JCUA Demonstrates Opposition to Governor’s Proposed Budget

April 15, 2015

By Nate Seeskin
JCUA’s AVODAH Organizing Fellow

Good Friday on April 3rd saw only the beginning of what could be drastic cuts to the Illinois state budget as Governor Bruce Rauner, by executive order, suspended $26 million in social services for the rest of this fiscal year. Programs and areas impacted by these immediate cuts include assistance for the homeless and immigrant integration services. As echoed in Governor Rauner’s larger budget plan, these cuts unfairly target vulnerable populations, especially since no revenue increases are entertained on his behalf.

JCUA members attend budget hearing

JCUA members attend budget hearing

JCUA has been busy at work demonstrating our opposition to the Governor’s proposed budget. On Wednesday, April 1st, several members attended a packed hearing hosted by the Illinois State House Appropriations-Human Services Committee, where numerous non-profit leaders and community members testified how devastating these cuts will be to them. At various points, the hearing was emotional as people expressed how these aggressive cuts targeting vulnerable populations like immigrants, the physically disabled, mentally ill, and the homeless would be. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Just’ Eat is A Lot More than ‘Just’ Raising Funds

April 14, 2015

Just Eat PNG

10404488_10152358828051545_6662262371408088091_n‘Just Eat’ – JCUA’s New Annual Fundraising Event on June 15th

By Pamela Klier-Weidner
JCUA Director of Development and Organizational Advancement

Whoa JCUA. What’s this whole, ‘Just’ Eat: A Progressive Dinner thing? Where’s our gala? Who’s the honoree? Why do you always serve chicken?  All great questions. I hope I can answer them here. But first…

When I was a teenager, I loved the movie, “Footloose.” You’ve seen it, right? Without getting into too much detail, due to a horrific tragedy, a rural town has a strict ban on dancing and listening to rock/pop music. Throughout the film, you can see how hungry people are to dance; to be lifted up by sheer fun. Ultimately, Kevin Bacon’s character successfully organizes his community and there’s a super happy ending where everyone is dancing and rocking out to loud music. A victorious organizing campaign for sure.    dvd_footJCUA’s work can be weighty and we are all serious about it. Each day, we tirelessly pursue social and economic justice here in Chicago, working shoulder to shoulder with our JCUA members and coalition partners on the root causes of poverty, racism and other deplorable injustices that run rampant throughout our city.

In the past our large fundraising events have represented the heft of our work and our heroes. They’ve also been extremely successful, especially last year’s 50th anniversary gala where we honored JCUA’s incomparable founder, Rabbi Robert Marx. After I came down from the event high I experienced last year, I knew JCUA couldn’t follow our blowout 50th gala with another gala this year. Read the rest of this entry »


Rabbi Jill Jacobs: A Leap of Faith

March 27, 2015

On a Just Path Logo

Editor’s Note: “On a Just Path” is a series of stories about former JCUA employees, where they are now and the impact JCUA had on them. Interviews were conducted and edited by Nathaniel Seeskin, AVODAH Organizing Fellow at JCUA.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Q. When were you at JCUA and what was your position?

A. I had the pleasure of working for JCUA from 2003 to the end of 2005 in the position of Director of Outreach and Education.

Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.

A. My role was to lead the Outreach and Education Department at a time when JCUA was exploring deliberate ways to reach out to the Jewish community. JCUA had a longstanding strength in working in low-income communities, but there was a renewed interest in organizing within the Jewish community. We had an incredible team of people who were and still are very dedicated to the Jewish community and social justice. Our work at JCUA at that time included:

  • Organizing the Jewish community to work with day laborers in Albany Park to create a day labor center, partnering with public housing tenants to stop the demolition of Cabrini-Green and raising concerns about the fates of tenants, and working to support hotel workers during the Congress Hotel strike. We built a strong social justice voice within the Jewish community in Chicago.
  • Running the Judaism and Urban Poverty (JUP) curriculum, one of JCUA’s hallmark programs at the time. We initiated the Nadiv Fellowship, through which dedicated young people in their twenties and early thirties studied Judaism and social justice and then taught the JUP curriculum to seventh graders in synagogues through Chicago and in the suburbs.
  • Creating the Jewish Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) and partnering with the Chicago’s Muslim community on programs like ‘Iftar in the Sukkah’ and ‘Cafe Finjan’.
  • Running social justice trainings and public programming in synagogues and other venues. For instance, we held a full-day Jewish social justice learning event for over one hundred people at the Spertus Institute, and we developed a series of community organizing trainings for synagogue leaders.

Read the rest of this entry »


CVP Loans Are Making An Impact Today

March 26, 2015

By Sarah Gold
JCUA Manager of Community Building

As part of my ‘initiation’ into my new role leading JCUA’s Community Ventures Program (CVP), I had the opportunity to visit and touch base with each of our current projects. Here is a snapshot of how JCUA’s loan fund is being used to make a difference by supporting three essential affordable housing and economic development projects throughout Chicago.

Breaking Ground – Rehabbing of Foreclosed homes

Current redevelopment two-flat project.

Current redevelopment two-flat project.

Breaking Ground, Inc. is a community-based organization on the west side of Chicago, which provides leadership development, manufacturing job training, and employment in construction and related fields to residents of Lawndale and Garfield Park. Breaking Ground is working to rehabilitate abandoned and foreclosed homes in West Lawndale, Berwyn, Bellwood, Maywood, and Austin. In 2011, JCUA provided a zero-interest loan of $90,000 to support housing redevelopment work.

Interior under construction.

Interior under construction.

As of today, Breaking Ground has leveraged the CVP loan and is redeveloping and selling 45 homes as follows:

► Sold – 26 units
► In construction / completed waiting to be sold – 13 units
► Under Contract to acquire – 6 units

JCUA’s loan is enabling Breaking Ground to continually rehab multiple properties at once. I had the opportunity to visit two homes, one under construction and one under contract to be sold. When visiting with Breaking Ground, Josh DeGraff, Director of Housing stated, “Without the much needed help from the JCUA loan keeping our contractors working we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the great things we have done in the Chicagoland affordable housing community during the past few years. We are very thankful for Breaking Ground’s partnership with JCUA.” Learn more about Breaking Ground.

Read the rest of this entry »


“The Community is Suffering”

March 17, 2015
judy-clergy-bfast

Judy Levey at Interfaith Clergy Breakfast for a Trauma Center

By Judy Levey
JCUA, Executive Director

This past Thursday, an inspiring group of interfaith clergy and coalition members gathered at the University Church in Hyde Park to urge the University of Chicago to include community input in the trauma center study they have agreed to conduct.  This is a crucial next step in the trauma center campaign.

Rabbi Capers Funnye, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Rev. Alice Harper-Jones, and Rev. Julian DeShazier all spoke to the urgent need for a level I adult trauma center at the University of Chicago. Veronia Morris Moore of Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) gave a compelling presentation about the trauma “desert” on the south side and the resulting increased chance of death for south siders who are victims of gun violence.

This campaign, which JCUA has worked on for the past several months, speaks to the abject disparity that we tolerate in access to health care in our city.  Numerous studies have made the case – first rate teaching hospitals in urban areas all have trauma centers EXCEPT for the University of Chicago. The Illinois Department of Health has found that the University of Chicago is the only hospital on the south side with the capacity for a trauma center, and the community is suffering.  While expensive, a trauma center would only require half of one percent of the University of Chicago’s recently-launched 4.5 billion dollar capital campaign.  Most recently, Crain’s Chicago Business issued an editorial calling on the University of Chicago to open the level 1 trauma center.

As part of the clergy breakfast, I spoke at the press conference on why this issue resonates deeply with the Jewish community.  I was joined at the press conference by Rabbi Capers Funnye and Cantor David Berger.  JCUA’s longstanding work is to stand with those whose voices are insufficiently heard, to combat the root causes of inequality and disparity.  No one I know believes that access to health care should only be for some and not for others in Chicago, merely because of where you live.

Come join us in fighting for what’s right and acting on your Jewish values.  Become a JCUA member.


“This is how I became a member of JCore”

March 9, 2015

By Alex Lopez
JCUA Member and Guest Blogger

Alex Lopez

Alex Lopez

Hi, I’m Alex and I’m here to recruit you.

I should start with a disclosure. I haven’t been to services in so long that I don’t know the name of my congregation’s current rabbi. My dog understands more Hebrew than I do. I forgot Purim was coming up until I saw hamantaschen recipes in my Facebook feed (and I just now googled how to spell “hamantaschen”). But there are plenty of Jewish groups in Chicago that provide weekly services and Hebrew classes and Purim carnivals. I’m not here to recruit you for that.

Learn more about how you can become a member today and join JCUA as we work for a just Chicago.

I wasn’t always a Jew and I didn’t grow up in Chicago. Upon arrival to both I was astonished at how many different opportunities there were to be part of the Jewish community here. There was the shul shopping and Shabbat dinners and fundraising events until my calendar was fuller than a Cathy comic word bubble. It was such a blessing to be introduced to such a thriving and growing Jewish community. But, I wanted more.  Read the rest of this entry »


Why We Disrupted the University of Chicago’s Fundraiser

March 5, 2015

By Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer

Sun Times Photo

Members of the Trauma Care Coalition, a group of students and community activists, block the northbound lanes of Michigan avenue Thursday evening to demand that the University of Chicago provide a Level 1 trauma center for residents on the south side of Chicago. | James Foster/For Sun-Times Media

“Trauma Center Now!”

Last night, the University of Chicago hosted an event at the Ritz Carlton to raise money for its capital campaign. Students, alumni, faculty, and patrons came out to financially support the university. They were not alone.

More than 60 members of the trauma center coalition came from across Chicago to protest, including JCUA. Chanting and marching, we demanded that the university reopen the level 1 trauma center it closed in 1988.

Nine protesters chained themselves across Michigan Avenue, blocking traffic. Seven other protesters registered for the capital campaign event, and disrupted the program multiple times.

JCUA members did not get arrested, but they did disrupt the event inside. We participated in this protest because we recently joined a coalition organizing for a trauma center at the University of Chicago. There are currently no adult trauma centers on Chicago’s South Side, leaving people shot in South Side neighborhoods without access to nearby emergency care.

► JCUA’s involvement in the trauma center action could not have been possible without the efforts of its members. You can become a JCUA member by registering here.

Trauma Center Coalition members blocked Michigan Avenue in an act of civil disobedience.

A recent study by the Illinois Department of Public Health identified the University of Chicago Medical Center as the best positioned South Side hospital to operate an adult trauma center. Yet for five years, the university has ignored calls from the community to open one up. Even as they raise $4.5 billion for their capital campaign, the University of Chicago claims they are financially unable to run a trauma center.

Read the rest of this entry »


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