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


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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

In Pursuit of Just, Compassionate, and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

February 1, 2013

by Rabbi Alison Abrams
Director of Organizing, JCUA

There has been much energy, media coverage, excitement, and debate this week about both the Senate’s Blueprint and the President’s articulation of his vision for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).   At JCUA, we are glad to see Immigration Reform return to the national radar and hope the urgency and momentum we have seen in recent days remains strong over the coming months.

immigrationMembers of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team are again organizing and mobilizing a Jewish voice for a just and compassionate response to our broken immigration system through CIR legislation.  We will continue to advocate for a plan with a clear, effective path to citizenship that upholds civil rights and honors the humanity of undocumented immigrants (click for interactive timeline of our immigration work in recent years).

In  early 2010, JCUA drafted our “JCUA Statement of CIR Principles” which remain relevant in the current conversation about CIR.  Committed to human rights, we also want to see legislation which includes protection for LGBTQ people and their families.

Jewish tradition demands that we care for the “stranger” in our midst and our history compels us to fight for immigrant justice.  We invite you to join us in making just, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform a reality in 2013.

To get involved, contact:
Rabbi Ali Abrams
Director of Organizing, JCUA

People Responding to JCUA’s Social Media Anti-Hate Campaign

November 16, 2012

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2012, JCUA responded to anti-Muslim ads posted on CTA buses by launching a social media campaign titled “Not in My Chicago.” Since then, JCUA’s response has been covered by many media outlets (see here for full media coverage).

But perhaps most inspiring have been the responses in the community, of Jews and non-Jews alike. We thank you for your support. Here’s are just a bit of your comments:

Thank you for your support and commitment to our work!

JCUA in Letter to Rahm: Keep Lathrop Homes Public

October 5, 2012

JCUA speaks up in solidarity with Lathrop Homes residents in a letter to city officials, stating: Keep Lathrop Homes 100% public housing, and lease up the hundreds of units at Lathrop that are currently vacant.


Lathrop Homes

Sefer Hasidim (a 12th-century legal text) teaches that “if a community lacks a place of worship and a shelter for the poor, it is first obligated to build a shelter for the poor.”

Since 2010, JCUA has been working directly with residents at the Lathrop Homes public housing development, to empower the voice of the residents in the debate over the future of Lathrop Homes. The future of Lathrop Homes is critical for the following reasons:

  • There are tens of thousands of families in Chicago on the waiting list for public housing.
  • There are tens of thousands more who could not get on the waiting list since it was full and closed.
  • Even with all this tremendous need for housing in Chicago, under 150 of Lathrop’s 900 units are currently occupied. Over 750 units of housing stand vacant in this development alone.
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JCUA advocates for affordable housing protection in Cook County human rights ordinance

September 21, 2012

JCUA amplifies a Jewish voice in a campaign to amend the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance to make discrimination based on Section-8 housing vouchers illegal (read JCUA’s letter to Cook County’s Board President here).


JCUA members and allies at a housing rally


One important focus of JCUA’s work is to prmote access to affordable housing for low-income people in the Chicagoland Area. One such affordable housing option is through “Section-8″ vouchers. Section-8 housing vouchers allow low income families to live in privately owned buildings. Section-8 residents pay 30% of their income in rent (similar to public housing residents). In the voucher program, the program pays landlords the difference between that 30% and the ‘fair market rate’ for the housing unit (up to a limit).

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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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JCUA and Chicago Jewish Leaders Condemn Shooting of Mosque

August 13, 2012

The Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove

UPDATE [8/13/12] Since this statement was drafted, we have learned of yet another attack on a Muslim institution in Chicago’s suburbs; a home-made bomb was thrown at an Islamic day school during the evening prayers on 8.12.12. See details here, including JCUA’s response.


August 13, 2012

The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the undersigned community leaders are outraged and saddened by the violent assault on the Muslim Education Center (MEC) mosque in Morton Grove, IL, this past Friday night (August 10, 2012).

This attack on a house of worship is only the most recent in a dangerous string of incidents in the Midwest:

  • On August 5, 2012, six people of the Sikh faith were murdered at their temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
  • On August 6, 2012, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, was deliberately set on fire.

In destroying property and taking the lives of innocent people, the crimes of the past week do immeasurable harm to the sanctity of the American values of religious freedom, diversity and equality.

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