One minute you’re financially secure. The next you’re not. It happens more frequently than we want to believe. That’s why The ARK is the community’s safety net. Each year, The ARK cares for 4,000 people who come from all facets of the Chicagoland Jewish community. We draw on our shared Jewish values of care, respect, empathy and loving kindness to acknowledge each member of our community as an important, unique individual. Our vital, tangible human services honor that individuality, and are delivered according to halachic guidelines. Our policies and procedures are endorsed by the Chicago Rabbinical Council and other local authorities.

Our mission:

The mission of The ARK is to help Chicagoland Jews who are facing adversity navigate toward self-reliance. ARK professionals, volunteers, and donors provide free, comprehensive services within a framework of Jewish values and laws.


The ARK was born in 1971 through the efforts of an Uptown doctor and a local rabbi, who were approached by a group of young, Jewish “radicals” who were advocating for the doctor’s clinic to provide more services to the poor. The doctor and the rabbi began consulting with other prominent leaders in the local community, looking for a way to bridge the gap between the radical left and the established religious community, and find a more meaningful, hands-on way for both sides to perform their mitzvot, or good deeds.

The idea quickly gained many supporters, and in March, 1971, The ARK opened as a free medical clinic in Albany Park. Soon, The ARK’s cause began attracting large numbers of volunteers who were interested in contributing their time and professional skills to help their less fortunate brethren, and funds were raised.

Throughout the ensuing years, services and programs were added one-by-one; as soon as one area of need was addressed, the volunteers—and eventually, a small paid staff—moved on to the next problem. A kosher food pantry was opened; rent and utility bills were paid. Drug samples donated by doctors became a free pharmacy; donated clothing evolved into a Thrift Shop that operated through June 2018.

As The ARK grew, it followed the Jewish population from Albany Park to Devon Avenue. In order to make sure that the many elderly clients who remained in the neighborhood would not be abandoned, the Spaulding Drop‑In Center was opened, and remained open until 2001, when the population had dwindled to just a handful of people. The ARK moved again in 1991 to its current facility on California Avenue, and in 2011, a second office was opened in Northbrook, to meet the needs of the growing Jewish population in the northwest suburbs.

Since that time, The ARK has grown exponentially. With an annual budget of nearly $6 million, The ARK employs 50 professionals, and engages the services of more than 2,000 professional and lay volunteers, who provide an array of medical, legal and social services for Chicagoland Jews in need.