Violence in Chicago: Why We Cannot Stand Idly By

by Rabbi Alison Abrams
Director of Organizing, JCUA

“At least 10 people shot Saturday”
“Chicago marks 500 homicides”
“7 shootings in 3 hours leave 2 dead, 5 wounded”

On a daily-even hourly- basis, Chicago is losing lives to violence, many of which are young people. The shootings are so consistent, that when I go to read the paper in the morning, the question is not whether someone was shot, but how many people were shot. Teens dying nightly? Innocent residents shot on their streets? This sounds like a scenario that belongs in a horror film, but it’s not, it is reality in 2013.

200148614-001Those of us who live outside the communities most impacted by such violence might put down the newspaper after reading such headlines and go on with business as usual – getting to work, going to school, and so on. But there are many communities in our city where a young person dying as a result of violence is business as usual. Communities of families who constantly fear for their own lives and the lives of those they love.

Violence is a problem so overwhelming that some of us feel despair when we think about it. But despair is a luxury that none of us can afford if we are to live in a city that values all people, families, and communities.

At JCUA, we have always worked with the communities that are disproportionately impacted by racism and poverty. Pervasive violence in the city is a manifestation of these social ills. The violence we see is a result of oppressive systems that leave young people without prospects for decent jobs, quality education, and a hopeful future. Inspired by a tradition in which saving a life (“Pikuach Nefesh”) is reason enough to violate almost any Jewish law, we are called to respond to this reality.

Impacted communities are organizing and working to create meaningful change in their neighborhoods through varied and creative models of resistance. JCUA is exploring potential collaborations with our community partners, where we can have a meaningful and effective contribution in addressing these issues. Please reach out and connect with us as we find ways to enact our values and demonstrate our commitment to justice in the coming months. You can reach me at

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