The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation is a multi-generational family foundation inspired by a tradition of Tzedakah, lifelong learning, and a commitment to social justice. We are dedicated to advancing educational opportunities for young people and promoting the sustainability of our natural environment. We focus our efforts in Chicago and in communities in which family members live.
Through family engagement and a commitment to lifelong learning, the Foundation strives to improve under-resourced communities by focusing on issues of social justice. Utilizing a rigorous, compassionate, and innovative approach, we endeavor to strengthen our own family as well as families in our communities.
Our multigenerational family foundation is the culmination of the work of our founders, whose influence continues to be an example for successive generations. Mayer Kaplan escaped the Soviet Union in the early 1900s and arrived in America with limited English speaking ability and no employment. His grit and perseverance eventually led him to open a small mattress factory in Chicago, where he was joined by his son Morris after he graduated from college during the Great Depression. The company became a franchise of the Sealy Mattress Company in 1939 and their business grew exponentially over the decades. Mayer and Morry adhered to the Jewish tradition of Tzedakah in which giving to those less fortunate is an obligation: to help the recipient become self-reliant and to help the world become a just and equitable place for all. They created the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation in 1955 as a vehicle to live out their philosophy of civic participation and responsibility. Their legacy continues and inspires us as we strive to appreciate beauty, art and the environment, and to engage in meaningful work.
We believe in the importance of being a multigenerational family who engages with one another in the present, and in the pursuit of effective and impactful philanthropy. It is through the time we spend working to help others, debating strategies and building consensus that our family continues to grow together as a cohesive community of diverse individuals.
Our commitment to social justice is rooted in the Jewish tradition of Tzedakah. We believe that it is our moral responsibility to try and make the world a better, more equitable place. As such, we attempt to address root causes to societal problems and to help the less fortunate, with the ultimate goal of bringing equal opportunity and rich cultural diversity into all of our communities.
We believe that education is critical to the health and success of the larger society. We are committed to our own lifelong learning and cultural enrichment, and to bringing those same opportunities to under-resourced communities in our society.
A strong work ethic is present in all that we do – whether in our work, play, athletic endeavors or philanthropy. As a family committed to growth and advancement, we constantly seek to learn, arrive at innovative solutions, and establish new goals for ourselves. We do this with focus and discipline and with a realization that we prefer to try and fail rather than to wait for the perfect solution, or not try at all. In the process, we question our strategies; are committed to high standards; are thoughtful and empathetic in our approach; and are willing to engage in spirited discussion.
We know that our goal—seeking to better society—is lofty and that the challenges are without a single, clear-cut solution. We therefore strive to make forward-looking decisions and to be nimble and flexible in response to the changing needs of those we serve. Our approach includes embracing innovation and well-considered risk, and investing in relevant and creative solutions.