#TraumaCenterNow: Why gun violence and trauma centers are a Jewish issue

May 22, 2014

by Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer

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Yesterday, JCUA took part in an interfaith vigil with student and community groups comprising the Trauma Center Coalition.  Several dozen strong, we  marched to one of the most prestigious medical centers in the country: the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Our march was part of a greater campaign to address gun violence in the neighborhood and a lack of response from surrounding institutions.  Gun violence remains a crisis of epidemic proportions, particularly on Chicago’s south side near the medical center.  Yet while our city has six trauma centers for gunshot victims, not a single one is located on the south side.

For this reason, we held vigil as part of a broader week of action to demand the University of Chicago open a level 1 adult trauma center for the surrounding community.  While the University of Chicago operates a pediatric trauma center, it has not opened its doors for nearby adult victims of gun violence since 1988.  While reflecting on the crisis, we heard stories of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons who were gunned down within reach of the university.  Even though the medical center has the facilities to treat gunshot trauma, these people died in ambulance rides on the way to trauma centers elsewhere.

I was appalled to hear these stories from an area that many are calling a “trauma center desert“.  This desert covers an area with one of the city’s highest rates of gun violence.  Chicagoans in the trauma center desert are disproportionately black and lacking health insurance relative to better served parts of the city.  Listening to the testimony of lost loved ones, I could not help but wonder: why are our resources for treating gun violence completely absent in neighborhoods where they are the most needed?  Why has the University of Chicago not responded to this glaring disparity by reopening its center?

If family and community members were dying in trauma center deserts on the north side, would nearby universities respond differently?

Read the rest of this entry »


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.


Following the Legacy of Mayor Washington, 26 Years Later

December 2, 2013

Harold Washington served as Chicago’s first African-American Mayor from 1983 until his death in 1987. Christopher Huff, JCUA’s community organizing intern, attended the ceremony commemorating 26 years to Mayor Washington’s death, on November 25. In this post, Christopher reflects on the future of Washington’s legacy. 

by Christopher Huff
Community Organizing Intern, JCUA

Christopher Huff at Mayor Washington's grave.

Christopher Huff at Mayor Washington’s grave.

Fairness is much more than just a favored position. Fairness is a necessary condition for the existence of a civilized society. Fairness is a guard against injustice and a key component to any act derived from the intent to be free from bias or prejudice.

We must never forget this important role that fairness plays in the development of our society. Fairness is one of the most important tools we have to ensure not only the promotion of social justice, but the advancement of economic and political opportunities for those in need.

No leader could have understood these concepts more than former Chicago mayor Harold Washington. His belief in the advancement of fairness as a crucial value to promote during his campaign and tenure as mayor is arguably the most salient issue addressed during his inaugural speech in the fall of 1983. In this speech he said:

“I hope someday to be remembered by history as the Mayor who cared about people and who was, above all, fair…

One of the ideas that held us all together said that neighborhood involvement has to take the place of the ancient, decrepit and creaking machine. City government for once in our lifetime must be made equitable and fair.”

Mayor Washington at a JCUA event in 1983. With him (right to left): Rabbi Robert Marx (JCUA founder), Jane Ramsey (JCUA executive director, who later served in Washington's cabinet), and Kurt Rothschild (then JCUA Board president).

Mayor Washington at a JCUA event in 1983. With him (right to left): Rabbi Robert Marx (JCUA founder), Jane Ramsey (JCUA executive director, who later served in Washington’s cabinet), and Kurt Rothschild (then JCUA Board president).

Now, we fast forward 30 years following his inauguration and exactly 26 years past his shocking death and there I stood in front of his gravesite as a community organizer in training at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and student at the University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration inspired by his words and dedicated to a call for a more fair Chicago for all the city’s residents.

Chicago has a come a long way since the passing of the Harold Washington. It has grown to become home to more than 2.7 million people and the second largest labor force in the United States. It remains the premier location for global conventions, tourists, and immigrants of all types of colors, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds.

Jesse Jackson speaking at Washington's memorial ceremony. He said: "We will not let let the flame burn out... without Harold there is no Barack."

Jesse Jackson speaking at Washington’s memorial ceremony. He said: “We will not let let the flame burn out… without Harold there is no Barack.”

However, if we are going to truly address the issues of racism, classism, and anti-Semitism that has plagued our city for generations once and for all, we must increase our willingness to work collaboratively across culture and religion – regardless of any fear or caution we might possess.

For nearly 50 years, JCUA has worked collaboratively across various cultures and religions to help address issues of race, class, and anti-Semitism.  Building on the prophetic Jewish values of “Tzedek” (justice) and “Tikkun Olam,” (repairing the world), JCUA inspires me to continue working toward the creation of a more fair and just Chicago.

And now, more than ever, I hope that you also stay committed to the principles of Tzedek and Tikkun Olam as you look to continue or renew your commitment to Jewish life.



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

312-603-4566

2ND Robert Steele

312-603-0319

3RD Jerry Butler

312-603-6391

4TH Stanley Moore (Formerly Williams Beavers district)

312-603-2065

5th Deborah Sims

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

6th Joan Murphy

312-603-4216

7th Jesus Garia

312-603-5443

8th Edwin Reyes

312-603-6386

9th Peter Silvestri

312-603-4393

10th Bridget Gainer

312-603-4210

11th John Daley

312-603-4400

12th John Fritchey

312-603-6380

13th Larry Suffredin

312-603-6383

14th Gregg Goslin

312-603-4932

15th Tim Schneider

312-603-6388

16th Jeff Tobolski

312-603-6384

17th Elizabeth Gorman

312-603-4215


[AUDIO] WBEZ Recently Reported on “Source of Income” Housing Campaign

February 25, 2013

by Lauren Goldstein
Organizing and Advocacy Intern, JCUA

WBEZ recently reported on the “Source of Income” campaign, of which JCUA is a partner. The campaign seeks protections for low-income residents in Cook County.

Housing - WBEZToday, in Chicago, we are fortunate enough that our city prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of income.

Regardless of how an individual earns an income, they can use that income for housing. Our neighbors in Cook County outside of Chicago do not enjoy safeguards against discrimination.

That’s right – outside of Chicago in 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. This is codified discrimination happening in our very backyards.

As a partner in the Source of Income Campaign, JCUA has and continues to fight for a just amendment to this ordinance so that no Cook County residents may be denied housing due only to them being Housing Choice Voucher holders.

Listen to WBEZ’s recent coverage of the campaign (or read here):


JCUA’s Rabbi Ali Abrams Speaks at Town Hall Meeting on Housing Rights

January 31, 2013

As part of JCUA’s support of the campaign to protect the rights of affordable housing voucher holders in Cook County, JCUA’s Rabbi Ali Abrams spoke at a Town Hall meeting on this issue on January 24, 2013. JCUA is committed to the struggle to ensure access to secure, decent, affordable housing in vibrant communities for all.

by Lauren Goldstein
Organizing and Advocacy Intern, JCUA

Today, in Chicago, we are fortunate enough that our city prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of income. Today, in Chicago, regardless of how an individual earns an income, they can use that income for housing. Our neighbors in Cook County outside of Chicago do not enjoy safeguards against discrimination.

SOI Pic 1 [1]The Cook County Human Rights Ordinance currently protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of income. HOWEVER, it specifically exempts people who hold Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. This means that a Cook County resident holding a Housing Choice Voucher may still be denied housing by a housing provider/landlord.

Unfortunately, we have seen that this is happening far too regularly in Cook County outside of Chicago, as many housing providers are refusing to rent to qualified vouvher-holding residents. This discrimination has become a proxy for other types of illegal discrimination based on race, familial status, and disability.

Read the rest of this entry »


MLK Day of Action: A Declaration of “the Most Evident of Truths”

January 28, 2013
Roy, Stacy, Hana, Joel, Sam at Bright Star

Roy, Stacy, Hana, Joel, Sam at Bright Star

By Rebecca Katz, JCUA Manager of Teen Programs

On Monday, January 21st, around 100 people came together for an MLK Day of Action, an interfaith and intergenerational event organized by Anshe Emet Synagogue, Bright Star Church, and JCUA’s Or Tzedek.

Moved by the legacy of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on his federal holiday and President Barack Obama’s historic second inauguration, children, teens and adults from Chicago’s Jewish and African American communities committed their considerable energy, time, and passion to renew their shared commitment to create social justice in their city.

While the temperatures outside were freezing, people inside Bright Star Church talked of the warmth they felt, generated by the openness of all participants to share their own experiences and listen to the assets and challenges of another community.

Rabbi David Russo, Pastor Chris Harris and Rebecca Katz emphasized throughout the day that this was only the beginning of a relationship between both communities; “Lehitraot,” or “see you soon,” were Rabbi Russo’s parting words.

Read the rest of this entry »


[Event 1/31] “Lawndale Conversations Series: The Contract Buyers League”

January 23, 2013

by Max Harkavy
Communications Intern, JCUA

On January 31st at 6pm, the Hull House on UIC’s campus will be hosting an event titled “Lawndale Conversations Series: The Contract Buyers League.”  The Hull House is convening in partnership with the North Lawndale branch of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS), and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) in order to raise awareness about the Contract Buyers League and the history of its neighborhoods, specifically North Lawndale.  North Lawndale has a rich narrative and many feel that in order to bring about change in the community this narrative has to be brought to light.

Contract Buyers League Protesters

Contract Buyers League Protesters

The Contract Buyers League was a union of African Americans during the 1960s that fought the exploitative sale of homes to blacks through the selling of contracts.

“I think it’s really important to tell this story to make all the people that lived through it proud of their accomplishment, and to raise awareness among the younger population,” said John Wolf, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the NHS North Lawndale office.

Neighborhood Housing Services seeks to promote positive change from within the community.  Director Charles Leeks believes that, “In order to turn a neighborhood around, you have to recognize what the community has been.”  Leeks explained that sometimes people choose to ignore the community’s past, “if it is not convenient for them at any given moment.”  The goal of this event is to raise awareness of North Lawndale’s rich past and to foster pride from within.

Rutgers University Professor, Beryl Satter

Beryl Satter

There will be three guest speakers at the event.  The first is Beryl Satter, author of the book, “Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America” which tells the tale of the Contract Buyers League and the struggle against unfair housing practices that occurred throughout the 40s to the 70s.  Satter’s father was an attorney who fought for equal rights for African Americans during the time of the Contract Buyers League.

Co-Chairman of the Contract Buyers Leage, Clyde Ross

Clyde Ross

The second speaker will be Clyde Ross, who was at one time the co-chairman of the Contract Buyers League, and was recently named the recipient of the Neighborhood Heroes Award given to him by the NHS.  Ross still lives in the house he bought under contract.

Jack Macnamara

Jack Macnamara

The final speaker is Jack Macnamara, a Jesuit seminary during the time of the Contract Buyers League.  He also worked as a community organizer that brought people together on issues concerning the Contract Buyers League in the 1960s.

“The image of community and the way north Lawndale is projected in the press is often negative but this event is a way of talking about positives from the community and one the biggest positives of North Lawndale is its history,” said Wolf.


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