June 27, 2016
By Lisa Bendoff
Before I begin discussing the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (IL DWBR), in the spirit of full disclosure, I must make the following confession: I am just a simple E pluribus unum kind of gal living in a crazy mixed up Bellum omnium contra omnes sorta world. That’s right, I believe in “from the many, one” (coalitions and allyship) over this ugly “war of all against all” that is currently being waged – particularly against those trying to earn a wage. A minimum wage. A living wage.
Disclosure disclosed. Confession confessed. I begin.
It is not every day one is approached with the invitation to become a better human being. When James Povijua, the Campaign Director for the IL Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights came and spoke before JCore, I was extended that very invitation. He began with a brief history of the long fight for domestic workers’ rights in the United states (the struggle stretching back to FDR) and the specific fight here in Illinois. He spoke of the hard, difficult work already achieved by the Illinois Domestic Workers Coalition and the efforts remaining.
What I did not know at the time was that in addition to inviting me to be a better human being, James was also inviting me and the other members of JCore to take several trips down to the state capital. But that was just fine. My unum was all fired up, ready to get on a PluriBus and go down to Springfield to lobby on behalf of the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights!
These were good trips to Springfield not only for the successful lobbying that was done on behalf of the IL DWBR – and we were successful – but for the way the members of the different coalitions came to know one another. We came to know each other by our given names and not only our coalition names. We came to know each other and I hope trust one another.
Passage of the IL DWBR is serious. It will determine whether existing laws will be amended to include Domestic Workers. The passage will mean respect, dignity, and humanity. The Illinois Minimum Wage Law. Respect. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven. Dignity. The Illinois Human Rights Act which provides recourse for sexual harassment in the workplace (often someone’s home). Humanity. How do we exclude Domestic Workers from these basic rights? How can we in the Jewish community allow this? Read the rest of this entry »
March 24, 2016
By Elisa Redish
I’m excited to work on the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights campaign through JCUA because I believe that all workers deserve dignity, including the right to decent wages and freedom from discrimination and harassment.
My interest in workers’ rights developed in the year I took off between college and law school, when I interned at a non-profit that defends low-income tenants in eviction proceedings. Over the course of the ten months of my internship, I saw a number of the same tenants whom the organization had defended successfully in eviction court come back a few months later for help with a new eviction. I realized that without stable and well-paid jobs at which they were treated well, these tenants would have no way to pay their rent each month while still paying for food, clothes, and transportation for their families. When I started at Berkeley Law in fall 2012, I immersed myself in the world of workers’ rights law and knew I had found my passion and the area in which I felt I could make the most impact.
As a union-side labor lawyer and as a volunteer at workers’ rights clinics while in law school, I have seen firsthand what a difference having legally enforceable rights makes for workers on an individual and group level. Workers not covered by basic workers’ rights laws essentially have no recourse when they are treated poorly by their employers. Moreover, because of the private nature of their workspace, domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, wage theft, and numerous other abuses.
For far too long, the laws in Illinois that grant workers legally enforceable rights and protections, such as the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Human Rights Act, have excluded domestic workers. The Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will correct this injustice.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work together with fellow JCUA members to act as allies to the IL Domestic Workers Coalition and ensure the Illinois legislature passes the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights this year. JCUA and its members have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of domestic workers in Illinois.
February 23, 2016
Hannah (second from right) interned with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) during Or Tzedek’s Advanced Activism summer program in 2013.
By Karen Thirman
Or Tzedek Parent
My daughter Hannah was fortunate to be able to participate in Or Tzedek for two summers. Not only did she have a great time and make new friends, her experience had a transformative impact on her understanding of social justice issues and her role and responsibility as a Jew in trying to help make the world a better place.
Growing up in the suburbs, our kids tend to interact with others of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Opportunities to meet and interact with a more diverse group of people is limited. As a result, the issues that face others are often abstract. The Or Tzedek experience presents them with the chance to meet people in other communities and to better understand the issues that they face. They then learn social advocacy skills through hands-on activities and these issues become real and concrete.
Many of Hannah’s friends have participated in international volunteer summer programs. While those programs are great, the opportunities to explore social responsibility and volunteer in the City of Chicago are tremendous and right in our own backyard. The Or Tzedek program provides a wonderful framework to take advantage of this opportunity.
Hannah’s experience sparked her interest in issues of social justice and volunteering. She has continued to be involved is social action groups in college. I really feel that her participation in the Or Tzedek program provided her with the interest and the skills in her continued involvement in social justice.
Hannah (top row, second from right) and her Or Tzedek Advanced Actiivism group in 2013.
January 13, 2015
For 41 years, longtime JCUA Leader and prominent attorney Kalman Resnick has defended the rights of immigrants and their families. JCUA is pleased to share the following Dvar Torah, presented by Kalman at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue on Jan. 9, expressing the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S and why you should care.
This week’s Torah portion, Sh’mot, provides a spectacular backdrop for this D’var Torah. In Sh’mot we begin reading the Book of Exodus. At the beginning of Exodus, we are enslaved in Egypt. G-d instructs Moses and his brother Aaron to lead our people to freedom. Moses resists G-d’s instruction, telling G-d that he, Moses, is not up to the task and expressing his doubt that the people will follow his leadership. But G-d insists and Moses and Aaron proceed to execute a plan for our liberation from slavery.
Tonight I will address why this story of our Exodus from Egypt commands that we as American Jews support the enactment of progressive and comprehensive immigration reform and why in the absence of such legislation, we must support our President’s Executive Orders protecting approximately one-half of our nation’s more than 11.5 million undocumented residents from deportation.
At the beginning of his speech on November 20th announcing his latest executive action protecting undocumented immigrants, President Obama declared:
“For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
But today, our immigration system is broken – and everybody knows it.”
Read the rest of this entry »
November 5, 2014
After three months of living in fear of deportation while in sanctuary at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Church, we are thrilled that some good news has come to Beatriz Santiago Ramirez.
Beatriz, an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. more than 10 years ago, has been pursued by authorities recently. This occurred even though she is eligible for a U-visa after undergoing a sexual assault and fully cooperating with the resulting investigation. If deported, she would have been separated from her two American-born children.
Last week an immigration judge in Chicago re-opened her case, meaning her application for legal status can be considered. She is no longer in immediate danger of deportation and if her application is approved, she will be authorized to work in the U.S. and may ultimately receive citizenship.
On Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, JCUA Executive Director Judy Levey, along with other religious leaders, spoke in support of Beatriz and the recent good news at a press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission. The press conference was organized by Fr. José Landaverde, who leads the church housing Beatriz and her children; along with Pastor Sara Wohlleb, the Congregational Coordinator at the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America. CRLN oversees the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition (CNSC), a group of religious congregations that house undocumented immigrants in danger of deportation.
This press conference was follow-up to a previous one held at the same location on Sept. 29.
October 8, 2014
By Nate Seeskin
AVODAH Organizing Fellow, JCUA
“Do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)
Judy Levey, at mic, joins other faith leaders in support of Beatriz Santiago-Ramirez.
JCUA Executive Director Judy Levey echoed these powerful words recently (Sept. 20) as she stood alongside other religious leaders in a press conference outside the door of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Church in Little Village.
Emceed by Fr. José Landaverde, clergy and leaders from different religious organizations expressed their support for an undocumented immigrant and her two U.S.-born children who are all receiving sanctuary at the church while under threat of deportation. Beatriz Santiago-Ramirez, an immigrant from Mexico, is a victim of violence and is eligible for a U Visa, but failure to be certified by public officials has instead left her subject to deportation and separation from her children.
Concluding the event, Rev. John Thomas from the Chicago Theological Seminary led a prayer and then the clergy removed their shoes as a symbol of holiness as they proceeded to walk into the church where they recited additional prayers.
JCUA participated in this event to call attention to the need for humane treatment of immigrants and welcoming the stranger. Numerous lines within Jewish texts voice this sentiment, especially in highlighting the experiences of the Jewish people as slaves in Egypt: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
Many of the congregations represented at this event are part of the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition (CNSC), a group of immigrant-welcoming religious organizations. CNSC is under the umbrella of the Sanctuary Movement, which is currently growing and operates in 12 American cities.
» Read coverage of the press conference in the Chicago Sun-Times