May 4, 2015
By Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer
On April 14th, JCUA delivered 200 signatures collected from our members, community partners and allies, to University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer. We want to share more with you about this successful action along with other updates from the past month. We also want to give you more follow-up opportunities, so don’t forget to check them out at the bottom of this blog!
JCUA members and other members of the Trauma Care Coalition entered President Zimmer’s office dressed up as Moses and Miriam. Singing, “Go down Moses,” we presented the signatures and called for President Zimmer to meet with the broader Trauma Care Coalition. Check out photos from this action here and a video here.
After this action , the University of Chicago called our office and offered to arrange a meeting with a U of C Vice President (Cristal Thomas) and a senior adviser to President Zimmer (Susan Sher). While we were excited to secure this meeting, the broader coalition had already met with these administrators several times, and the university’s delegates have never followed through on agreements produced in these meetings. The University of Chicago has never agreed to include a key decision maker in any of these meetings, such at President Zimmer, Dean Kenneth Polonsky, or University of Chicago Medical Center President Sharon O’Keefe.
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April 30, 2015
A Reflection on the Campaign for a Level-I Trauma Care Center By Aryeh Bernstein JCUA Member (You can also view this post at Jewschool: Progressive Jews and Views, of which Aryeh is the Senior Editor)
A disproportionate amount of the alarming gun violence in Chicago takes place on the South Side, yet the South Side lacks even a single level one adult trauma center. Consequently, gunshot victims sometimes minutes from death must be transported miles away to Downtown or North Side hospitals. In 2010, after Damien Turner, an 18-year-old resident of the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood, died waiting for an ambulance to drive him ten miles to a downtown hospital instead of two blocks to the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), a grassroots collaboration of community organizations, faith leaders, and University of Chicago student groups began organizing the Trauma Center Coalition, dedicated to reopening a Level 1 adult trauma center at UCMC, the most well-resourced hospital on the South Side. So far, the university has refused. As part of the coalition’s ongoing campaign, last week, dozens of activists gathered on the university’s historic Midway field, for a vigil of prayer and song from different faith traditions. At dusk, participants lit candles to spell out “Trauma Center Now”, right across from the home of U. Chicago President Robert Zimmer, and then camped out for the night. As a representative of coalition partner Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, I was invited to offer a Jewish prayer, which is reproduced here; I read it in both the English and Hebrew. Read the rest of this entry »
April 28, 2015
By Judy Levey
JCUA Executive Director
This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the Chicago Theological Seminary’s (CTS) conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Selma, Selma at 50: Still Marching. Sitting on a panel between Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia and Reverend Otis Moss III of Trinity Baptist, and downt the row from longtime JCUA friend and IMAN Executive Director Rami Nashashibi, I was amazed at the extraordinary leadership that exists in Chicago… leaders who work across all sectors and throughout the city on inequality and racism.
Selmat at 50 Panel from left to right:
Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, Judy Levey, JCUA
Rev. Otis Moss III, Trinity United Church of Christ
Rami Nashashibi, Inner-City Muslim Action Center
Sylvia Puente, Latino Policy Forum
Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
The questions posed by Dr. Lee Butler of CTS made for an interesting dialogue among the panelists, whose comments touched on income inequality, strengthening communities, immigration reform, and racism. Listening to community leaders talk about the urgent need for social investment was riveting, and their passionate pleas to invest in families, health, community stability, young people, and immigrants were so compelling that I wished there would have been thousands in the audience rather than about 200.
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February 24, 2015
- ►Want to bring Or Tzedek to your community? Contact Deborah Goldberg, Coordinator of Teen Programs at email@example.com or
►Registration for Or Tzedek Summer 2015 is open! For more information, visit
By Deborah Goldberg
Coordinator of Teen Programs
Two weeks ago, JCUA partnered with Chicagoland Jewish High School on a three day advocacy and social justice retreat for members of their junior class. By the end of the time we spent together, we’d met with Jewish clergy throughout Chicago, learned about gun violence in the city, heard from young activists fighting for a Level 1 Adult Trauma Center at the University of Chicago, learned basic community organizing skills, examined systems of oppression, practiced our advocacy skills, prepared presentations on gun violence prevention legislation, advocated for that legislation in 5 state legislators’ in-district offices and in meetings with both Senator Kirk’s and Senator Durbin’s Chicago staffers, and reflected on the Jewish imperative to build a just world. It was an empowering (and exhausting!) three days.
“My legislator asked me questions about my views as if I were an adult!”
One of the many reasons I love JCUA is because we are constantly looking for ways to empower teens to be advocates and activists for positive social change. We know that teens’ voices and power are an important part of building a more just Chicago. For me, one of the highlights of the three days we spent together was hearing teens after they’d met with their elected official. Before our meetings, teens said things like, “Does it really make a difference when we meet with state legislators?” and “They won’t listen to me, I’m just 16.” After our meetings, teens said things like, “The person I met with took notes on what I was saying because he wanted to repeat it to his boss!” and “My legislator asked me questions about my views as if I were an adult!”
Teens from CJHS meet State Senator Daniel Biss as part of their three-day Or Tzedek retreat.
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July 9, 2014
This past Monday night over two hundred people packed into an auditorium in Niles for a meeting of the Niles Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. The issue that brought out people from all over Chicagoland was the proposed opening of a new gun store and firing range at 6143 Howard Street. The location proposed for the store is next to multiple schools including New Hope Academy, a school for children with severe emotional needs, and Niles West High School.
JCUA, in partnership with the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence and People for a Safer Society, attended the meeting on Monday night. Rabbi Ben Greenberg, Director of Programs, offered testimony to the commission opposing the gun store. Rabbi Greenberg stated what should be the obvious that “[it is] in the best interest of our children to not place gun stores and firing ranges especially ones that allow children to enter, near our schools.” A petition of more than 1000 signatures from people all over the Chicago area was presented to the commission. Nonetheless, the commission voted 5-2 to approve the special use permit and send it up to the Village Trustees for a vote.
There were several disturbing pieces of information that became clear during the commission meeting that must be publicized: Read the rest of this entry »
July 2, 2014
A little less than a year ago, JCUA embarked on a new initiative of developing a membership program. Membership in JCUA costs nothing because it is about investing your passion, desire and time for a more just and equitable Chicago. It is about standing up and saying like the great individuals throughout Jewish history, “hineni – here I am,” and I am ready to do my part in the work of social justice. Since February, nearly 300 hundred people all over Chicagoland have stood up and said they wanted to be involved and take the next step. A major step occurred this past Monday night as we held our first member meeting.
[The next step is being planned now! Please fill out the Google Form indicating your interest.]
While the storm raged outside nearly 40 people gathered at the Spertus Institute to further their commitment to combatting poverty and racism in Chicago. The meeting began with a welcome by Judy Levey, executive director of JCUA, who discussed the importance of building a Chicago based Jewish movement for social justice together. Read the rest of this entry »