Detroit roots run deep, and Joshua Liss is proof. When he made the move from the Motor City to the Windy City in 2004, he brought along a few family heirlooms, namely love of community and taking care of a fellow Jew. It was those prized possessions, put into practice over the following 15 years, that made him a 2019 Recipient of Chicago’s Jewish United Fund (JUF)’s David, Gidwitz & Glaser Young Leadership Award.
“I was born into a Federation family,” explained Josh. “I knew from an early age how important it was for my great grandparents, grandparents and parents to take care of our community.”
As the grandson of Rita Haddow, son of Lauren Daitch and Robert Liss, and nephew of Federation President Beverly Liss, Josh has some of the community’s greatest supporters in his immediate family. Surrounded by role models and enrolled in Hillel Day School, spending summers at Tamarack and learning at Adat Shalom, Josh grew up deeply connected to the community and with a strong Jewish identity.
“I gained so much from the Detroit Jewish community — my education, my connection to Judaism, my relationships,” said Josh. “When I moved, there was never a question of supporting both my current community in Chicago and the one that raised me in Detroit. I was born into a Federation family, but I also proudly choose to be a part of a JUF family.”
Josh relocated to Chicago to begin his career after completing a Bachelor of Arts in History at U of M. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited to go on a Birthright trip, an experience that strengthened and solidified his commitment to community and jump-started his path to Jewish leadership.
Upon returning home, Josh joined Chicago’s JUF young leadership division board, holding various positions including the WYLD Annual Campaign event chair. He also joined the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet and served as the chair of the National Summer Mission to Israel and as vice chair of the National Cabinet Retreat. He has since served on the JUF’s Missions Committee and Health and Human Services Committee. And if that weren’t enough, in 2016, he joined the board of Metro Chicago Hillel and is currently serving a two-year term as chair of the board.
Even while giving so much of his time and talents and financially investing in Chicago’s community, he and his wife continue to make a significant annual gift to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
Josh received the David, Gidwitz & Glaser Young Leadership Award at JUF’s Annual meeting on September 17 — an honor presented to exceptional community servants under the age of 40 who demonstrate exemplary dedication and have made significant contributions to Chicago’s Jewish community.
During his acceptance speech, Josh shared a story from his time in Budapest with National Young Leadership Cabinet:
“We had the opportunity to visit with a Holocaust survivor. I had no idea at the time that this visit would change my life forever. She was homebound and lived in a small, dilapidated apartment. She told us how hard it had been growing up Jewish. With tears in her eyes, she explained that without our help she would have no visitors, hot food or her much needed medication. She said we were saving her life.”
“Growing up in Metro Detroit, I thought living a Jewish life was easy. And when I attended the University of Michigan, my Jewish fraternity, Hillel and local Chabad House made me feel right at home. But in Budapest, I saw first-hand that living a Jewish life is not always easy, and that is why the work we do to support our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world is so important.”
Josh and his wife Claudine are raising their children to carry on the family legacy, and Liza, age 4 ½, and her brother Lev, age 1 are already following in their family’s footsteps. On a recent outing to buy groceries and toiletries for The Ark in Roger’s Park as part of Good Deeds Day, coordinated by JUF’s TOV Volunteer Network, Josh watched Liza select items for Jews in need with excitement and enthusiasm.
“Seeing my daughter performing a mitzvah with so much joy, I was able to feel how I hope my parents feel today,” said Josh. “I could feel my great grandparents looking down from above, beaming with pride.”