Rabbi David Russo and JCUA Member Stacey Flint Testify on Behalf of Workers’ Rights

February 20, 2015

Last week, the Cook County board voted overwhelmingly to pass one of the nation’s toughest wage theft laws. JCUA leaders provided testimony in support of the legislation. These statements by Stacey Flint and Rabbi David Russo reinforce the importance of workers rights in Jewish values and in the Jewish community.

‘We Are All Responsible.’

Testimony by Rabbi David Russo, Anshe Emet Synagogue

Every week, Jews around the world read from the Torah. And in this coming week [Feb. 9-13], we will all read a particular verse from the Book of Exodus (22:21-22):

Rabbi David Russo

Rabbi David Russo

כָּל־אַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם לֹא תְעַנּוּן

You shall not afflict any widow, or orphaned child.

אִם־עַנֵּה תְעַנֶּה אֹתוֹ

If you afflict them in any way,

כִּי אִם־צָעֹק יִצְעַק אֵלַי

If they cry to me,

שָׁמֹעַ אֶשְׁמַע צַעֲקָתוֹ

I God will surely hear their cry.

Rabbinic tradition asserts that the Bible is identifying afflictions not only of a specific group of people, i.e. widows or orphans, but any teshushei koach, anyone who is weak, who is vulnerable (Rashi).

And Jewish tradition emphasizes that God will not only bring consequences upon the people inflicting the damage – but that if people are aware of the injustice, and they do nothing, then the punishment is upon the entire community (Ibn Ezra).

We all are responsible. Read the rest of this entry »

(Guest Post) Making Votes Count: A New Vision for Illinois

November 7, 2013

(Editor’s Note: JCUA encourages submissions for guest blog posts on issues of social concern in Chicago, and Illinois more broadly. To inquire about submitting a guest blog post, please contact: info@jcua,org).

banner maps

by Ryan Blitstein
Senior Advisor for “Yes for Independent Maps.”  

I want to tell you about the Illinois we all wish we lived in.

The Illinois where our tax dollars are spent wisely—helping someone’s child stave off hunger, instead of lining the pockets of corrupt politicians. The state where the decisions government makes are open to us, not manipulated by legislators working only for themselves. The Illinois where we can walk up to the ballot box on Election Day, and choose a leader to represent our needs, knowing that the outcome was not determined months before in some smoke-filled room.

We don’t live in that state yet. But we can build it together.

panda mapsLet me introduce you to Yes for Independent Maps, a campaign to fix the broken, secretive redistricting process and put the voters back in charge of Illinois.

What does redistricting reform have to do with our vision? Behind closed doors, partisan leaders carve up legislative districts to guarantee their re-election. They cut themselves off from accountability, so if they’re corrupt or not getting the job done, we can’t vote them out of office. Fixing redistricting is the first step toward transforming our state for the better.

Independent redistricting protects and expands representation for diverse racial, ethnic, and religious groups. After California instituted independent maps, it led to a fresh crop of Jewish legislators in Sacramento, who created the first-ever Jewish caucus to focus on issues of interest to the community. This new, independently elected State Legislature has also addressed some of the root causes of poverty, from outdated school funding formulas to a broken immigration system.

This isn’t about which party is in charge, and it isn’t about a candidate, either. No one person has the power to heal our broken political system, but together, we can make it happen. It all starts with voters like you.

It’s time to let go of our cynicism and believe in the power of movements to solve big problems. I know with the help of friends like you, we can make that happen here in Illinois.

If you want to get involved in this historic campaign, visit http://www.IndependentMaps.org.

Tell Your Rabbi: Join the Fight for Economic Justice in IL

November 5, 2013

No one really likes taxes.  However, those same taxes that we grumble and complain about do what many of us cannot do on our own.  They provide the infrastructure to care for the elderly, educate our children, dispense healthcare and assist in keeping our communities safe.  The tax code serves as a moral document of our collective values.

stop giveawaysYet, Illinois is only one of nine states that insists that everyone be taxed at the same rate (a “flat” tax), as if we all have equal ability to pay.  Part of striving for justice is recognizing and fighting against systems and structures that create and perpetuate inequality.  Our tax system is one of them and it is time that we fight for a change.

JCUA has partnered with the “A Better Illinois” campaign to ask our General Assembly for a constitutional amendment to create a more just tax system.  Right now, the campaign is calling on leaders of faith to endorse the campaign, recognizing that our lives are lived for others, most specifically the widow, the orphan and the vulnerable.


To help JCUA and A Better Illinois make an impact and create change, we need you talk to your Rabbi about the continued inequality and offer the chance to change it.  Ask your Rabbi to add their voice to our online petition asking for a constitutional amendment to create a fair, just and progressive tax.

A fair tax would:

  •  Allow for higher rates on those with higher incomes, and lower rates for those with lower incomes.
  • Provide resources for our schools and ensure that services to the vulnerable in our communities are maintained.
  • Stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and provide a means for Illinois to repair our crumbling infrastructure.
  • Provide desperately needed revenue for our state that has been lost because corporations have used loopholes to avoid paying their fair share.


An Inside Look into Immigration Court Proceedings

December 4, 2012

by Vadim Gerhsteyn
JCUA intern

JCUA’s Vadim Gershteyn sat as an observer in Immigration Detention Court as part of the “Court Watch” program. In this article he tells the stories he observed, including fathers separated from their children, trials conducted through computer screens, and detainees with no guaranteed legal representation.


immigration-detention-2The immigrant experience in the United States is at the foundation of shared history and a place of special importance for the Jewish community. On Monday, November 26, 2012 I attended a Court Watch training that allowed him to be an non-partial observer in Detained Immigrant Courts. The program was set up by the “Sisters of Mercy” and “Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants” in order to allow people to bear witness to the trials and stand in solidarity with detained immigrants. Each year, more than 400,000 immigrants are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), many of whom have no criminal histories and are being detained on civil charges.


In one trial, a legal permanent resident (LPR) named Jose was applying for voluntary self-deportation after being arrested with fifteen grams of cocaine, a felony that includes intention to distribute. His wife’s moving testimony told the story of a good husband, caring father of four, and gainfully employed member of the community struggling with drug addiction. Now in drug treatment classes, and despite living in Illinois for over a decade, Jose was facing deportation. The judge gave Jose leniency for self-deportation, which allows him to leave on his own accord and reapply to enter the United States. However, reentry is not guaranteed, and the court may have separated Jose from his family (four of whom are U.S. citizens) due to the disease of addiction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reporting on Recommendations for the Chicago Housing Authority

December 3, 2012

by Lauren Goldstein
JCUA intern

The Chicago public housing residents’ Central Advisory Council (CAC) recently published their recommendations to the Chicago Housing Authority. These recommendations shed light on systemic problems, and the need soar need for resident voices in the discussion about the future of public housing. JCUA’s Lauren Goldstein gives some background and explains the five main recommendations.

Demolition at Cabrini Green

Demolition at Cabrini Green

On November 30, 2012, a vast, diverse, and energetic crowd came together at the University of Illinois at Chicago Student Center to bear witness to an incredibly powerful presentation of a hopeful plan created by the Chicago public housing residents’ Central Advisory Council (CAC).

The CAC is a tenant organization recognized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that serves to represent public housing residents and provide resident input into the CHA’s policies via the participation of fourteen Local Advisory Council offices and seven mixed income communities.

The CAC presented their “Strategies and Recommendations Report,” which is a thorough set of recommendations for the Chicago Housing Authority to consider when moving forward with the Plan for Transformation 2.0.

This innovative report (which can be accessed here) was prepared by Lucas Greene Associates, LLC in partnership with Chicago Jobs Council, Heather D. Parish, Prim Lawrence Group, UIC Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, and We The People Media, but it was really made possible by the strong, persistent, enduring, and hardworking residents of the CHA who tirelessly work to have their voices heard, their needs represented and met, and their families, friends, and neighbors given the rights they deserve as human beings and fellow residents of Chicago.

Read the rest of this entry »


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