(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


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).


  • 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.


  • 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

JCUA’s Director of Organizing Will Speak on Immigration Through a Jewish Lens at Southside Community Gathering

May 21, 2013

Rabbi Ali Abrams will be talking about immigration from a Jewish perspective at the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council 2013 Annual Meeting.


Rabbi Ali Abrams

  • When: Tuesday, June 4, 6:00pm
  • Where: Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.  Below is a summary of the event’s schedule.

Event Schedule:

6 p.m. – Registration and dinner (buffet style) will begin.  Those coming for dinner are asked to contribute $10 toward its costs.

6:30 p.m.  While dinning continues, the program will begin.

The program is entitled “Welcoming the Stranger?  Faith Traditions on Immigration Reform.”  A panel of 3 or 4 individuals, from the Jewish, Christian, and eastern religious traditions, will speak on how their faiths inform and guide them in responding to the current Immigration Reform legislation and debate.

7:45 p.m. (to roughly 8:30 p.m.)  Annual Business Meeting


If you have further questions please contact Rabbi Ali Abrams at alison@jcua.org.

Jewish and Muslim Cyclists Will Ride Together, Narrowing the Distance Between Faiths

May 21, 2013

On Sunday, June 30, area Jews and Muslims will share the road and their places of worship via bicycle tour of North shore Chicago-area mosques and synagogues.
Photo by The Chicago Tribune

Photo by The Chicago Tribune

The Jewish-Muslim Ride is the second in what Julie Hochstadter, of The Chainlink hopes will be a series of annual rides that share the faiths’ heritage and houses of worship. The Chainlink: A Chicago Bicycling Online Community, is managed by Hochstadter as a website that connects cyclists to biking news and events in Chicago.

Last year’s ride in the city was a surprisingly huge success,” says Hochstadter. “I’d love to see two rides a year in different parts of the Chicago-land area.”

Inspiration for the ride came in the mid 2000s after Hochstadter participated in a ride that brought Arab and Jewish students together to raise money for an environmental school in Israel.

“The ride not only got me hooked on biking, but on the power of bringing people of different faiths together for a fun, shared goal,” she says.

This year’s ride is co-sponsored by The Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) (an initiative of JCUA) and the Evanston Bicycle Club. Interfaith and bicycle organizations interested in partnering to bring common ground to Muslims and Jews are welcome to sponsor or ride.

Riders will meet at the The Muslim Community Center at noon and ride to several synagogues and mosques in Morton Grove, Skokie and Evanston for a 15-mile, family-friendly ride. There are plans to tour a LEED-certified synagogue in Evanston and for a kosher ice cream stop at Chocolate Shoppe in Skokie.

“Our hope is to find common ground, quite literally,” Hochstadter says. “And show unity by riding together. The more time we spend with one other, the more we can do to bring together the two faiths and fight stereotypes and, possibly make change.”

North shore synagogue and mosque stops along the way include: The Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove; Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation; Beth Emet The Free Synagogue.

The Jewish-Muslim ride is open to riders of all abilities and all faiths.

More Information:


Julie Hochstadter, Director
The Chainlink


About The Chainlink:  With over 8,000 members, The Chainlink is Chicagoland’s premiere social media site for cyclists, from commuters to racers, from local aldermen and City of Chicago officials, to Peter Sagal of National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.”

[EVENT: 3/20] “Parsley, Plagues, and Power”: JCUA’s Seder

February 5, 2013

seder banner

by Max Harkavy
Communications Intern, JCUA

On Wednesday, March 20th, 6-8:30pm, The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs will be hosting a unique and meaningful community Passover Seder.  The event is titled “Parsley, Plagues, and Power: JCUA’s Annual Freedom and Justice Seder” (see event details).

This Seder seeks to connect the themes of Passover with the pursuit of justice, addressing community struggles, and engaging Jews with the mission of JCUA.

abrams“A Jewish voice in social justice work is very important,” says Rabbi Ali Abrams, JCUA’s Director of Organizing.  Rabbi Abrams will co-lead the Seder with Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann of Mishkan Chicago, a spiritual Jewish community committed to soulful musical prayer and learning.

Through this event, JCUA hopes to reach out to many local, young, Jewish adults about specific advocacy efforts and community organizing in which JCUA is involved.  The goal of this event is “for us to create energy around our work, engage large numbers of new people, and bring in new leadership for the Jewish community” remarked Abrams.

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Igniting Activism: Or Tzedek’s 2012 Winter Leadership Retreat

January 17, 2013

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Last month, Or Tzedek held its second annual Winter Leadership Retreat. Fourteen teens from diverse Jewish backgrounds attended these four powerful days of learning, building relationships and creating change.

Through their actions and workshops, Or Tzedek’s youth leaders demonstrated the power of youth working together to address root causes of injustice and build relationships between teen leaders in Chicago’s diverse communities.

By advocating for immigration reform with the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights to phone banking for Southsiders United for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), sharing experiences with a community of Chicago’s young activists at the Faith in Youth Power Story Slam to working on alternatives to our current unjust detention system with the Interfaith Committee on Detained Immigrants, Or Tzedek was, at its core, combating racism, anti-semitism and poverty in Chicago.

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MLK Day of Action on Jan. 21, 2013

January 8, 2013

Monday, January 21st, 2013 will mark the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. This milestone is a great opportunity for us to honor Dr. King’s legacy by renewing the shared commitment of the black and Jewish communities to creating social justice in Chicago together.

This year, Anshe Emet, Bright Star Church, and Or Tzedek have partnered to  honor Dr. King’s extraordinary social justice work by bringing together members of Bright Star Church and Community Outreach and the Chicago Jewish Community for our MLK Day of Action in Bronzville.

We see this at the first step in building a powerful relationship, particularly between youth, to combat education injustice and the interconnected issue of violence, specifically in the southside Chicago neighborhood of Bronzeville.

We are bringing  together 75 people from each of our communities: 25 students in 6th-8th grade, 25 high school students, and 25 adults. Join us in spending  the day getting to know each other, learning about issues of education in the Bronzeville community, and working with the non-profit organization Beyondmedia and Bright Star’s Media team to raise awareness about some of the challenges in our education system today.

We will not be providing food for this event, so please bring your own lunch and snacks. Buses will leave from Anshe Emet at 9:15 AM for Bright Star Church and they will return to Anshe Emet at approximately 3:30 PM. Bright Star Church is located at 735 East 44th Street.

We have limited space available, and we will accept people on a first come, first serve basis, so please sign up as soon as you can.

Sign up online to attend MLK Day of Action!

If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Katz, JCUA’s manager of teen programs, at 312-663-0960, ext.124 or rebecca@jcua.org

Guest Op-Ed: JCUA Teen Leader on the CTU Strike

September 13, 2012

by Sophie Leff

Sophie Leff (left) at a JCUA event

The following is an op-ed piece by Sophie Leff, a junior at Northside College Prep. Sophie did Or Tzedek’s Activism and Community Organizing  summer program in 2011 and Advanced Activism in 2012. She was a part of the leadership team who planned Or Tzedek’s first Winter Leadership Retreat in 2011. Sophie is currently the Social Action Vice President of Beth Emet Synagogue Senior Youth.

Sophie writes: “I do not prioritize national standardization. I prioritize safe physical and emotional learning environments; modern, relevant and challenging curricula; abundant and up-to-date instructional materials; and above all, good teachers. This isn’t a message only for CPS, it’s for the State of Illinois. Its negligent school funding (based on property taxes) provides the least amount of resources for those who need it most, and it’s a message for the nation as a whole.”

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JCUA Co-Sponsoring Unique Jewish-Muslim Concert

August 23, 2012

Phillip Simmons conducting the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra

The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is partnering with the American Islamic Center of Bosniaks  and American Music Festivals to present a unique Jewish-Muslim concert.

When: Sunday, September 2nd, 7PM
: American Islamic College (640 W. Irving Park, Chicago)
This event on Facebook

Concert Highlights:

  • The Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra, managed by American Music Festivals, will be joined by vocal soloist Imam Senad Agic, for the U.S. premiere of Josip Slavenski’s “Muslimani.”.
  • Additional highlights include guest speaker Rabbi Neil Brief, Ilya Levinson’s poignant “Shtetl Scenes,” works by John Williams from the movie “Munich,” new arrangements of traditional Sevdah and Bosnian popular music, and a performance by the Chicago Syntagma Musicum Chorus.

Imam Senad Agic, who will be doing vocals at the concert


General admission tickets are available for $25 at http://www.americanmusicfestivals.com. Call 773-469-5895 for more information.


The Jewish community and Bosnian Muslims share a common historical bond, being displaced at the hands of 15th Century Inquisitors and finding refuge in Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring areas under Ottoman rule. They suffered together at the hands of Nazi collaborators in World War II and fifty years later Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) suffered the first genocide in Europe since the Holocaust. Audience members will be invited to view the debut of the photo exhibit “Remembering the Genocide in Bosnia,” by Samir Hadzalic, Outreach Director for American Music Festivals.

In the National Museum in Sarajevo a Haggadah is proudly displayed. Written in Hebrew, it is one of the most beautiful books of its kind, dating back to around the 15th century when it was brought from Spain. Near the Museum, a Synagogue and Mosque stand next to each other, reminding us of the peaceful coexistence that Jews and Muslims enjoyed for centuries in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This friendship led to the development of Sevdah music, which combines folk elements of the Sephardic, Balkan, and Arabic traditions. It is through the music and text of these melancholy songs that their friendship can best be understood.

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Productivity Begins Before You See the Moon: Reflection on Iftar in the Synagogue 2012

August 9, 2012

Ariel Burton

Ariel Burton, 2012 Summer Intern at JCUA 

Several weeks before the first day of Ramadan had even popped up on my iPhone’s Islamic calendar, I had begun arduously preparing for the month of Ramadan. I took a “divide and conquer” approach to the laundry list of tasks I felt needed completion before Ramadan started to make my fast a smooth and steady one. I cleaned and organized my house, went food shopping for vegan Iftar foods, found a masjid on the south side of Chicago I could attend every Friday for Jummah (congregational prayer), organized my books on Qura’nic scholarship and Islamic studies, and even ordered a couple of new titles that would teach me about performing Taraweeh (special night prayers performed during the month of Ramadan) correctly.

Once I had completed the pre-Ramadan list I began writing my spiritual goals for Ramadan, setting the intentions to pray more, meditate, and read the Qu’ran. I even signed up for Productive Ramadan emails to keep me spiritually and physically active during the month of Ramadan, a daily email service which sends out suggestions to help make the most of one’s Ramadan. At the time I saw it as a way of reminding me Ramadan is not only about the spiritual journey of study but the building and strengthening of community.

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