Editor’s Note: “On a Just Path” is a series of stories about former JCUA employees, where they are now and the impact JCUA had on them. Interviews were conducted and edited by Nathaniel Seeskin, AVODAH Organizing Fellow at JCUA.
Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.
A. I worked at JCUA from 1998-2000 and I was the Director of the Associate Division.
Q. What was special about working here?
A. There was so much that was so special – working at JCUA confirmed my commitment to working in the Jewish community, and it opened my eyes to the effects and complexities of poverty, bigotry and racism in Chicago and elsewhere. I have so many memories – There are two that stand out the most:
I was planning a program with the leadership council at Cabrini-Green, I believe it was a financial education course. We planned the course for a Sunday afternoon. I took a taxi from my apartment in Lakeview and the taxi driver didn’t want to take me to Cabrini. He told me it wasn’t safe for me, and once I did convince him to drive me there, he wouldn’t leave until I found the individuals I was working with. It raised so many questions for me – this was the home to so many Chicagoans, and yet the cab driver, however well-intentioned, did not believe it was okay for me to go there in the middle of the day on a Sunday – why is it okay for some people to live in certain conditions, and not others? I learned so much about the meaning of community from the people we worked with and for in public housing. Up until then, the buildings around Chicago were these foreboding, almost mythological edifices, but when you actually knew residents, worked with them, one quickly realized that the depths of the community bonds were intense, and that when those buildings came down, important communities were separated from each other. It was so apparent, and heartbreaking, to learn in real time how some communities “matter”, and others are taken for granted, or not valued at all. I was proud that a Jewish organization was working and advocating with this community to say “it matters”. Read the rest of this entry »