46 Years Later: Connecting #mlk’s Last Speech to #abetterillinois

April 4, 2014

46 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In his last years, King focused his work on addressing the intersections between economic inequality, poverty and race. King was in Memphis to support the Memphis Sanitation Strike, a critical first campaign in his larger Poor People’s Campaign.

In his last speech, King said, “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”

46 years after Dr. King spoke those words, economic and racial inequality are more strongly connected than ever.  As we see in this article, income inequality is growing in our city. Chicago’s staggering economically polarization is concentrated in communities of color, and nearly entirely in neighborhoods where CPS closed more that fifty Chicago Public Schools last year.

40 Years of Chicago’s Rising Inequality, in One GIF

We cannot stop our work to combat poverty.  JCUA is committed to addressing economic inequality in our city and state.  That is why we are members of the A Better Illinois coalition.  By working with A Better Illinois on changing Illinois’ flat rate income tax system, we are not only advocating for a more fair income tax.  We are also advocating for a solution to Illinois’ massive deficit and the resulting cuts in vital programs and services for the economically marginalized.  Together, we can stop the growing stratification in Chicago and draw a new map with more just colors.

 Want to get more involved with JCUA and A Better Illinois?  Click here.

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.

Victory: JCUA Celebrates Passing of Fair Housing Amendment in Cook County!

May 8, 2013

Today, May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES to amend the Human Rights Ordinance so that those with Housing Choice Vouchers will no longer be legally discriminated against based on their sources of income.

by Lauren Goldstein
JCUA Intern, Advocacy and Community Organizing

In Photo: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urging commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment.

In Photo: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urging commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment (photo taken by Open Communities).

Over the last year JCUA has been a partner in the effort to pass the Source of Income Amendment in Cook County, which will effectively outlaw (finally!) discrimination based on source of income in Cook County. This is already the case in the City of Chicago, but the rest of Cook County has been lagging behind. This has allowed landlords to deny Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders the right to apply for residence in their units.

Today, May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES to amend the Human Rights Ordinance so that those with Housing Choice Vouchers will no longer be legally discriminated against based on their sources of income. Today, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES for a county where discrimination of this type will no longer be tolerated.

The discussion prior to the vote was moving and powerful. Among other speakers, Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery and longtime Altgeld Gardens resident and environmental justice activist, silenced the crowd with her moving words that proved impossible to disregard. A young mother of three and previous volunteer coordinator for the Obama campaign, also a Housing Choice Voucher holder, empowered the crowd to recognize that the stereotypical face of voucher holders is truly only a stereotype, and challenged the commissioners to see voucher holders as the strong, hardworking, veterans, mothers, fathers, and PEOPLE that they really are.

Following a separate roll-call of votes from the Commissioners, as well as astounding speeches in support of this amendment from Commissioner Garcia, Commissioner Sims, and Commissioner Suffredin, equal opportunity came to fruition amidst the celebratory applause, hugs, and words of praise from the audience.

While today is a day to celebrate justice won, we urge you to not forget the reality in which this discussion is rooted. It is concerning that in 2013 we must still debate whether to allow discrimination to thrive and to be codified into law.

Today we thank our partners in this campaign, especially Open Communities (who have led the fight and coordinated our collective efforts), Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Access Living and others.

JCUA will continue to work so that one day we may live in a society where basic human rights and equal protection under the law are no longer a point of contention. Until then, we hope you will celebrate this victory with us, and remember, as Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

[Urgent Action Alert] Stop Housing Discrimination in Cook County

May 7, 2013

Call your Cook County Commissioners Today! The County Board is taking an important vote tomorrow morning. Details:

housing_right_signIn suburban Cook County, a person can be discriminated against by a property owner or landlord if they happen to pay their rent with a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as Section 8).  This is codified discrimination happening in our very backyards.

As a partner in the Source of Income Campaign, JCUA supports an amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance of Cook County which would make such discrimination illegal.  The Source of Income protection amendment to include Housing Choice Vouchers as a protected class under the county’s fair housing ordinance is included in the Human Relations Committee Report from July 24, 2012.  This protection already exists in Chicago and we want to mirror that protection for the suburbs.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners are voting on the report TOMORROW, Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00 AM.  We need your help to stop housing discrimination!  Please call your Commissioner (find your commissioner here, contact info below) and tell them:

In the vote tomorrow, please vote YES in support of The Human Relations Committee Report from July 24, 2012

JCUA will be at the vote and we invite you to join us:

Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00am in the County Board Chambers (118 N. Clark Chicago, IL; 5th Floor).

Please get there early to secure a seat or standing space.

Commissioners Contact Information:

1ST Earlean Collins


2ND Robert Steele


3RD Jerry Butler


4TH Stanley Moore (Formerly Williams Beavers district)


5th Deborah Sims

312-603-6381(if you can make only one call please call Commissioner Sims Office)

6th Joan Murphy


7th Jesus Garia


8th Edwin Reyes


9th Peter Silvestri


10th Bridget Gainer


11th John Daley


12th John Fritchey


13th Larry Suffredin


14th Gregg Goslin


15th Tim Schneider


16th Jeff Tobolski


17th Elizabeth Gorman


[Action Alert – 5/3] Interfaith Vigil for Detained Immigrant Rights / Postville Remembrance Day

April 24, 2013

jcua at broadviewOn May 3, 2013, the JCUA will participate in an interfaith vigil at the Broadview Detention Center. We will offer our support and prayers to those held at Broadview and subsequently deported. JCUA members will represent a larger Jewish voice demanding comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. The vigil will also serve to remember the tragic events in Postville, IA 5 years ago, as we seek to turn tragedy into a victory for justice.

We ask that you join us in standing with those held at Broadview and their families by participating in the vigil with us.

Click here to RSVP.


7:15 AM – Vigil begins at Broadview Detention Center.


Broadview Detention Center
1930 Beach Street, Broadview, IL


  • Once we know who wants to come, we will plan for transportation for those not driving.
  • When you RSVP , please indicate if you need transportation.

Contact person:

Rabbi Ali Abrams
JCUA Director of Organizing

[Action Alert – 5/1] Act for Immigration Reform

April 24, 2013

immigration photo - 2On May 1, 2013, JCUA supporters will participate in the 2013 May Day March for immigration reform and immigrant rights. This movement calls for legislation to stop deportations and keep families together. It calls for legalization for all. The JCUA strongly believes that IMMIGRANT RIGHTS are HUMAN RIGHTS and we hope you will join us in marching for immigration reform.

RSVP here.


  • Wednesday, May 1, 2013


  • 2:00 PM – Gathering at Union Park
  • 3:00 PM – March Begins
  • 4:00 PM – Rally at Federal Plaza (Jackson St. and Dearborn St.)

JCUA Meeting Area:

Option 1: Meet us at 2:30 PM (Union Park)

  • You can arrive at Union Park via Ashland-Lake CTA train (Green and Pink lines)
  • JCUA members will be at the northeast corner of Ashland and Washington (see photo of meeting area). Look for the JCUA sign!

Option 2: Meet us at 4:00 PM (approximately) at the rally (Federal Plaza):

  • When the march arrives at Federal Plaza, JCUA members will gather between the Calder sculpture and the federal building. (see photo of the meeting area). Look for the JCUA sign!


  • Let us know if you plan on coming. It will make coordinating much easier!
  • RSVP here.

With any questions, please contact:

Rabbi Ali Abrams
JCUA Director of Organizing

[VIDEO] Watch JCUA on ABC7 Marching for Immigrant Rights and Take Action

March 14, 2013

by Rabbi Alison Abrams
Director of Organizing, JCUA

On Sunday, March 10, 2013, JCUA participated in the National Coming Out of the Shadows March and Rally to call for a stop to deportations and an end to criminalizing immigrants (scroll down to read how you can take action in March and April).

JCUA volunteers at the march

JCUA volunteers at the march

By the end of the day, hundreds of people were gathered to hear stories of undocumented individuals and the impact of our broken immigration system on families.  These men and women stepped out of the shadows to say they lived as both “undocumented and unafraid.”

Through chants, prayers, songs, and stories, we stood in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters to say change must come and it must come now.  To this end, we will continue our fight for a just and compassionate immigration system that honors all peoples’ human rights.

TV Coverage:

Watch ABC7’s coverage of the march (including JCUA volunteers raising the Jewish voice for immigrant justice):

Take Action With JCUA:

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013Join us at the National Museum of Mexican Art for our Freedom and Justice Seder on March 20th at 6pm where we will again make our voices heard.
  • Friday, April 5, 2013: Please join us at the detention center in Broadview, IL, where we will participate in an interfaith vigil, drawing attention to the injustice of current detention and deportation practices.

Please RSVP for these actions so we know to expect you.

Questions? Contact:

Rabbi Alison Abrams
Director of Organizing


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