1915 and integral to the summer camp’s initial beginnings. Camp Henry Horner continues to be the summer retreat that children and youth enjoy during Chicago’s hot months. full history here

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This decade brought significant growth to JCYS with the addition of the George W. Lutz Family Center on the North Shore and the Michael R. Lutz Family Center in Lakeview.  full history here

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Continuing JCYS’s mission of service, Camp Red Leaf was founded in order to offer summer programming to children and adults with developmental disabilities.  full history here

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The agency made the momentous decision to change its name from “Young Men’s Jewish Council” to “Jewish Council for Youth Services” to honor the growing role of women in the organization and better reflect the age group most served through its programs.  full history here

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The range of JCYS programs continued to grow through the addition of our at-risk teen program, TEAMcorps, implemented in Chicago Public High Schools.  JCYS also took over the former Elms Swim & Tennis Club in Highland Park becoming the recently-renovated Lillian L. Lutz Recreation Center.  We rounded out the decade with our first female Board of Director President, Phyllis Tabachnick, elected in 1999.  full history here

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Extending the reach of JCYS’s services, the Northwest Family Center opened as an early childhood education center that also offered infant care for the first time in JCYS history.  More summer camp offerings were added to our programs including NSDC Sports, Jon Vegosen Champ Camp, Big City Day Camp, and Camp STAR – making JCYS Chicagoland’s destination for child and youth programming.   full history here

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Construction of the new Michael R. Lutz Family Center in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood  began in 2015.