Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue
By Judy Levey
Chief Executive Officer, JCUA
I recently spoke with many JCUA leaders and supporters at a wonderful meet-and-greet opportunity at Yusho, a hip and happening new restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.
Our focus was on the enduring value and impact of JCUA’s social justice work and where we are going as an organization.
Together with the JCUA board of directors and staff, I am laying out a vision for JCUA that includes the active engagement of more young people in initiatives and campaigns and the shifting culture of our work into a human rights framework.
JCUA’s work is central to our collective Jewish tradition. There are a few guiding ideas that we typically use to describe the foundation for our work.
From Deuteronomy comes “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof,” which means “Justice Justice You Shall Pursue.”
From the Sayings of our Ancestors there are two:
The first expresses that “it is not our duty to finish the work but neither are we free to desist from it.”
The other, closer to my heart, implores: “If I am only for myself, what am I (v’eem lo achshav, aimatai)? And if not now when?”
This quote is a metaphor for JCUA’s imperative to help repair the world.
When we are young, we blame our teachers and our parents for everything that isn’t fair. I know this scenario well since I have three teenagers at home!
When we get a little older, we blame our boss, or maybe our spouse, or even our elected officials. But at some point, as time passes, we look to ourselves, because we know that our actions matter most. And if not now, when?
We live in a world where not everyone really buys into the idea that they should care about their neighbors. It’s easy to ignore the statistics about foreclosures, the detainment of immigrants, hate crimes and poverty. And life can be distracting.
In addition to these principles from our tradition, there is another fundamental principle that guides us, articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, in his well-known Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
JCUA’s work embraces this interdependence with enthusiasm. We represent a social justice movement. Our long list of accomplishments over the years (which we feature on our website) doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t speak to the ways in which peoples’ lives have been transformed through their interactions with our work.
These perspectives are just the beginning of a thought process that will lead to action by people committed to social justice.
Please stay tuned right here, on JCUA’s NewsBlog for updates. I welcome your thoughts by phone (312-663-0960) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).