I don’t know much about the story of my grandparents, but I was brought up knowing that my family arrived here from Eastern Europe. They came to the states for many of the same reasons people still cross our borders today – a better life for themselves and an opportunity to provide for their families and for future generations. They spoke Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Romanian, Hebrew, and Yiddish. What I mostly remember, though, is that every year we sat down together for Passover seder, fasted on Yom Kippur and lit Hanukkah candles with three generations of our family.
We learned that many Jewish holidays commemorate a struggle. We know that our ancestors were often marginalized, persecuted, and denied rights, and it is this story, this shared history of feeling like “the other,” that lights a fire in our community drawing us to the pursuit of justice. We are taught to love and welcome the stranger, because we were once the stranger ourselves.
Because we are raised to know these stories, we are proud of our heritage and proud of our ancestors’ struggles. And if we are attentive to this part of Jewish identity, we relate to others who struggle today. We all want the same things for our families, then and now.
Today is #GivingTuesday, and while it’s not a Jewish holiday, it is a good time to reflect on your Jewish identity. JCUA is a place where you can “pray with your feet”, an organization that seeks to put Jewish values into action. We are the only Jewish organization focused on poverty and racism in Chicago, harnessing the collective power of Chicago’s Jewish community to make real change on a local level. Your gift to us today makes a tangible impact on social justice in our city.
This call for justice and compassion exists among all depths, denominations and practices of Judaism. We hold these concepts dear and true as pillars upon which our Jewish identity is built. This is the thread that binds us together, and JCUA knows that together we are stronger. Please support JCUA with a #GivingTuesday gift.