By David Feinberg
JCUA Board of Directors
I first learned of JCUA after a chance meeting at the Bucktown Arts Festival. My family and I had recently moved to Chicago, and I was looking for a way to live my Judaism that connected with my values and the values I want to impart to my children. Judy Levey and I soon met for lunch and we explored common professional interests in community redevelopment, urban planning, and urban policy. Judy suggested that I meet with some of the Community Ventures Program advisory committee members and attend a meeting.
I was immediately drawn to a familiar blend of mission-driven professionalism – this was a group that wanted to implement best practices of community development lending while seeking to create positive social change through their investments. With a background in education, non-profit real estate development, and urban planning, I felt like I could contribute to the mission, and be challenged on my practices. Additionally, I could do this in a Jewish context! This was novel and spoke to what I previously thought were disparate components of my identity.
On the CVP board, I’m encouraged to bring new ideas to the table- the types of community development projects we consider, new ways to measure our impact, and more ways to create linkages between CVP’s investments and JCUA’s member campaigns and trademark programs.
Recently we approved a loan for an affordable housing development for seniors in Rogers Park, and we are nearing approval of a small business loan for tenant-initiated custodial and contracting business that will work on an affordable housing preservation project. We have started a preliminary review of a community center that would bring trauma counseling for youth, after school options, and wellness programming, emerging from JCUA’s work on the trauma center campaign!
I am inspired by JCUA this year – our new member initiatives and campaigns, the growth of our teen social justice program (Or Tzedek), and the expansion of CVP’s loan program and recipients. JCUA staff have their fingers on the pulse of social justice activism in Chicago, JCUA’s board members have amazing narrative arcs on the social justice history of Jewish Chicago, and our members continue to grow in number, innovation, and contribution. Mostly, I am excited to know that I am a part of an organization where Tikkun Olam is the priority, in a way that builds deeper understanding and lays the foundation for authentic relationships across diverse communities. The barriers to equity and justice in our city are multifaceted and numerous; fortunately, JCUA provides a conduit to eradicate inequity and usher in a more just Chicago.