Our Jewish Response to Chicago’s Soaring Foreclosure Crisis

Judy Levey

by Judy Levey
Executive Director, JCUA

An article this week in the Washington Post called attention to the economic suffering of many communities four years after the housing bust. Near the top of the list for the most suffering is our own Cook County. The article states:

The list of worse-off communities includes places such as Cook County in Illinois, where home prices have fallen nearly 20 percent, unemployment has risen and the inventory of foreclosures has soared.

Responsive to poverty and community needs, JCUA’s work addresses this devastation through our housing advocacy work and our Community Ventures Program. Community Ventures provides zero-interest loans for the redevelopment and preservation of affordable housing. The program currently funds the rehabilitation of foreclosed homes in North Lawndale and neighboring communities through a loan to Breaking Ground, Inc., in addition to predevelopment costs associated with the rehabilitation of the Rosenwald Building to create more than 230 affordable units in Bronzeville (see more Community Ventures projects here).

My rabbi, Rabbi Kensky of Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah, spoke about the need for a Jewish voice in working to combat injustice in his Dvar Torah last Shabbat on the story of Noah. He generously shared his Dvar Torah with me and gave me permission to share it here. In it, Rabbi Kensky explained:

From the portion Noah we learn great lessons about injustice and immoral behavior in the world and what our Jewish response to it should be. Injustice and corruption, violence and immorality lead to the collapse of the world order as we know it. And in the face of such a collapse in the moral order, we are called upon to act. We’re called upon to take stands. The rabbis are telling us through their comments about Noah that we should not retreat into our own homes and families, our own sanctuaries and havens, our own arks, but we that should try to influence the world around us. We shouldn’t just aim to keep ourselves warm—we should spread our warmth to those around us. This, to our sages, is the heart of the teaching of the portion of Noah. (Download Full Text)

The challenge of translating justice into compelling acts of tikkun olam to address root causes of poverty and discrimination is one that our work at JCUA embraces with intentionality. Check us out, if you haven’t lately, and join us in our work. It is current, relevant, and meaningful – informed by a prophetic vision of justice and grounded in impact and results.

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