JCUA: Making a Difference Through Jewish Identity

August 7, 2014

By Zoe Reinstein
JCUA Summer Intern

Zoe Reinstein, summer intern at JCUA

Zoe Reinstein, summer intern. Learn more about JCUA’s internship program here.

Let’s be clear. Waking up at 7 am during your summer vacation is annoying. That is, unless you’re interning for JCUA. The first day, I begrudgingly and half-asleep showed up for work at the office of this 50-year-old social justice organization. It took very little time at all to realize how incredible this experience was going to be when I picked up the phone, and it was the governor’s office calling JCUA.

During my time here, I had the pleasure of helping with logistics for the “Acts of Change” 50th anniversary gala and planning “Iftar in the Synagogue.” I helped to organize a JCUA delegation to an interfaith vigil hosted by the Chicago Religious Leadership Network vigil for the families of deportees at the Broadview Detention Center, followed by a meaningful interfaith discussion over coffee.

These experiences have taught me that there is nothing more exhilarating than feeling like you are actually making a difference because of your Jewish identity, which would have been impossible anywhere other than JCUA. I have seen how much effort goes in to making change, but that it is equally as worth it as it is difficult.

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JCUA Organizing for Change: What’s Our Process?

July 28, 2014

Click here to become a member today!

JCUA’s budding membership program is only the first step in a much larger process of effectively and actively engaging in social justice from a Jewish perspective. In fact, it is a part of a larger organizing model that ends with JCUA members leading vibrant, unique campaigns that address the root causes of racism and poverty in Illinois.

organizing model image

Click here to read more about JCUA’s organizing process

The first step is getting to know our members’ passions and invest in them as leaders. That’s the step we’re engaged in currently. This stage is centered around meetings with individual members and regular, larger-scale member meetings. Our next meeting is coming up on Thursday, Aug. 7. Through these get-togethers, we’re learning what issues motivate the JCUA community.  We’re also growing the capacity of individuals to lead and implement future campaigns.

Sign up here to be a part of the upcoming meeting! 

As we invigorate JCUA’s base, our campaign work will  become increasingly strong and more effective. At our last meeting, we shared an outline of questions JCUA asks when shaping actions around a specific issue. Among other things, we assess whether our involvement stems from the needs of a community directly impacted by the issue and whether the action addresses root causes. We also ask what we as JCUA can best contribute and how the potential campaign will inspire our Jewish community to take action.

JCUA member image

Finally, as we commit to campaigns, JCUA continues to hold our core values closely. We ask ourselves how our continued work remains inclusive of individuals and communities directly impacted by the issue, how our work strengthens relationships between communities, individuals and organizations involved, and whether our campaign has a clear, time-bound goal.

For more information:

Read more about JCUA’s organizing criteria.

► Join us on the 7th for our next membership meeting.

► Sign up to be a member here.

Daniel Kaplan, Community Organizer, Joins JCUA Staff

March 4, 2014

Daniel Kaplan, community organizer for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Daniel Kaplan grew up in Chicago with a passion for tzedek and social justice.

That would be just about the perfect combination for a position at JCUA. He began his new career with us this week as a community organizer.

“I’m thrilled to be working with an organization as venerable as JCUA. It’s an honor to join the staff at JCUA’s 50th anniversary,” says Daniel. “I’m looking forward to this exciting opportunity as we recommit to advancing a just vision for the city of Chicago.”

Daniel graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. with a BA in Race and Ethnic Studies, concentrating on Postcolonial Studies and the Middle East. He returned to Chicago to live in a Moishe House and help build a young Jewish community rooted in social justice. Since then, he has become an active member of Mishkan Chicago, and organizes with Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools.

“During my time in Chicago I’ve seen JCUA organize strategically, build valuable relationships, and take risks in the name of social justice,” Daniel says. “From civil disobedience in the name of immigration reform to mobilizing the Jewish community around A Better Illinois to standing with Muslim community organizations against Islamophobia, JCUA is advancing a pluralistic and universal definition of tzedek that shapes my values and approach to organizing.”

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Rabbi Ben Greenberg Joins JCUA Staff; Seder Set for April

January 30, 2014

Be a Part of JCUA’s Next 50

Judy LeveyFrom Judy Levey, Executive Director

Before this frozen January concludes, we want to thank you for making 2013 a resounding success. Your generosity allowed JCUA to enter 2014 with strong footing and an expanding road map for building our momentum.

Whether you are interested in immigration reform, responding to gun violence, a fair state tax structure, community investment, or building bridges with communities that face poverty and racism, JCUA is creating spaces for you to get involved, develop leadership skills, and get to know your city.

Rabbi Ben Greenberg Joins JCUA Staff


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Jewish Funders Network Selects JCUA for Matching Grant

January 10, 2014

By Pamela Klier-Weidner
Director of Development and Organizational Advancement, JCUA

What a great start to JCUA’s 50th year!

Jewish Funders NetworkJCUA is among a number of Jewish organizations across the country that will receive a total of more than $490,000 in grants from a matching fund supported by seven foundations in partnership with the Jewish Funders Network. In addition to JCUA, Jewish organizations that fight human trafficking, promote environmental sustainability and train community organizers are among those to receive the funds.

This means that we will have more resources in early 2014 to make positive and lasting change in Chicago, thanks to the Jewish Funders Network and a very generous individual donor to JCUA.

» Read the JFN announcement

Seventeen organizations are sharing portions of the $490,000, in grants ranging in size from $15,000 to $50,000. They are:

Amir; AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps; Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice; Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice — LA; IKAR; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; Jewish Disaster Response Corps; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; JOIN for Justice; MAZON; National Council of Jewish Women; Shalom Bayit; T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Tivnu: Building Justice; and Urban Adamah.

But that’s only part of the story. This spring, JFN will award another $500,000, making this a $1 million national donation program.

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Remembering Ruth Rothstein, activist and JCUA leader

August 5, 2013

By Pamela Klier-Weidner
Director of Development and Organizational Advancement

Ruth Rothstein (right) presents the Rabbi Robert J. J. Marx Social Justice award to Sister Sheila Lyne in 2008.

Ruth Rothstein (right) presents the Rabbi Robert J. Marx Social Justice award to Sister Sheila Lyne in 2008.

From the moment I met Ruth Rothstein, I had the sense that I was talking to a woman with the direct approach of a union organizer (which she was) combined with an unmatched dedication to the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam” (repairing the world).

I was fortunate enough to work with Ruth from just about the minute I joined the JCUA staff in 2008. That was the year she chaired JCUA’s Rabbi Robert J. Marx Social Justice Award dinner.

A lifelong activist who served as CEO of Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital for 25 years, Ruth died this past weekend at 90.

In addition to many other aspects of civic involvement, Rothstein was a longtime member of the JCUA advisory board.

We will all miss her and so appreciate everything that she did for Chicago and Jewish social justice.

In a Chicago Tribune interview, her son, Jonathan Rothstein said she was driven to “make the world a better place, not for the money and not for the fame, but just because it was the right thing to do.”

She leaves behind an extraordinary legacy.

» Read the full Tribune article

Chicago’s Affordable Housing Crisis And What We Are Doing About It

July 11, 2013

by Beth Filipiak
Community Development Intern, JCUA

In Chicago, your bank teller may not have the basic financial means to afford “affordable housing” without being considered “cost burdened.” To be “cost burdened” is when more than 30% of your income goes to basic housing costs.

Chicago’s Affordable Housing Crisis

affordable housingWith the average price of a one bedroom rental unit in Chicago being approximately $850, a person needs an annual salary of $34,000 to afford such an apartment.  Yet a bank teller does not typically make that much. Neither do many public school bus drivers, nursing aids, receptionists or security guards.

This also almost guarantees that these same professionals would not be able to afford a mortgage of a home priced at $150,000 without being cost burdened (see more statistics here). Hence, Chicago lacks truly affordable housing options for many workers and the unemployed.

However, too many apartments remain vacant: some are caught up in Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) ‘limbo’ where they are not being lived in, or are being torn down, as CHA figures out their “Plan Forward.

Some units have out priced their neighborhood. Others are uninhabitable, though, incredibly, the US Census 2011 American Community Survey reports that there are still a few occupied units in Chicago without complete plumbing, kitchens or available phone service.

Even owning your own home has not meant that you have been unscathed by the recent housing crisis.  Most likely you know someone who is struggling with mortgage payments (as of 2010, almost 50% of homeowners were).

What We Are Doing About It

There is no doubt that things need to change for the better.  At JCUA we strongly believe in the positive ripples that stable housing provides; for individuals, families and communities.  This is why for over the past twenty years, JCUA’s Community Ventures Program has provided almost $4.5 million in seed funding to create or rehab over 3,600 units of affordable housing.

This is why we continue to look for partners with a commitment to restoring and maintaining human dignity by offering truly affordable, safe and secure housing.  For more information about our Community Ventures Program, visit our website.


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