On Rosh Hashanah, New Beginnings Bring New Resolutions

September 24, 2014

By Nate Seeskin
AVODAH Organizing Fellow, JCUA

Nate SeeskinSeptember marks two new beginnings for me with the coming of the Jewish New Year and my starting as an Organizing Fellow at JCUA. This is not just another year where I look to improve myself, but one where I look to engage with my new community.

Many people look to the High Holidays as an opportunity to reflect on how they can improve themselves. As an organizing fellow I understand that in order to effectively attend to outside factors in our lives, such as family and work, self-care and reflection are essential.

Along with the emphasis on self-improvement, there should be equal weight placed on the betterment of community (Tikkun Olam) and social justice (Tzedek). I moved to Chicago last month largely because I considered it like a second home throughout my life with the personal connections I have here. Yet I can also relate to this city because of its many similarities to my home city, St. Louis. Both are steeped in rich traditions (especially baseball and food) and have a special type of folksy flavor that you cannot find on either coast.

At a recent rally, Chicago-area Jewish clergy sound the shofar to call for a level one trauma center on the South Side.

At a recent rally, Chicago-area Jewish clergy sound the shofar to call for a level one trauma center on the South Side.

At the same time, both cities are plagued with problems like gun violence and police brutality. Disparities in access to resources are rampant, whether it be the recent incidents in Ferguson, Missouri or the shortage of emergency health care on the South Side of Chicago. These problems are only symptomatic of a broader problem: segregation. Last year, St. Louis and Chicago were respectively ranked as the sixth and seventh most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the U.S. Within this ranking, 12 of the 25 most racially segregated American cities are in the Midwest. As the third largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and the largest city in the Midwest, Chicago is prime battleground for our fight for social justice.

Social justice plays a foundational role of Jewish faith and communal expression. Our history is one of both persecution and perseverance and in our annual period of reflection, we must not take for granted the world around us.

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Praying With Your Feet: Rosh Hashanah and Healthcare Justice

September 16, 2014

By Leah Greenblum
JCUA Member and Guest Blogger

ACTION ALERT

Thursday, Sept. 18, 4:00 pm
Outside the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine
Corner of Maryland Ave. and E. 58th St. [MAP IT]
RSVP here

Leah Greenblum

Leah Greenblum

Most of us who live in Chicago are vastly aware of the city’s segregation. For me and many of my white friends, our interactions with the city’s south side are limited to visiting a select few locations. It may be eating the best pasties with a good friend, people-watching the students at University of Chicago, or checking out a mural or 20 in Pilsen. But while we’re enjoying what this area of the city has to offer, sometimes we forget that many of the residents of the South Side are still very much victims of structural discrimination that deeply affects their lives.

What does structural discrimination look like in Chicago? One manifestation is the  lack of trauma center on the south side. While eight trauma centers are distributed throughout the Chicago area, none are located in south side neighborhoods. There are countless stories of women and men dying from treatable gunshots in inordinately long ambulance rides to distant trauma centers.

This maldistribution of resources is an an amalgamation of many inequalities at once. We all know that Chicago has some high violent crime. In particular we know that this crime is often concentrated in pockets of neighborhoods blighted by high levels of poverty, such as Englewood, Chatham, Washington Park, and Fuller Park. We also know that gunshot victims (many of whom are not associated with gangs, but are innocent bystanders) and others who incur events causing trauma (Who hasn’t had a bicycle accident?) are often in unstable physical condition so much so that time—we’re talking minutes and seconds—can be the difference in life and death.

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Why we lament: a JCUA reflection on Tisha b’Av

August 4, 2014
Sara Sandmel Headshot

Sara Sandmel

by Sara Sandmel
JCUA summer intern

Tisha b’Av begins tonight, marking the end of a three week period of mourning on the Jewish calendar. We mourn, traditionally for the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, both of which – according to the Jewish tradition – were destroyed on the ninth day of the month of Av. Most Jews who mark Tisha b’Av do so through a 24 hour fast and reading Lamentations (Eicha). Tisha b’Av is the most devastating day on the Jewish calendar; even the study of Torah is too joyous an occasion for this holiday.

For many Jews, including myself, Tisha b’Av falls through the cracks of the secular, school-based calendar, especially because it lacks any cheery songs that can easily fit into a Hebrew school curriculum. This year, though, for many reasons, I feel an urge to mourn together with my community, to allow myself to experience overwhelming pain and suffering of history. I feel this need, in a large part, because I hear cries of mourning and loss all around me. To prepare, I sat down and read Lamentations for the first time.

Lamentations begins with one question: Why? Why was the Temple destroyed? Why has our community been abandoned to suffer alone? Why do we deserve this fate?  Why does our enemy torment us? The author goes back and forth between a deep anger at God for allowing the destruction of their community and looking inward, asking “what did I  do wrong?”

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Bring Immigration Justice Into Shavuot #Torah Study

May 7, 2014

Forty nine days after the holiday of Passover comes the holiday of Shavuot. If on Passover we are meant to recall and relive the experience of redemption from oppression, servitude and injustice then on Shavuot we are meant to recall how we catalyze that experience for real change and good. Passover is the life-altering moment and Shavuot is the day after. For centuries Jewish communities have utilized Shavuot as an opportunity for all night study and reflection. This tradition still continues and people all over the Chicagoland area will be participating in either formal programs or informal learning on the night of the holiday.

text study image

Download The Text Study

JCUA has prepared a unique text study guide that you can use to enhance your Shavuot learning and to bring the topic of immigration justice alive through the Jewish tradition.

Since 2008 more than two million individuals have been deported from the country. These people are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and loved ones. Families have been torn apart and people are crying out in pain and despair. This is an issue that directly impacts our city as families throughout Chicago have experienced the terror of detention and deportation.

We hope that this text study guide will be an educational resource to share broadly on how this issue is a deeply Jewish issue, rooted in the very foundational texts of the Jewish faith.

Please let us know how you used this study guide, we would love to hear your feedback!


Passover Seder: Stories of Violence and its Impact

March 20, 2014

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED

Seder 2014: "From Handguns to Hope"

JCUA’s Annual Passover Seder

Thursday, April 3, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

HOSTED BY
Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation
6601 South Kedzie Avenue, Chicago
(map it)
Capers Funnye, Rabbi



Chicago stories of
VIOLENCE, IMPACT and SOLUTIONS

With
Kevin Coval, emcee

Featuring
The “Louder than a Bomb 2014 Team”
And
JCUA’s inspiring partners on violence prevention work

Our seder will highlight three organizations and their approaches to ending gun violence in Chicago: 

Raise Teen Voices. Since 2001, Louder Than a Bomb has given youth a platform to share their stories. This spoken-word competition allows students from any neighborhood, suburb or region to listen, share and build a community. Louder Than a Bomb’s poetry teams address racism, sexism, violence and segregation through the art of spoken word. Their art gives them an outlet and helps us understand the obstacles we all must address to build a better Chicago. You will be inspired by their insightful performance.

Mobilize Underrepresented Communities. For the past year, Fierce Women of Faith has worked tirelessly to increase peace in our city. Fierce Women of Faith launched last summer to mobilize women of faith to address the gun violence epidemic plaguing neighborhoods in communities of color. Today, they are hundreds of members strong and have taken a holistic approach to addressing gun violence. From offering public witness to training community leaders and pursuing legislation, Fierce Women of Faith have been invaluable partners in advancing solutions to gun violence. Speaker: Marci Richards.

Advancing Gun Violence Legislation. Last summer, Illinois enacted the state’s first concealed carry gun law. Long regarded as sanctuaries and safe spaces, guns are now legally allowed in houses of worship. These new laws threaten to make guns and gun violence even more widespread. That is why the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence has launched a legislative campaign to ban handguns in houses of worship. By reversing our state’s legislative backslides on gun control, ICHV plays a crucial role in preventing gun violence. Speaker: Mark Walsh.

In addition to our partners,
you’ll hear powerful words from:

Tamar Manasseh – Rabbi Capers Funnye – Rabbi Ben Greenberg 

With musical performance by
the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken E.H.C. Choir


JCUA’s annual Seder ALWAYS sells out.
Order your tickets today to be assured of a seat.

Single Tickets:  $25          Table of 10:  $250

Purchase tickets or sponsor a seat so that
someone else can attend at no charge:

Buy Tickets Be a Sponsor


Transportation

Bus transportation will be available from the Spertus Institute in downtown Chicago to Beth Shalom in Chicago Lawn. Cost is $5 per person. Get more details here.


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

Greenberg

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(Guest Post) Are There “Boy Holidays” and “Girl Holidays”? A Reflection on Diversity.

October 24, 2013

by Rachel Patterson

Rachel is a student at Loyola University Chicago, and alumna of JCUA’s Or Tzedek program and serves as a counselor in Or Tzedek’s summer and year-round programs. This article originally appeared in Loyola’s Broad Magazine.

Rachel Patterson

Rachel Patterson

When I was five years old, I shared with my friend the concept of girl holidays and boy holidays. It was strange to me that she was unaware on this concept. Hanukah and Passover were girl holidays, while Christmas and Easter were obviously boy holidays. It was simple – My mom and I celebrated Hanukah and Passover while my dad and my brother celebrated Christmas and Easter.

Once my parents stopped laughing at my generalization, they wondered how to correct my assumptions.

In reality, my mom and I are both Jewish and my dad and my brother are Baptist, which explains the difference in celebration rituals. That hadn’t occurred to me at five. I just knew there were traditions my dad and my brother had, while there are others that my mom and I shared. I was as excited to see a tree in our house without presents under it for me, as I was to light the menorah with my mom for eight nights. There was no “dual dilemma” as interfaith households are often described to have.

Children have the unique ability to process information as they come across it, whether they are taught the information or not. I was not adhering to gender norms, nor was I concerned with stereotypes that are too often used to describe followers of the Jewish and Christian faiths. I was never taught those things. I was simply describing something I was witnessing without malice and without indifference.

QUOTE 1Boy holidays. Girl holidays. There is beauty in that description. It is not always beautiful to see differences as black and white or night and day. There are in fact nuances that I was not aware of as a five year old. However, it is beautiful to accept people for who they are. Innocence is not always ignorance.

My mom and dad decided to raise me Jewish. My mom always knew she would have a little girl named Rachel. In the Jewish faith, children take the religion of the mother so I would be born Jewish but every family has to make the decision to raise or not to raise their child with religion in his or her life.

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