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


Seder 2014: "From Handguns to Hope"

JCUA’s Annual Passover Seder

Thursday, April 3, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

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

Chicago stories of

Kevin Coval, emcee

The “Louder than a Bomb 2014 Team”
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


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


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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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JCUA’s Passover Seder Highlights Urgent Need for Immigration Reform

April 4, 2013

Nearly 200 people attended this year’s Freedom and Justice Seder, an annual pre-Passover event produced by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. This year’s Seder was led by Rabbi Alison Abrams, JCUA’s Director of Organizing; and Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann of Mishkan Chicago.

“This year, as we shine a light on detention, violence and discrimination—urgent issues that plague Chicago and our country—we strengthen our resolve to end the injustices that afflict the lives of our neighbors,” said Judy Levey, JCUA executive director, in her introduction.

Held at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, the Seder included all of the symbols of a traditional Passover celebration, combined with a call to use our collective power in pursuit of meaningful immigration reform. Participants read from JCUA’s customized Haggadah (view or download it here).

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Too many people are still on their journey toward the promised opportunity and liberation. JCUA’s Seder marks our collective commitment to continue the work for achieving justice and securing basic human rights for all.

[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

[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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Download JCUA’s Freedom and Justice Haggadah

April 5, 2012
Passover Haggadah Celebrates Freedom & Justice

The JCUA Passover Haggadah celebrates freedom and justice.

JCUA celebrates Passover with the popular Freedom and Justice Seder. We remember and celebrate the important work of social justice and that work that remains to done.

As the Haggadah says, “from generation to generation, each of us is obligated to see ourselves as though we personally had just been freed from slavery.”


We must remember the past to understand today and to protect our tomorrows. Therefore, in each generation and each year, we retell the story of the exodus to our children and to our grandchildren, in order that they, too, will understand the pain of slavery and the value of freedom.

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Sukkat Shalom: Between Slavery and Liberation

October 7, 2011

By Miriam Grossman and Jill Zenoff

Take part in JCUA’s Sukkot Action for Justice, during Sukkot, on Oct. 11. At the Mortgage Bankers Association meeting, we’ll be calling attention to how the foreclosure crisis is affecting Chicago families.
Learn more and register for the event

At the beginning of their journey from slavery to liberation, the Israelites found themselves displaced from their homes with little to no forewarning. Scrounging what supplies that could be found and only enough food and water to last a few days, they constructed sukkot, temporary shelters made from sticks and twigs, in which they would dwell.

Unable to see beyond their past circumstance towards the promised land, when their food and water supplies ran out, many were ready to return to Egypt. The inhumanity and brutality of slavery seemed a fair exchange for what passed as food and housing security.

It wasn’t until the Israelites became a food-secure people with the miraculous appearance of mana at morning’s dew and water from Miriam’s well, were they ready to continue on their 40-year journey towards freedom.

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Sukkot Action for Housing Justice: Oct. 11

October 5, 2011
Graphic banner for portable sukkah

This graphic banner will be used in the portable Sukkah at the housing action day.

With American bankers meeting just feet away next week, Chicagoans will share stories about how the economic crisis has affected them.

It all happens on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at a special interfaith Sukkot action and press conference inside a makeshift Sukkah in front of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago.

Representing shelter in a time of wandering and crisis, or the halfway point between slavery and liberation, this may be the first time a portable Sukkah has been used in a protest action.

Read the rest of this entry »


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