Donor Profile: Howard Swibel

Donor Profile: Howard Swibel

Howard Swibel is a renowned lawyer, philanthropist, and Jewish communal leader in the Chicagoland area. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, supporting and giving back to the Jewish community was a part of his upbringing. Howard’s father, who escaped Nazi persecution in Poland in 1935, was a supporter of the State of Israel and involved with many Jewish organizations during his youth, instilling a similar focus for Howard throughout his over 40 years of working and volunteering in the community.

Howard has served as President of the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago; he created Ta'am Yisrael, a program that offers 8th graders a week-long immersive trip to Israel; and he was the first Jewish president of the Uniform Law Commission — a 50-state law-drafting commission, representing state governments. Currently, Howard is a Vice President and Trustee of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a vice chair of the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest Regional Board, and a member of the Jewish Federation’s Continuity and Community Building Commission, and Israel Scholarship Committee. He is the father of four children and lives in Skokie, Illinois.

Recently, Howard and his colleague, Joel Horowitz, made an incredibly generous donation through their charitable foundation to the Jewish United Fund/ Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago in support of the work of JCFS Chicago’s Knapp School & Yeshiva. Twenty years ago, Howard and Joel were unaware of the world of therapeutic education. It wasn’t until a young family member needed the support a therapeutic school offers that Howard discovered the many benefits for students. Over time, Howard discovered that a different learning environment provides students with an educational and emotional support system that nurtures their academic success while reaffirming a sense of self-worth.

To that end, the idea that everyone should have access to therapeutic education is incredibly important to Howard and Joel and is the mission of their charitable foundation. For many students at the Knapp School, tuition is covered by their home school district. However, for some students their tuition is not covered and requires funding from the Knapp School. Unfortunately, this diverts resources that could be used to enhance the programming for all students. Howard doesn’t believe there should be a tradeoff and hopes funding from the foundation will allow the school to continue providing the utmost service to its students regardless of their ability to pay. In addition, Howard hopes to reduce the stigma around therapeutic education and help the Knapp School serve even more students.

“With additional resources from Howard and Joel’s foundation the agency is excited to pilot the Knapp School & Yeshiva Enrichment Program, offering field trips and extra-curricular activities to deepen the educational experience of our students. Staff will be encouraged to plan and seek mini-grants in support of creative programming, such as a classroom visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum or a Shakespeare play, a lab experiment in a nature preserve, culture day in the school gym, or possibly a winter chess club,” said Rabbi David Rosenberg, Coordinator of Jewish Education, Knapp School & Yeshiva.