JCUA: Making a Difference Through Jewish Identity

By Zoe Reinstein
JCUA Summer Intern

Zoe Reinstein, summer intern at JCUA

Zoe Reinstein, summer intern. Learn more about JCUA’s internship program here.

Let’s be clear. Waking up at 7 am during your summer vacation is annoying. That is, unless you’re interning for JCUA. The first day, I begrudgingly and half-asleep showed up for work at the office of this 50-year-old social justice organization. It took very little time at all to realize how incredible this experience was going to be when I picked up the phone, and it was the governor’s office calling JCUA.

During my time here, I had the pleasure of helping with logistics for the “Acts of Change” 50th anniversary gala and planning “Iftar in the Synagogue.” I helped to organize a JCUA delegation to an interfaith vigil hosted by the Chicago Religious Leadership Network vigil for the families of deportees at the Broadview Detention Center, followed by a meaningful interfaith discussion over coffee.

These experiences have taught me that there is nothing more exhilarating than feeling like you are actually making a difference because of your Jewish identity, which would have been impossible anywhere other than JCUA. I have seen how much effort goes in to making change, but that it is equally as worth it as it is difficult.

This summer, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most inspiring, driven and motivated people in Chicago. Social justice is not an easy field to work in, especially during a time of polarization and gridlock across the country. It can be discouraging, even heartbreaking.

The fact that the JCUA staff continues in this work and perseveres until the job is done amazes me every single day. This small group of people can change a neighborhood, and even an entire city. From gun violence, to immigration, to economic justice, an organization would have their hands full working on just one. Yet somehow, JCUA manages to do it all.

Specifically over the past two and a half months, I interned for the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI). Interfaith work is a challenge, especially in such trying times. But, if I learned anything from my time here, it is that people from every background are strongest and have the greatest impact when they work together. There are troves of people in the Chicagoland area who want to do just that. If you want to be a part of making change in Chicago, getting involved in JCUA through an internship as I did, or membership, is a great way to do it.

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