Jane Ramsey to retire Sept. 1, capping off more than 30 years of social justice work with JCUA

For Immediate Release

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Chicago | http://www.jcua.org
Media: Jonathan Lehrer | jonathan@jcua.org
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Jane Ramsey

CHICAGO, Aug. 15, 2012 – After three decades during which she defined the Jewish social justice agenda in Chicago, and shaped the organization that carried out the mission, Jane Ramsey has announced her retirement from the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs – the organization that she led for more than 30 years.

Founded by Rabbi Robert Marx in 1964 as a Jewish response to the emerging civil rights movement, under Ramsey’s leadership JCUA expanded its social justice role and has become the ”go-to” organization for those seeking allies in the fight for justice.

When then long shot mayoral candidate Harold Washington became the object of racial slurs, JCUA called for Chicagoans to act on their better nature. When CHA residents sought allies to ensure that their rights were honored as the city tore down its high-rises, JCUA pulled together the coalition of religious and civil rights institutions that became the tenants’ allies. In the wake of September 11th, 2001 when Chicago’s Muslim community became the target of hate crimes, JCUA reached out to offer support and solidarity, subsequently founding the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative.

More recently, when Chicago’s Mexican communities were threatened by both gentrification and deportations, JCUA fought for immigration reform and battled the now-infamous practices of the Agriprocessors, Inc., a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa. This led to a nationwide effort, the “We Were Strangers Too Jewish Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

While Ramsey’s leadership was most publicly evidenced in these important responses to immediate situations, she also established programs that are now a part of JCUA’s core activities. These range from a middle-school curriculum on Judaism and Urban Poverty that has engaged thousands of Jewish students in synagogues and day schools, to Or Tzedek, a teen social justice institute in which participants spend time working in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.

“With her unique combination of passion, vision and dedication to civil and human rights, Jane has been able to effect meaningful change throughout Chicago’s most disenfranchised and disempowered communities while motivating others – Jewish activists, philanthropists, and so many more – to join her,” said Rabbi Bruce Elder, chairman of the JCUA board of directors.

Ramsey was publicly recognized for her influence on Jewish social justice in 2009 by The Forward, a national Jewish publication. “In almost every social and economic justice issue that came up in Chicago — homelessness, unemployment, community reinvestment, racism, anti-Semitism — Ramsey was there, providing Jewish leadership,” the publication said.

As for Ramsey’s future, she plans to continue working on the core issues that have motivated her actions throughout her life. “Except for a brief period working for Mayor Washington, I’ve spent virtually my entire adult life at JCUA. Working out of JCUA as a Jewish civil and human rights activist is a way of life, one that provides a prophetic foundation for looking at the world, how we relate to it and to our own community. As I move to new ventures, my framework is deeply embedded with this prophetic vision — its imperative to tackle injustice and to create positive change.”

Along with social activism, Ramsey continues to spend time and energy on her family. Her children, Laura and Josh Saltzman, have recently established a new restaurant in Washington, D.C. and her stepchildren, Bari Raab and Brandon Rice (the children of husband Lewis Rice) reside in Chicago with their spouses Charlie Raab and Staci Rice, and new grandson, Hudson Rice.

An event honoring Ramsey will take place this fall. Details regarding the event will become available in the coming weeks at jcua.org.

About JCUA (http://www.jcua.org)

The mission of the Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities. Guided by prophetic Jewish principles, JCUA pursues social and economic justice by promoting a vision of empowering communities from within. Since 1964, JCUA has assisted groups in low-income and minority communities, built coalitions with diverse groups, advocated on issues of poverty and racism and mobilized a Jewish constituency to create a more just city and nation.


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