Jewish-Muslim Bridge Building During Summer 2014

June 2, 2014

The Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) is a core component of the work of JCUA in building bridges with communities impacted by discrimination. JMCBI began in 2001 in response to the tremendous rise of Islamophobia after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. During the past 14 years JMCBI has created inter-religious dialogues, cultural events and stood in solidarity with both Jews and Muslims against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. We are excited to share two developments happening over the summer of 2014 that will further the work of Jewish-Muslim bridge building.

Zoë ReinsteinWe welcome Zoë Reinstein to JCUA as the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative summer intern! Zoë is from Highland Park, IL and is no stranger to JCUA. Zoë is a third generation participant in the work of Jewish social justice with JCUA beginning with her grandfather. She is an incoming sophomore at Oberlin College and became activated in interfaith work when she participated in Hands of Peace last summer. During the summer Zoë will be instrumental in helping us grow JMCBI’s activities and making sure the annual Iftar in the Synagogue is a success!

Chicago SinaiThis summer we are thrilled to be working on our 9th annual Iftar in the Synagogue. This is one of the highlights of the year in Chicago for Jewish and Muslim interfaith engagement. The theme for Iftar this year is Rekindle Our Faith, Renew Our Community and we will be focusing on how we can bring a new spirit of justice to our city through the lens of our faith traditions. We are grateful to Chicago Sinai Congregation for hosting the 2014 Iftar in their beautiful synagogue in the heart of downtown. Space is limited this year so please RSVP online to reserve a spot. There is no mandatory cost to attend while a donation is always appreciated which helps cover the cost for the delicious catered kosher and hallal dinner.

Mark your calendar for the Iftar on July 17th at 6:30pm taking place at Chicago Sinai Congregation (15 W. Delaware Pl., Chicago). The synagogue is easily accessible by public transit or you can drive and park at 1 E. Delaware Pl. and bring your ticket to the synagogue to have it validated for discounted parking.

Action Items:

1) RSVP to attend Iftar in the Synagogue

2) Volunteer at Iftar in the Synagogue


#TraumaCenterNow: Why gun violence and trauma centers are a Jewish issue

May 22, 2014

by Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer

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Yesterday, JCUA took part in an interfaith vigil with student and community groups comprising the Trauma Center Coalition.  Several dozen strong, we  marched to one of the most prestigious medical centers in the country: the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Our march was part of a greater campaign to address gun violence in the neighborhood and a lack of response from surrounding institutions.  Gun violence remains a crisis of epidemic proportions, particularly on Chicago’s south side near the medical center.  Yet while our city has six trauma centers for gunshot victims, not a single one is located on the south side.

For this reason, we held vigil as part of a broader week of action to demand the University of Chicago open a level 1 adult trauma center for the surrounding community.  While the University of Chicago operates a pediatric trauma center, it has not opened its doors for nearby adult victims of gun violence since 1988.  While reflecting on the crisis, we heard stories of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons who were gunned down within reach of the university.  Even though the medical center has the facilities to treat gunshot trauma, these people died in ambulance rides on the way to trauma centers elsewhere.

I was appalled to hear these stories from an area that many are calling a “trauma center desert“.  This desert covers an area with one of the city’s highest rates of gun violence.  Chicagoans in the trauma center desert are disproportionately black and lacking health insurance relative to better served parts of the city.  Listening to the testimony of lost loved ones, I could not help but wonder: why are our resources for treating gun violence completely absent in neighborhoods where they are the most needed?  Why has the University of Chicago not responded to this glaring disparity by reopening its center?

If family and community members were dying in trauma center deserts on the north side, would nearby universities respond differently?

Read the rest of this entry »



From Immigration to Gun Violence: JCUA Stands with Families Torn Apart

April 29, 2014

In the past five years nearly two million individuals have been deported from the United States. Fathers and mothers taken from children. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins separated from their families. The trauma of loss and disconnection profoundly felt as people grapple with the disappearance of those closest to them.

Two million is too many!

We are standing together with our partners throughout the Chicagoland area and demanding the end to deportations. The voice of each individual experiencing detention and deportation can become silenced by the system that overwhelms them. However, when we all come together and demand change that collective voice cannot be silenced.

May 1st, JCUA is joining with our partners to march from Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (101 W. Congress Pkwy). Please join us beginning at 3 pm and declare that we will no longer accept as normal that families should be torn apart by a broken immigration system.

Later that evening continuing our focus on families torn apart we turn our attention to the horrible plague of gun violence. We will join together with our community partner, Fierce Women of Faith, for an important mother-son dialogue about the challenges of parenthood and the forces that would turn the young men in communities throughout Chicago to a life of violence and death. Please join us in the evening on May 1st from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at DuSable Museum. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.

128 years ago as people peacefully demonstrated for an eight hour workday in Haymarket Square that would enable parents to spend more time with their children a bomb was thrown and the lives of at least 11 people were ended. 125 years later through both the devastation and gun violence and an unjust immigration system millions of people have been ripped away from their families and lives have been destroyed. Join JCUA at either one or both of these events on May 1st as we stand together for families.

Details of the Events:

(1) “Two Million, Too Many” Immigration March

Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines) at 3 pm marching to the office of ICE (101 W. Congress Pkwy)

(2) “Question Bridge: Black Males – Mother to Son: A Frank Discussion and Letters of Love”

6:30 pm at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance on the museum website.


Director of Teen Programs Speaks about Faith Informed Justice

December 11, 2013

Yesterday evening, Rebecca Katz, JCUA’s Director of Teen Programs, spoke at the 8th Day Center for Justice Young Adult Council and the Brother David Darst Center’s “Speaker Series: Faith Informed Justice.” Together with Jerica Arents, peace activist and educator, and Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, the panel explored how their faith tradition shape their work for justice. Over forty people attended the event, held at the Darst Center.

Rebecca, Jerica, and Gerald at the panel.

Rebecca, Jerica, and Gerald at the panel.

During the panel, Gerald reflected on how his Muslim faith guides his activism work. Addressing how her spirituality shapes her justice work, Jerica described how she uses silence and reflection as a space to examine and combat internalized oppression.

During the Q&A session, many of the questions focused on the panelists’ experiences teaching youth about social injustices in Chicago. One audience member asked,” How do you help teens who are struggling with feelings of guilt?” Speaking from her experience with Or Tzedek, Rebecca answered that guilt is a natural, but unproductive emotion that often causes people to run away from social justice engagement.

As a strategy to move from guilt to (productive) responsibility, Rebecca explained the importance of teaching teens concrete activism and advocacy skills, like creating an action plan or identifying attainable goals. This training allows teens to break down a seemingly insurmountable oppression, like institutionalized racism, into a campaign focused on a specific issue, like gun violence in Chicago.


Hunger Summit Starts Tonight in Northfield

December 6, 2013

Posted on Behalf of Temple Jeremiah

Temple Jeremiah, a Reform synagogue in Northfield, Ill., invites the North Shore community to partner with temple members to explore and fight hunger in our community for a three-day Hunger Summit on Dec. 6-8, 2013. The temple will host activities throughout the weekend, culminating in a panel of U.S. and state legislators, including Representatives Brad Schneider and Jan Schakowsky.

The weekend will include a presentation on food insecurity in our community from the Northern Illinois Food Bank on Friday night during 8 p.m. Shabbat worship; a showing of the award-winning film “A Place at the Table,” followed by a discussion led by Feeding America on Saturday at 4 p.m.; and a legislative panel on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Sunday’s legislative panel, moderated by the Greater Chicago Food Depository, will discuss the issues of hunger nationally and locally. Panelists include Representatives Brad Schneider (10th) and Jan Schakowsky (9th); State Senators Daniel Biss and Julie Morrison; and State Representatives Laura Fine, Elaine Nekritz, and Scott Drury.

“The point of this weekend is for all of us to come together and communicate with our legislators and advocate for change,” said Barb Miller, co-chair of Temple Jeremiah’s social action committee. “It goes beyond religious lines – this is about helping our neighbors.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Following the Legacy of Mayor Washington, 26 Years Later

December 2, 2013

Harold Washington served as Chicago’s first African-American Mayor from 1983 until his death in 1987. Christopher Huff, JCUA’s community organizing intern, attended the ceremony commemorating 26 years to Mayor Washington’s death, on November 25. In this post, Christopher reflects on the future of Washington’s legacy. 

by Christopher Huff
Community Organizing Intern, JCUA

Christopher Huff at Mayor Washington's grave.

Christopher Huff at Mayor Washington’s grave.

Fairness is much more than just a favored position. Fairness is a necessary condition for the existence of a civilized society. Fairness is a guard against injustice and a key component to any act derived from the intent to be free from bias or prejudice.

We must never forget this important role that fairness plays in the development of our society. Fairness is one of the most important tools we have to ensure not only the promotion of social justice, but the advancement of economic and political opportunities for those in need.

No leader could have understood these concepts more than former Chicago mayor Harold Washington. His belief in the advancement of fairness as a crucial value to promote during his campaign and tenure as mayor is arguably the most salient issue addressed during his inaugural speech in the fall of 1983. In this speech he said:

“I hope someday to be remembered by history as the Mayor who cared about people and who was, above all, fair…

One of the ideas that held us all together said that neighborhood involvement has to take the place of the ancient, decrepit and creaking machine. City government for once in our lifetime must be made equitable and fair.”

Mayor Washington at a JCUA event in 1983. With him (right to left): Rabbi Robert Marx (JCUA founder), Jane Ramsey (JCUA executive director, who later served in Washington's cabinet), and Kurt Rothschild (then JCUA Board president).

Mayor Washington at a JCUA event in 1983. With him (right to left): Rabbi Robert Marx (JCUA founder), Jane Ramsey (JCUA executive director, who later served in Washington’s cabinet), and Kurt Rothschild (then JCUA Board president).

Now, we fast forward 30 years following his inauguration and exactly 26 years past his shocking death and there I stood in front of his gravesite as a community organizer in training at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and student at the University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration inspired by his words and dedicated to a call for a more fair Chicago for all the city’s residents.

Chicago has a come a long way since the passing of the Harold Washington. It has grown to become home to more than 2.7 million people and the second largest labor force in the United States. It remains the premier location for global conventions, tourists, and immigrants of all types of colors, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds.

Jesse Jackson speaking at Washington's memorial ceremony. He said: "We will not let let the flame burn out... without Harold there is no Barack."

Jesse Jackson speaking at Washington’s memorial ceremony. He said: “We will not let let the flame burn out… without Harold there is no Barack.”

However, if we are going to truly address the issues of racism, classism, and anti-Semitism that has plagued our city for generations once and for all, we must increase our willingness to work collaboratively across culture and religion – regardless of any fear or caution we might possess.

For nearly 50 years, JCUA has worked collaboratively across various cultures and religions to help address issues of race, class, and anti-Semitism.  Building on the prophetic Jewish values of “Tzedek” (justice) and “Tikkun Olam,” (repairing the world), JCUA inspires me to continue working toward the creation of a more fair and just Chicago.

And now, more than ever, I hope that you also stay committed to the principles of Tzedek and Tikkun Olam as you look to continue or renew your commitment to Jewish life.


A JCUA Board Member Explains: Why I Decided To Break The Law

November 6, 2013

by Sidney Hollander
JCUA Board Member

On Wednesday, November 6, 2013 JCUA board members, staff, and lay leaders will participate in an act of civil disobedience, in protest of ongoing deportations that are tearing apart immigrant families and in a call to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. 125 people will block streets surrounding the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Building in downtown Chicago, and thousands more will serve as witnesses. Sidney Hollander is a JCUA board member, past president of the board, and a member of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team.

Sidney Hollander

Sidney Hollander

I do not undertake civil disobedience lightly.  Law is a foundation of civilization, and is absolutely central to Judaism.  Jews are commanded to welcome the stranger.  The commandment is repeated more than thirty times, the most of any commandment in the Hebrew bible.

Unfortunately, for nearly four years the U.S. government has operated in flagrant disregard of that commandment, visiting a reign of terror on 11 million families who seek only to live peacefully and productively in their adopted country.

We are all dragged into this regime of discrimination and deportations.  We depend on immigrant labor but refuse to grant enough visas.  Worse, we then pretend that we bear no responsibility for the presence of undocumented workers among us.

I can no longer take refuge in the self-deception that blinds us to the terrible injustices perpetrated by our government.  We need fundamental reform of our immigration system.  Until it is enacted I will feel obligated to interfere with the “normal” life that is built on this hypocrisy and these injustices.

We can do better.  My small act of civil disobedience is a call to all of us to rediscover our humanity and welcome the stranger among us, as we are commanded.

—————

immigration group photo 1

In photo (left to right):
Maria Medina, Sidney Hollander,
Rebecca Katz, Peggy Slater.

Participants in the civil disobedience on behalf of JCUA include: Peggy Slater (JCUA Board President), Sidney Hollander (JCUA Board), Maria Medina (Chair of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team), and Rebecca Katz (JCUA’s Director of Teen Programs).

Other Jewish community leaders attending the rally include: Rabbi Fredrick Reeves (KAM Isiah Israel), Rabbi David Russo (Anshe Emet), Rabbi Brant Rosen (Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation), Kalman Resnick (immigration attorney and JCUA lay leader), and students from Chicagoland Jewish High School.


(Panel Discussion) Widening the Circle: Theory & Identity in the Praxis of Solidarity

October 31, 2013

Asaf Bar-Tura, JCUA’s Director of Operations, will be speaking at a panel discussion (Thursday, November 14, 2013) convened by the University of Chicago Divinity School and four theological seminaries. The topic will be “Theory and Solidarity.” 

Asaf Bar-Tura

Asaf Bar-Tura

Background:

The University of Chicago Divinity School is collaborating with seminarians from McCormick Theological Seminary, the Catholic Theological Union, the Lutheran School of Theology, and the Chicago Theological Seminary, in organizing the Annual Ministry Conference. This year’s focus: “Widening the Circle: Theory & Identity in the Praxis of Solidarity.”

The Annual Ministry Conference consists of three panel discussions throughout the year, the first of which will take place on Thursday, November 14, 2013 (5:00-7:00pm).

Details:

  • Discussion Topic: “Theory & Solidarity”
  • When: November 14th, 5-7pm
  • Where: McCormick Theological Seminary, Common Room (5460 S University Ave, Chicago)
  • Click here to RSVP

Topic Overview: 

Recognizing that solidarity movements address a wide variety of justice issues, we seek to begin the conversation by hearing about the theoretical perspectives and personal commitments that are at stake in the praxis of solidarity.

Panelists:

  • Asaf Bar-Tura: Director of Operations, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
  • Mikki Kendal: writer and pop culture analyst. Most recently known for her feminist/womanist work related to #solidarityisforwhitewomen.
  • Heath Carter: Associate Professor and historian at Valparaiso University. Particularly interested in issues of economic inequality and how American Christians relate to them.

Discussion Moderator:

  • Rev. Dr. Linda Eastwood: Adjunct Professor and Coordinator of the Colombia Accompaniment Program at McCormick Theological Seminary.

A light dinner will be served. Suggested donation of $5 is welcomed but not required.

Click here to RSVP.

Additional Panel Discussions in this Series:

  • “Identity in Solidarity”: February 6th, 2014 at Chicago Theological Seminary
  • “The Praxis of Solidarity”: May 2, 2014 at the University of Chicago Divinity School

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