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

Stopping Gun Violence: When a Catholic Senator Quotes Heschel

October 22, 2013

“Mothers of Courage, fathers of time… sisters of mercy, brothers of love… Seekers of truth and keepers of faith, makers of peace and wisdom of ages…we are the spirit of God … we are one” – from “We Are” (by Sweet Honey in the Rock).

ap-gun-violence-prayer-vigil-4_3_r536_c534On Friday, October 18, the grassroots group “Fierce Women of Faith” (of which JCUA is a member) hosted an interfaith anti-violence training symposium. It began  with lifting up prayers and voices in song, and recognizing that Chicago is in a state of emergency.

Speakers proclaimed that faith and action are both needed, and asked attendees to commit themselves to working together for real change. This was beautifully illustrated when state Senator Jacqueline Collins quoted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to illuminate how her Catholic faith compels her to speak up in the face of injustice.

The symposium’s keynote speaker Dr. Carol Adams, the CEO of the DuSable Museum, declared that she was tired of meeting, talking and pontificating. Addressing Chicago’s violence epidemic was about more than words. Dr. Adams honored us with her poem, “We need some more neighbor in this hood!!” about the importance of human connection and of being active participants in our lives.

Dr. Adams emphasized the need to engage faith communities in politics, because politics affects justice. Policies do not exist in a vacuum and we must be aware of all of the ramifications – intentional or not. One example is the Zero Tolerance policy: zero tolerance for violence sounds great – at first. Yet we have to dig deeper, not remaining content with thinking we did the right thing by stopping all those ‘problem’ children. What happens to all the youth that now have fewer opportunities and options because they have been labeled a problem so early in life? If that policy had been in place when she was in school, she would likely not be standing before us today.

We have almost all heard that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, but Dr. Adams asks if we understand what that really takes? We cannot raise only the child and ignore the village, nor can we ignore the child as we focus on building the village. People and systems must be worked on and with simultaneously. It will be and is difficult, but it necessary, and as people of faith, it is imperative to recognize that all one needs is already there – us.

Dr. Adams suggests that it’s time we all get busy.

Get more involved in JCUA’s work to stop gun violence – contact Asaf Bar-Tura: asaf@jcua.org


Be part of the Solution to Gun Violence in Chicago

October 16, 2013
Fierce Women of Faith at peace vigil

Fierce Women of Faith at peace vigil

Violence in Chicago is a problem, but we believe that working together, we can reach a solution. But we can’t do it without you.

Knowledge and collaboration is power, so join JCUA and our partners in attending the Fierce Women of Faith Training Symposium on Friday, October 18, 2013.

Details:

  • WHEN: 8:30am-12:00pm, Friday October 18, 2013 (registration opens at 8:00am)
  • WHERE: Chicago Theological Seminary, 1407 E. 60th St (map it!)
  • DIRECTIONS: If you are taking public transportation, CTS is just a five minute walk from the 6 bus. There is also free parking in the lot on the South end of the building as well as street parking near the entrance at the North end.
  • CLICK HERE TO RSVP

Suggested Donation: $20-$30

Young JCUA leaders at vigil with Fierce Women of Faith

Young JCUA leaders at vigil with Fierce Women of Faith

What to expect?

  • Engaging with topics of advocacy, awareness and community building.
  • Learn about addressing violence from a legislative perspective with the Illinois Council on Handgun Violence’s Campaign Director, Mark Walsh and Senator Jacqueline Collins.
  • Recognize vital aspects of community engagement including working with youth and other community partners like hospitals and the CPD.

Find the JCUA group at the event:

At the event look for JCUA staff (particularly Rebecca Katz and organizing intern Beth Filipiak) with our blue JCUA logos during registration.  Rebecca will hold a brief gathering after the symposium to discuss JCUA’s next steps in our anti-violence campaign. She will be holding a JCUA sign to help everyone gather.

Help Stop the Violence:

  • Tell us more about your interest and RSVP here.
  • For more information about Friday, contact Rebecca at rebecca@jcua.org
  • For more information about all of our anti-violence work, contact asaf@jcua.org

Women’s Equality Day

August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013

Women vote today, their children vote tomorrow.women for cir

Join the Illinois Women for Compassionate Immigration Reform as we celebrate women’s suffrage and National Women’s Equality Day.

Women from backgrounds in politics, education, religion, and social services come together to speak about the voting power of women and immigrants and the importance of passing an immigration reform bill this year that supports women and their families.

Rabbi Ali Abrams, JCUA’s Director of Organizing, will be speaking.

Date: Monday, August 26th

Time: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Downtown. Location to be announced. 

RSVP to claire@mujereslat.org


Meet an “Iftar in the Synagogue” MC

July 25, 2013

UPDATE

See photos of “Iftar in the Synagogue” here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/33080177@N02/sets/72157634844991717

 

by Jessica Cohen
Communications Intern, JCUA

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, breaking their fast each evening with an “Iftar” meal. Celebrating this tradition, the annual “Iftar in the Synagogue” event creates a safe space for Jews and Muslims to join in an evening of interfaith prayer, keynote addresses and a shared kosher/halal dinner.

Past "Iftar in the Synagogue" participants

Past “Iftar in the Synagogue” participants

Co-sponsored by JCUA and the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, along with other Jewish and Muslim organizations, this year’s “Iftar in the Synagogue” will take place Thursday, July 25, 2013 at Anshe Emet Synagogue.

“It’s an exciting program to be involved in, and it is definitely an experience you would not get at a lot of other places,” Margaret Port, “Iftar in the Synagogue” planning committee member, said. “A lot of stuff goes into planning such a big event, especially since it is an event that can be considered contentious by some. There is a lot of treading lightly to make sure that everyone’s needs are satisfied.”

“It is very eye-opening to different issues I would not have considered otherwise,” she continued.

This year’s theme, “Neighbors Against Bigotry,” focuses on opposing Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, going hand-in-hand with Margaret’s interests as a Jewish-Muslim Relations intern with JCUA. Acting as neighbors, planning committee members hope to combat discrimination by building personal connections between Chicago Jews and Muslims.

“This is definitely a community-building event,” Margaret said. “I have already seen from people in the planning committee that our two cultures are very similar. And, though we do have our differences, we are all living in the Chicago-area. We are all neighbors, fighting against some of the same issues that everyone in Chicago has been working on.”

Instructing people and encouraging conversations, Margaret will facilitate this mission as she co-MCs the event.

“I think the MC role is especially important this year, since the focus is on neighbors,” Margaret explained. “For a lot of people, this is their first ‘Iftar in the Synagogue.’ So encouraging conversations is a great way for everyone to get to know who they’re with as we get to know about both each other and our cultures.”


Leaders Express Concern at Press Conference After Law Enforcement Raid in Immigrant Community

July 9, 2013

by Jessica Cohen
Communications Intern, JCUA

photo 4

On Saturday, June 29, 2013, law enforcement agents raided Swap-O-Rama, a flea market located in Back of the Yards, a neighborhood in Chicago’s southwest side. Since the raid, accounts have come out depicting stories of undocumented citizens being arrested and detained, and, as such, often fearing deportation.

The following Wednesday, immigrant justice leaders and Illinois officials gathered at City Hall for a press conference to discuss this raid, where many immigrants live, work and shop.

Speakers at the press conference were especially concerned over the arrests apparent of immigrants, given the immigration reform bill currently under debate in Congress. As such, many stressed a need for the government to stop deportations.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia speaking at the press conference.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia speaking at the press conference.

Speakers encouraged both the Chicago Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exhibit more prudence in the way they present themselves. According to Eric Rodriguez from the Latino Union of Chicago, having local police and ICE acting together confuses community members, leaving them afraid to confide in the police.

“It is a domino effect,” Rodriguez explained. “People will fear to ask for help.”

While officials claim that arrests took place due to bootleg CDs, many noted the discrepancy between the degree of force used during the raid and the small-scale nature of the crime.

“Overwhelming force was used,” Alderman George Cardenas, of the 12th Ward, said. “It was over copyright and CDs. I’m not saying it’s right, but it was over $5 CDs. The raid did not even target the producers or companies, but those just trying to make ends meet.”

“It is chilling that the police is targeting those selling $5 CDs, when there are many more violent crimes,” he continued.

When reporters asked what these participating offices and organizations plan to do next, speakers suggested educating people and other organizations about their rights. For example, about their right to remain silent and to see an attorney, regardless of their legal status.


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