Critical Services at Risk

September 30, 2015

The Budget Impasse Takes Its Toll

By Naomi Shapiro
Guest Blogger


On January 17, my husband and I welcomed a baby boy into our lives. Within minutes of his delivery, he was whisked to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for what we were assured was routine treatment to assist his labored breathing. Shortly thereafter, we learned that it was a cleft palate that was causing his breathing troubles and prevented him from breastfeeding or taking a bottle. Not to worry, we were told, “he’ll be home in a week.” Within a few days, though, it became apparent that our stay in the NICU would be longer than anticipated.

During the course of the first two weeks in the NICU, our room was a flurry of activity – doctors, residents, fellows, audiologists, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists were all in and out. At one point, we were visited by a geneticist.  The list of possible ailments he presented seemed unlikely and inconsequential in comparison to some of the more acute and immediate medical issues our son was facing. After he left, we forgot that he had ever been there.

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A couple weeks later as we made our morning commute to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the NICU resident called to say that a genetic counselor was looking for us.  Although concerned, we did not expect the news that she shared with us: our son’s genetic tests indicated that his cleft palate (and hearing loss that was discovered after we arrived in the NICU) were results of a genetic disorder.  We learned that his particular disorder can cause a vast array of disabilities – some that we could test for immediately and others that would not yet be apparent, including developmental delays.  

In the course of explaining what we could expect, she explained that once home from the hospital, we could enroll our son in Early Intervention, a  program of the Illinois Department of Human Services that offers coordinated therapies at home or daycare. Importantly, many of the treatments that we could receive through Early Intervention would not be covered by our health insurance.  During the following weeks, we came to terms with this unexpected news and grappled with how our lives might look different moving forward.   Read the rest of this entry »

A Raging River of Change

September 18, 2015

By Anna Rubin
JCUA’s AVODAH Organizing Fellow

11337126_10153024498676312_5567238132753381699_oIt has been an auspicious couple of weeks at JCUA, to say the least. On day four of my time here (really in the hours between days three and four), we learned that Sinai Health Systems and the University of Chicago came together and pledged to open a Level-I adult trauma center on the South Side at Holy Cross Hospital within the next two years. After five years of work by many members of the Trauma Center Coalition, and over a year of work by JCUA in partnership with them, it was almost surreal to see a decision like this being made, seemingly out of the blue.

Is this what every week at JCUA is going to be like?

Of course, I know the answer is no. But this victory, so early on in my time here, provided me with an incredible example of what community organizing can accomplish if those involved are truly unflagging and constantly driving past complacency.

It is with this attitude in mind that I approach the coming year. It is ideal that my year with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and my year at JCUA began at the same time as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. The convergence of these three beginnings has provided me with ample time for reflection and evaluation of my goals for the coming year as an individual and as a member of the various new communities I now inhabit. 


Become a JCUA Member

As part of AVODAH orientation, my fellow corps members and I were asked to draw representations of our Jewish and social justice journeys as rivers. At the top of my drawing I wrote the following quote from one Pooh Bear (or A.A. Milne): “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.” I then went on to explain that this was my implicit attitude for many years: why rush, why act now, when indeed, there will be time later, and I can get there eventually. While I do understand the beautiful side of this quote–for indeed, time does flow ever forward and we will often get somewhere eventually, whether it was where we intended to go or not–I reject this quote now. Someday is not good enough. Eventually is not good enough. There must be urgency, there must be action now. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet JCUA’s New Board Members

July 9, 2015

JCUA is thrilled to welcome our three newest board members, David Block, David Feinberg and former staffer Irene Lehrer Sandalow. Each new board member has a personal connection to JCUA and has taken a moment below to reflect on how JCUA’s work resonates with their values. A heartfelt welcome to David, David & Irene!

image1An architect and urban planner, David Block has been involved in community development and affordable housing for more than 20 years.  In 2014, David joined VeriGreen Development as its Director of Development.  His first experience with JCUA was more than 20 years ago, when he attended the spring break Urban Mitzvah Corps program with a busload of fellow students from St. Louis. David lives in Evanston with his wife Susan and two young sons and is a member of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation.

“I’m excited about joining the JCUA board because it’s a great organization that operates at the intersection of Jewish spiritual values and practical causes that reflect those values.  I’m looking forward to offering my background in affordable housing and urban planning to the board.”

FeinbergDavid-DCDavid Feinberg is the Regional Director for the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, where he is responsible for underwriting and executing investment opportunities in the Central region. David began his career as an educator, and taught 3rd grade, middle school, and ran an after school program in South Phoenix with Teach For America. He has led social justice service trips for AJWS, and has continued his involvement in educational equity by serving on the Pulaski Elementary School LSC, a Chicago Public School.

“After moving to Chicago in 2012, I quickly realized that JCUA embodied the Jewish value system and inclusive community with which my family and I identify, and that I hope to impart to my children. The Community Ventures Program is a perfect place for me to plug in, make an impact, and put my professional skills and personal passion to use.”

HeadshotIrene Lehrer Sandalow is the Chicago Senior Project Manager of URJ’s B’nai Mitzvah Revolution. Irene is passionate about Jewish social justice and creating spaces for Jews to imagine, design, and experiment with new ways to own and shape the future of Jewish life and tradition. From 2006-2012, Irene worked at JCUA where she educated and mobilized members in local and national social justice campaigns, and served as the director of the JMCBI. Irene and her husband Nathan Sandalow are the proud parents of Eli and Abe, devoted Blackhawks fans.  Her family lives in Lakeview and are active members of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation.

“JCUA has had profound influence on my life and gave me a home to advance social justice in our country. I have been deeply inspired by the leadership of JCUA and it’s an honor and privilege to be part of an organization that is working to address the root causes of injustice and is fearless about challenging the status quo. JCUA does what is right, not what is easy. JCUA is the prophetic Jewish voice of our city and I am looking forward to supporting its mission. As Rabbi Robert J Marx wrote: “I feel that freedom is Judaism, that Passover is not 3,000 years old- that it is today, and that we are part of it.”



Reflecting on 10 Days of Change: Or Tzedek 2015 Summer Session 1

July 2, 2015

By Deborah Goldberg
JCUA’s Coordinator of Teen Programs

It’s hard to believe that at this time two weeks ago, our first summer 2015 session was just getting under way!  It was an incredible 10 days of activism, advocacy, organizing, and having fun together.  If I could sum up 10 days in 10 numbers, here’s what I would say:

10 amazing teens

9 workshops on social justice concepts and campaigns

8 partner organizations visited

7 hours of prep for two prayer vigils and an advocacy visit with the President of the Illinois Senate

6 amazing staff members

5 states represented

4 jumbo bags of M&Ms consumed

3 views of Chicago (by boat, by car, and from the 37th floor of a downtown office!)

2 Shabbatot

1 incredible Or Tzedek session

There’s no possible way to capture the enthusiasm and passion of our first session teens in words and numbers alone.  From participating in meaningful workshops to advocating to the president of the Illinois State Senate on the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights, from leading a prayer vigil in support of the Trauma Center Campaign to celebrating two Shabbatot together, the teens’ energy, curiosity, and willingness to give 100% of themselves in every workshop and meeting was inspiring.

Check out the photo essay below for more information on our experiences! (Click on any photo below to see a slideshow with comments!)

As our first summer session came to a close on Sunday morning, I shared with the teens that I hope Or Tzedek and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs are always places where they feel at home.  In just 10 short days, we were able to build a community, take action on several campaigns, celebrate Shabbat, and help prepare our teens to take their new skills and passion for social justice home.  We can’t wait to see these teens again at future Or Tzedek and JCUA programs!

No More Excuses – Trauma Center Now

June 26, 2015

Jay and Demands

By Jay Stanton
JCUA Member

Earlier this June, I spent one Thursday reminiscing about my time as a student at the University of Chicago and being both pleased and horrified at some of the changes that have been made on campus in recent months. The previous day, nine activists were participating in peaceful civil disobedience, calling on President Robert Zimmer to discuss a list of demands for the University of Chicago to help solve the trauma center desert crisis on the South Side.

Instead of pursuing its ordinary tactics of ignoring protesters until they get tired, or superficially meeting demonstrators’ demands to meet with high-level administrators while not making any changes as a result,  the university enlisted the help of the city fire and police departments to extricate and arrest the activists.  They have been charged with serious misdemeanor charges that have the potential to result in jail time. All non-student activists have been banned from campus. These charges can only be meant to punish and intimidate them and the rest of us into silence about the refusal of the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) to open a trauma center. In order to encourage the free expression of ideas, the University should drop the charges immediately.

1. Sign this petition calling on the University of Chicago to drop charges against the nine trauma center protesters.
2. Join the protesters in court on July 10th. Details and RSVP in the above petition.
3. Write an email to president Zimmer expressing your concern for the University’s actions and the lack of a trauma center.

But here’s the bigger question: why is the U of C singling out trauma center activists? Read the rest of this entry »


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