JCUA’s Jane Ramsey and Rabbi Robert Marx were the “special honorees” at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network’s end-of-year dinner, Dec. 11, 2011. This is Ramsey’s acceptance speech, along with a video message from Rabbi Marx, who was not able to attend in person.
On behalf of Rabbi Robert Marx and myself, and all of us at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, I am deeply honored and moved to accept this extraordinary award from you and the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. [Ramsey’s remarks continue below video link.]
I think back 10 years ago, when IMAN and JCUA became partners, recognizing that we shared a common vision for a just city and nation, and of working from the grassroots up to tackle poverty and inequities, and to build bridges across racial, religious, ethnic and class lines.
It was JCUA’s honor in the earliest days of our partnership to work with IMAN on its strategic planning initiative. Since then, under the visionary leadership of Rami Nashashibi [executive director of IMAN] and with an exceptional staff and lay commitment, IMAN has grown to serve the Chicago Lawn community and beyond, reaching across Chicago, to multiple cities in the country and internationally.
As we celebrate IMAN’s decade of contributions tonight, we recognize the achievements of the health clinic for serving many uninsured community residents, of the green reentry program that addresses the needs of previously incarcerated individuals, reducing recidivism rate through job training, housing, and educational opportunities.
The Muslim-run initiative advocates food justice in the community and a business model. Taking it to the Streets mobilizes thousands, and encourages community activism, the arts and multi-faith understanding.
IMAN’s advocacy agenda promotes comprehensive immigration reform, and helped achieve passage of the smart act. Its youth engagement has led to such leadership initiatives as a youth council, technology training and participation in One Nation, One Dream. And IMAN’s commitment goes on and on.
Today, JCUA is proud to partner with IMAN, and with the Southwest Organizing Project in our joint Multi-Faith Housing Reclamation Campaign to tackle housing foreclosure and build community in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood.
The common vision we recognized when we began 10 years ago has grown and deepened over time, transcending the challenges of two faith communities who at times are better known for seeing differences rather than building upon the opportunities inherent in our powerful commonalities.
What we have learned is that our close and shared traditions, the similarities of our prophetic faiths, family and community traditions, guide each of us to a belief in community responsibility, zakat in the Muslim tradition, tzedakah in the Jewish tradition. Our faiths, rather than creating divisions, have provided the foundation for strong bonds, friendships and a common vision for the future.
We are a part of the fabric of a movement that stretches from Marquette Park in 1967 with the march against segregation led by Dr. King with Rabbi Marx, to 2001 on the Southwest Side when IMAN and JCUA joined forces, to tonight, where we are gathered in this hallowed hall named for our beloved Mayor Harold Washington.
Our friend and leader, Mayor Washington inspired the building of powerful coalitions for social change. He knew then, and we know now that we are stronger, mightier together fighting against injustice and the cynical forces in our city and nation that keep communities impoverished and oppressed.
Our partnership provides a potent counter model to those who would shrink back, reluctant to reach out to one another, and for those who fear talking, let alone acting, jointly. Together, as we turn foreclosures into housing and community centers, promote comprehensive immigration reform, and stand against Islamophobia , anti-Semitism, and all forms of racism, we know that we are more powerful together. It is this model , this extraordinary Muslim-Jewish, multi-faith collaboration, that promises to create a better city, a better nation, and a better world.
Thank you, again, for this wonderful and humbling honor. We cherish your extraordinary friendship, leadership, and vision. We look forward to a partnership that will continue to grow for many years to come.
Editor’s note: Ramsey also urged the audience to take action in opposition to provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act. Learn more here…