JCUA August Newsletter

August 12, 2014
JCUA's latest newsletter is now online here.

JCUA’s latest newsletter is now online here.

In the August issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • Mimi Harris makes the news
  • JCUA members focus on leadership…and change
  • Deborah Goldberg to lead Or Tzedek
  • Rebecca Katz reflects on three years as JCUA’s director of teen programs
  • JCUA supports affordable housing in Albany Park
  • Vigil and coffeeshop discussion at Broadview

Read it now!


From Membership to Leadership: Equipping Our Members With Tools for Organizing

August 11, 2014
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Members write down their thoughts about social justice in an ice-breaker activity.

On Thursday, JCUA convened our second member meeting. Following our first meeting in June, the intention of this meeting was to teach skills and frameworks essential for effective organizing.

By equipping our members with some of the same training and tools used by professional organizers, we aim to empower our lay leaders to advance our organizing work with greater efficacy and impact. We hosted our meeting at Yusho, a trendy Japanese restaurant in Logan Square.

Unlike our last meeting, JCUA staff took a back seat and allowed members to conduct the majority of the meeting. JCUA member Stacey Aviva Flint managed the agenda for the evening, allowing all attendees to review and approve of the agenda. Member Shannon Cochran then led a workshop on leadership development. Shannon presented a model of leadership development that relies on building organizational power by rotating leadership positions and allowing opportunities for growth among as many members as possible.

Unlike leadership models that house knowledge and power in the hands of a few, we are offering our members to take the reins as much as possible. Rather than rely on a “head,” “brain,” or “heart” of a committee or task force, we are operating under the premise that we are all stem cells with the ability to assume the responsibilities of leadership.

JCUA’s leadership model is rooted in our own Jewish heritage. A text study – organized by Rabbi Ben Greenberg – demonstrated how leadership models shifted in Judaism after the destruction of the second temple. As Judaism’s leadership moved away from priests and towards rabbis, more people gained access to Jewish knowledge, empowerment, and connection with God.  We are inspired by our tradition to advance leadership in a way that brings more people into the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Allyship and the Value of Privilege

August 8, 2014

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Graie teaching Or Tzedek participants about the ladder of oppression

By Graie Barasch-Hagans

Or Tzedek Advanced Activism ’14 Counselor

During two weeks in June, I had the honor of serving on staff for the Advanced Activism session of Or Tzedek working in a community of dedicated youth seeking an active role in achieving Olam Ha’Ba (the world as it should be).

This community, an intentional residential Jewish community, gave us the time and space to intensively practice being individuals united for good. It gave us the space to explore our identity as allies.

As August rolls around, I’ve continued contemplating the role of allyship in creating communities dedicated to change and how allyship relates to my practice of Judaism. Allyship is a complicated task, being an ally asks more than just good intentions of a person.

Read the rest of this entry »


JCUA: Making a Difference Through Jewish Identity

August 7, 2014

By Zoe Reinstein
JCUA Summer Intern

Zoe Reinstein, summer intern at JCUA

Zoe Reinstein, summer intern. Learn more about JCUA’s internship program here.

Let’s be clear. Waking up at 7 am during your summer vacation is annoying. That is, unless you’re interning for JCUA. The first day, I begrudgingly and half-asleep showed up for work at the office of this 50-year-old social justice organization. It took very little time at all to realize how incredible this experience was going to be when I picked up the phone, and it was the governor’s office calling JCUA.

During my time here, I had the pleasure of helping with logistics for the “Acts of Change” 50th anniversary gala and planning “Iftar in the Synagogue.” I helped to organize a JCUA delegation to an interfaith vigil hosted by the Chicago Religious Leadership Network vigil for the families of deportees at the Broadview Detention Center, followed by a meaningful interfaith discussion over coffee.

These experiences have taught me that there is nothing more exhilarating than feeling like you are actually making a difference because of your Jewish identity, which would have been impossible anywhere other than JCUA. I have seen how much effort goes in to making change, but that it is equally as worth it as it is difficult.

Read the rest of this entry »


Harvesting at Growing Home

August 6, 2014
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Noa (from left), Gracee and Rena at Growing Home.

By Rena Newman
Or Tzedek Advanced Activism ’14

Last Thursday, a group of five Or Tzedekers trekked down to the Wood Street Urban Farm – a USDA certified, all-organic garden in Englewood, a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. As we parked, we could see the rows and rows of kale, chard, and radishes through the chain link. Tomato plants stood dignified in the shade of a hoop-house.

The Wood Street Urban Farm is one of two farms run by the organization, Growing Home. However, their mission isn’t just to prove they have a green thumb. Growing Home delivers tons of fresh produce to an area where there is none; a food desert. Food deserts are neighborhoods that are devoid of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food choices within a mile radius. Instead, these places are riddled with ‘quick marts’, franchises that sell only chips, pop, and snacks.

Food deserts deny people the opportunity to be healthier, and in turn, deny them the opportunity to be happier.  The most unfortunate fact about food deserts is just how common they are in (and around) Chicago. Englewood is considered huge food desert. But the superheroes of Growing Home are combating it, one carrot at a time.

Read the rest of this entry »


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?”

Read the rest of this entry »


JCUA Organizing for Change: What’s Our Process?

July 28, 2014

Click here to become a member today!

JCUA’s budding membership program is only the first step in a much larger process of effectively and actively engaging in social justice from a Jewish perspective. In fact, it is a part of a larger organizing model that ends with JCUA members leading vibrant, unique campaigns that address the root causes of racism and poverty in Illinois.

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Click here to read more about JCUA’s organizing process

The first step is getting to know our members’ passions and invest in them as leaders. That’s the step we’re engaged in currently. This stage is centered around meetings with individual members and regular, larger-scale member meetings. Our next meeting is coming up on Thursday, Aug. 7. Through these get-togethers, we’re learning what issues motivate the JCUA community.  We’re also growing the capacity of individuals to lead and implement future campaigns.

Sign up here to be a part of the upcoming meeting! 

As we invigorate JCUA’s base, our campaign work will  become increasingly strong and more effective. At our last meeting, we shared an outline of questions JCUA asks when shaping actions around a specific issue. Among other things, we assess whether our involvement stems from the needs of a community directly impacted by the issue and whether the action addresses root causes. We also ask what we as JCUA can best contribute and how the potential campaign will inspire our Jewish community to take action.

JCUA member image

Finally, as we commit to campaigns, JCUA continues to hold our core values closely. We ask ourselves how our continued work remains inclusive of individuals and communities directly impacted by the issue, how our work strengthens relationships between communities, individuals and organizations involved, and whether our campaign has a clear, time-bound goal.

For more information:

Read more about JCUA’s organizing criteria.

► Join us on the 7th for our next membership meeting.

► Sign up to be a member here.


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