Takin’ it to the Streets: JCUA Joins with Chicago’s Muslim Community

On Saturday, June 19, 2010, JCUA board member Sidney Hollander spoke at the Takin’ It To The Streets event that was hosted by IMAN (Inner-city Muslim Action Network). The event took place at Marquette Park on Chicago’s southwest side. Takin’ It To The Streets aimed to bring together various communities from across the city to help usher in social justice for all of Chicago’s residents. JCUA, in its continuing support of social justice, joined together once again with the Muslim community to spread the message of compassion, diversity and justice. Hollander’s remarks:

Sidney Hollander, JCUA Board Member

Sidney Hollander, JCUA Board Member

The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is honored to be a part of the Induction of the Community Ambassadors. We at JCUA are a kind of community ambassador, too, a particular kind of community ambassador.

JCUA’s mission is to fight poverty, racism and anti-semitism in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities.

That’s the mission. What do we do about it? First, we listen. We listen to voices of the communities that are bearing the brunt of injustices and oppression. And we fight.

We fight by working side by side with, always taking our lead from, those groups and organizations that are challenging the injustices they face. Their fights become our fights; their injustices become our injustices. And we never, never work with a community group unless it has requested our involvement; and, even then only after extensive conversations to clarify our respective roles.

I emphasize all this because it seems that forming just such partnerships is the task that’s being set before the Community Ambassadors this morning.

JCUA has been fortunate enough to have formed excellent partnerships with Chicago’s Muslim community. We were spurred to look for Muslim partners due to the anti-Muslim attacks and discrimination that followed September 11.

Out of that first initiative has grown close and productive relationships, not only with IMAN, but with CAIR-Chicago, the Council of Islamic Organizations, Muslim civil rights organizations and others. Our primary work together has focused on social justice, but along the way we have read and discussed each others’ religious texts, participated in each others’ worship, jointly produced evenings of music, poetry and drama under the auspices of Café Finjan, and on practically all occasions, broken bread together.

Some of JCUA’s other partnerships revolve around immigration reform. The U.S. immigration system is one of the principal perpetrators of injustice in this country at the present time. JCUA is working with many groups on comprehensive immigration reform, reform focused on the protection and inclusion of the millions of immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, who have made their homes in the U.S.

For example, we went to Postville, Iowa to defend immigrant workers against both the immigration authorities and the exploitive Jewish owners of the meatpacking plant where they worked. We also started a Progress by Passover postcard campaign to pressure the U.S. Congress on immigration reform.

And we helped block the deportation buses in suburban Chicago just a few weeks ago. As with all its work, JCUA’s efforts to reform the immigration system are proceeding in conjunction close partnerships with organizations of people who have experienced the diabolical injuries and indignities inflicted by that system. We are working to mobilize support at both the national and the local level, in partnership with Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and interfaith groups. We are working with secular groups. We are working with students (taking part in JCUA’s Or Tzedek teen social justice program), with workers, with clergy, with laity.

We are working much as Community Ambassadors will work, helping to bring together disparate parts of the community around what turn out to be SHARED commitments to right the wrongs of injustice.

On behalf of JCUA, I salute you, I commend you and I look forward to working with you.

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