Last night’s ruling: reflecting on Ferguson and justice

November 25, 2014

By Daniel Kaplan
Community Organizer

Isaiah 58

8. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever goes on it knows no peace.

ח. דֶּרֶךְ שָׁלוֹם לֹא יָדָעוּ וְאֵין מִשְׁפָּט בְּמַעְגְּלֹתָם נְתִיבוֹתֵיהֶם עִקְּשׁוּ לָהֶם כֹּל דֹּרֵךְ בָּהּ לֹא יָדַע שָׁלוֹם:

1501293_10152870935818454_2907062103035089841_o

Photograph by Sarah Jane Rhee. loveandstrugglephotos.com

Last night, the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri chose not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, a black unarmed teenager. As a Jewish organization dedicated to ending systemic racism in Chicago, we believe it’s important for the Jewish community to pause and reflect on how we must respond.

Jewish tradition teaches that  humankind is created in the image of God, B’tselem Elohim. From this we learn, quite simply, that all lives matter. As Jews living in the United States, we have an obligation to not only affirm that all lives matter, but specifically black lives matter. Last night, I joined hundreds of black community members and allies in anticipation of the grand jury decision. Standing outside a  police station on 35th and Michigan, I heard youth activists recall the names of countless black men and women whose lives had been prematurely extinguished.  In addition to Michael Brown we remembered Roshad McIntosh, who was shot by Chicago police in August under similar circumstances. We remembered Tamir Rice, a twelve year old boy shot by police in Cleveland last weekend. We remembered Marissa Alexander, a victim of domestic violence who will serve three years in prison and have a lifetime felon status because she fired a warning shot away from her attacker. We remembered Trayvon Martin.  All black, and all killed, incarcerated, or otherwise failed by predominantly white juries and white law enforcement.

While all lives matter, we must specifically uphold black lives because of our society’s systemic devaluation of their worth. Speakers from last night’s demonstration drew connections between last night’s decision to the United States’ history of commodifying black life. From slavery to sharecropping to redlining and exploitative housing contracts to the prison industrial complex, these recent episodes of police brutality fit into a centuries-old legacy.  A group called “We Charge Genocide” recently testified to the United Nations Committee Against Torture about police brutality in Chicago and the United States. Last night’s grand jury decision was not a tragic episode, but rather another product of a deeply ingrained system that exploits and dehumanizes black bodies and minds.

We must always remember that to pursue justice means to shine a light on structural racism and inequality however and whenever we can. When JCUA sang for a trauma center in September, we did so because we understand that systemic racism in Chicago has deprived entire swaths of the city a fundamental medical service. When we support immigrants seeking sanctuary, we do so because we recognize that economic and political forces pressure people to immigrate whether or not our immigration policy allows them to. When we stand with workers seeking redress for wage theft, we do so because we know our economic policies have created staggering wealth inequality and privileged the profits of corporate executives over the rights of the working class. Everything we do at JCUA is connected to a systemic injustice, and without calling out these systems we cannot pursue justice.

Today, let us take a moment to pause from our regular programs and campaigns to reflect on this travesty. As we take a moment to truly feel for Michael Brown, his family, and so many other extinguished black lives, let us recommit to our work with an intention to end to perpetuation of systemic injustices across our city.


Turn ‘Just’ Words into Action

November 24, 2014

A message from Nikki and Bud…

Fifty years is a long time. Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning or are new to JCUA, 1964 or 2014 or anywhere in between, we have ALWAYS been about people. JCUA not only makes a difference to the directly impacted communities we work with, but also in Chicago’s Jewish community. Everyone involved finds their lives are enhanced in ways they never imagined.

BLAH BLAH BLAH. Those are just words. What do they mean? How do we do this? When you see the senseless gun violence, the inhumane treatment of detainees, unsafe and unaffordable housing across our city, do you wonder: Where do I start? How can I take action? Will it make a difference?

You’re not alone. A lot of people share your concerns, your fears and your hopes for a better Chicago. A lot of people don’t know where to start. We know.

JCUA transforms us AND our city. It’s where you can pray with your feet, have an impact on root causes, and be a part of a community that elevates the Jewish values that compel us to raise up the voices of Chicago’s most vulnerable.

Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000.

Your gift in this milestone year makes a difference. Not just to JCUA and the communities we partner with, but for you and people like you who are hungry for change.

Thank you for standing with us, and best wishes for a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving,

Nikki Stein and Bud Lifton
Co-chairs, JCUA 50th Anniversary Committee


#GivingTuesday: Igniting a Spark Within Jewish Teens

November 18, 2014

By Deborah Goldberg
Coordinator of Teen Programs

Deborah Goldberg

I have the best job in the whole world. As the coordinator of teen programs at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, I get to do what I love—my job is to engage teens in social justice work within a Jewish context. On my first day of work at JCUA, Rebecca, who held this job before me, shared with me the history of Or Tzedek. I was simultaneously awed by our past and excited for our future.

JCUA wants to reach teens in as many ways as possible. Since its inception in 2007, Or Tzedek has run a summer program that has reached hundreds of teens. (Registration is now open for our summer 2015 sessions!)

Last year, Or Tzedek partnered with Evanston’s Beth Emet the Free Synagogue to launch Or Tzedek: Year of Action. Nearly 50 teens came together for the year to learn about root causes of social injustice in Chicago and then participated in a gun violence prevention campaign, advocating for an amendment to the Concealed Carry Act that would ban guns in houses of worship.

Next February, Or Tzedek will partner with Chicagoland Jewish High School to run a three-day activism and advocacy retreat for its junior class. The 40 students of CJHS’s junior class will have an extraordinary opportunity to learn from JCUA’s community partners, connect social justice issues to Jewish values and history, and meet with state and federal representatives to advocate for issues they care about.

Support Or Tzedek on Giving Tuesday

This Dec. 2, JCUA will participate in Giving Tuesday, a global movement dedicated to giving back. This upcoming Giving Tuesday, JCUA is raising funds for scholarship dollars to make Or Tzedek accessible to all teens. Our fundraising goal is $5,000 and we’re thrilled that a generous donor has agreed to match all scholarship donations dollar for dollar until we reach our $5,000 goal.

When I think about Or Tzedek, I think about the incredible teens I get to work with. “Or Tzedek” means “Light of Justice,” and I know that the work our teens engage in helps make the world a more just place. I also know that Or Tzedek ignites a spark within Jewish teens, and whether they go on to be leaders in their youth groups and high schools, community organizers and activists, or precinct committeeman (Or Tzedek alumni have done all of those things!), they leave the program as different people than the ones who entered it.

I want every teen to have that opportunity. 

You don’t have to wait until “Giving Tuesday” to support Or Tzedek—make a donation today.

 


JCUA November Newsletter

November 6, 2014

In the November issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • Hopeful news for Beatriz Santiago Ramirez.
  • JCUA to present at Limmud Chicago.
  • Interfaith vigil at Broadview Detention Center.
  • Legislation to require safe storage for guns to be discussed.
  • Or Tzedek and hot chocolate.
  • JCUA joins the #GivingTuesday movement in support of teen programs

Read it now!


Support Or Tzedek on #GivingTuesday

November 5, 2014

#givingtuesday

By Pamela Klier-Weidner
Director of Development and Organizational Advancement

I’ll never forget the first moment I realized the impact of JCUA’s Or Tzedek summer program on our Jewish teens. I was in front of my computer in a spreadsheet nightmare when a flurry of teens marched through the JCUA office.  Their energy upstaged whatever it was I was doing.

Pamela Klier-Weidner

For each of my six summers at JCUA, I’ve waited with excitement for these teens to trump whatever work I’m ensconced in.

It’s not just the usual fun energy of teens that many of us “elders” enjoy being around.  It goes way deeper than that. Each year, I’ve witnessed these kids walk into Or Tzedek as just a teen, and finish the program as “just” teens. The positive impact of Or Tzedek will last a lifetime.

For the teens who didn’t already know it, they learn that they are already leaders and are capable of making positive change. They also learn that they have a Jewish responsibility to care about and address root causes of oppression.

Or Tzedek is a game-changer, a life-changer.

Joel Spiegel is only one of many Or Tzedek alums who prove the point. At 18 years old, Joel got elected as a precinct committeeman in Buffalo Grove and just got named one of 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year by the Chicago Jewish News. He credits it all to his Or Tzedek experience.

Don’t even get me started on Rachel Patterson, who emceed our 50th Anniversary celebration this year. Or Sam Hamer, who organized his entire high school to move their prom to a venue where workers were treated fairly. So many of these teens–and now, some young adults–give me more hope for our future.

So, this year, when we decided to hop on the #GivingTuesday wagon, Or Tzedek came to my mind immediately.

#GivingTuesday, Dec. 2nd,  is a global movement dedicated to giving back. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday.

While Or Tzedek has been a beloved and popular program since its 2007 inception, scholarship dollars will help JCUA make the program accessible to all teens.

Our #GivingTuesday fundraising goal is $5,000 and we’re delighted that a generous donor has agreed to match all scholarship donations dollar for dollar until we reach our $5,000 goal. 

Every amount makes double the difference. If you shop on Black Friday, and you’ve saved a coupla bucks, those prospective Or Tzedek teens could sure use that matched scholarship money.  There really isn’t any amount too small. If you’ve got change, make change for these teens.

You don’t have to wait until “Giving Tuesday” to support Or Tzedek.


Good News for Beatriz Santiago Ramirez

November 5, 2014

beatriz-santiago-ramirezAfter three months of living in fear of deportation while in sanctuary at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Church, we are thrilled that some good news has come to Beatriz Santiago Ramirez.

Beatriz, an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. more than 10 years ago, has been pursued by authorities recently. This occurred even though she is eligible for a U-visa after undergoing a sexual assault and fully cooperating with the resulting investigation. If deported, she would have been separated from her two American-born children.

Last week an immigration judge in Chicago re-opened her case, meaning her application for legal status can be considered. She is no longer in immediate danger of deportation and if her application is approved, she will be authorized to work in the U.S. and may ultimately receive citizenship.

On Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, JCUA Executive Director Judy Levey, along with other religious leaders, spoke in support of Beatriz and the recent good news at a press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission. The press conference was organized by Fr. José Landaverde, who leads the church housing Beatriz and her children; along with Pastor Sara Wohlleb, the Congregational Coordinator at the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America. CRLN oversees the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition (CNSC), a group of religious congregations that house undocumented immigrants in danger of deportation.

This press conference was follow-up to a previous one held at the same location on Sept. 29.

Media coverage:

» FoxChicago

» Vivelohoy


Or Tzedek Teen Honored as a Jewish Chicagoan of the Year

November 4, 2014

Joel Spiegel listed in the Guide to Jewish Chicago

joel-spiegel-chicago-jewish-newsHe’s attended courtroom deportation hearings, participated in vigils for immigrant rights, been named Youth of the Year at his synagogue, successfully run for precinct committeeman in his town, worked to help Democrats win congressional seats.

And he’s only 18 years old.

Joel Spiegel, a recent graduate of Stevenson High School in Buffalo Grove, says he has been interested in social justice advocacy for as long as he can remember but never had an outlet for his passion.

That changed in 2012 when Rebecca Katz of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs came to speak at Spiegel’s synagogue, Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, about Or Tzedek, JCUA’s summer teen activism program.

“With everything she was saying, I was nodding my head,” the well-spoken and enthusiastic Spiegel says.

Joel was listed as one of 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year in the Guide to Jewish Chicago, published recently by Chicago Jewish News.

» Read the complete profile of Joel, written by Pauline Yearwood


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,479 other followers

%d bloggers like this: