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

Greenberg

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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.



[Guest Post] Turn a Tragedy into a Victory for Justice

February 22, 2013

In May 2008, federal immigration agents raided the small town of Postville, IA – separating families and devastating a community. JCUA responded immediately (see photos), and worked with the Postville community in the years following the raid (read article). Nearly 5 years after the raid, JCUA’s partners in Iowa are calling for comprehensive immigration reform with renewed hope and urgency. 

by Sr. Mary McCauley, BVM
Dubuque, Iowa

Soon we will commemorate the Fifth Anniversary of the 2008 Immigration Raid in Postville, Iowa.  Having been in Postville at that time, I still carry with me the suffering of the people.

JCUA members protesting in Postville (July, 2008)

JCUA members, Postville – July, 2008 (more photos)

I recall the small girl with a scrap of paper in her hand crawling up the steps into the sanctuary and handing her paper to our Hispanic Minister with words that were clear and direct.  “Please bring my daddy home!”

I recall the women walking the streets of Postville with mandated GPS devices on their ankles.  During our walks and prayer vigils they held their heads high and carried signs that read:  “We are not criminals.  We came to work.  We came to feed our families.  We are mothers.”

I recall the words of Rigoberto Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Guatemala, who visited with those affected by the raid:  “I see the problem of Postville as full of injustices.  You should not rest until justice is done….”

The people, the memories, the pain, the injustices and the words of Menchu continue to haunt me.  I cannot rest until justice is done.

Five years ago a tragedy took place in Iowa.  Iowans responded with compassion, sensitivity and justice. Today there is another opportunity for Iowans to respond.  May we unite with one another and support legislation for comprehensive immigration reform.    May we turn the tragedy of Postville into a victory for justice.   May we not rest until justice is done!

Mary McCauley, BVM
Dubuque, Iowa 52003


Meet JCUA’s Winter/Spring 2013 Intern Cohort

February 21, 2013

by Asaf Bar-Tura

JCUA trains interns year-round, thus developing future leaders while building organizational capacity. Read about our approach, and meet our current interns.

ifnotnowwhenJCUA hosts a diverse and talented cohort of interns year-round. Our internship program has a twofold effect: first, it provides training for future social justice leaders; and second, it expands our capacity to achieve our goals.

In 2012 we had a total of 15 interns, including undergraduate, graduate and rabbinical students. This group included Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who came from across the US, as well as England and Germany.

We see internships not only as an opportunity for students to be agents of change, but also an important learning experience. Thus, we are very intentional about providing students with a stimulating environment in which they can learn, hone their professional skills and challenge themselves. We foster this environment through, individual supervision, evaluation of the internship throughout the year, as well as participation in the broader organization.

Interns are full participants in weekly staff meetings, where they have an opportunity to gain a broader understanding of JCUA’s work and strategizing. At JCUA interns develop insights related to approaching social justice through a Jewish lens, as well as strategies for interfaith partnerships.

Meet our current internship cohort:

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[Video] A Tribute to Jane Ramsey’s Jewish Social Justice Leadership

January 25, 2013

Jane RamseyJane Ramsey has led the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs courageously and energetically for over three decades. Jane has been at the forefront of many critical issues affecting Chicago and the nation. Throughout the years, her leadership enabled the JCUA to become one of Chicago’s most active and important organizations speaking on behalf of human and civil rights issues.

As Jane retired from JCUA in September 2012, here is a tribute video to her work and legacy. It is up to us all to carry this torch forward, as is said in Perkei Avot (2:21) -

“You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

Thank you, Jane.


Jane Ramsey to retire Sept. 1, capping off more than 30 years of social justice work with JCUA

August 19, 2012

For Immediate Release

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Chicago | http://www.jcua.org
Media: Jonathan Lehrer | jonathan@jcua.org
312.663.0960 x. 126  |  After Hours: 312.521.0892

Jane Ramsey

CHICAGO, Aug. 15, 2012 – After three decades during which she defined the Jewish social justice agenda in Chicago, and shaped the organization that carried out the mission, Jane Ramsey has announced her retirement from the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs – the organization that she led for more than 30 years.

Founded by Rabbi Robert Marx in 1964 as a Jewish response to the emerging civil rights movement, under Ramsey’s leadership JCUA expanded its social justice role and has become the ”go-to” organization for those seeking allies in the fight for justice.

When then long shot mayoral candidate Harold Washington became the object of racial slurs, JCUA called for Chicagoans to act on their better nature. When CHA residents sought allies to ensure that their rights were honored as the city tore down its high-rises, JCUA pulled together the coalition of religious and civil rights institutions that became the tenants’ allies. In the wake of September 11th, 2001 when Chicago’s Muslim community became the target of hate crimes, JCUA reached out to offer support and solidarity, subsequently founding the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative.

More recently, when Chicago’s Mexican communities were threatened by both gentrification and deportations, JCUA fought for immigration reform and battled the now-infamous practices of the Agriprocessors, Inc., a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa. This led to a nationwide effort, the “We Were Strangers Too Jewish Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

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