The Civil Rights Movement, JCUA and the Light of the Menorah

December 22, 2014

Note: This presentation was made at the JCUA Member Hanukkah party last week.

Stacey Flint and her daughter, Lauren, at the JCUA member Hanukkah party.

Stacey Flint and her daughter, Lauren, at the JCUA member Hanukkah party.

By Stacey Aviva Flint
JCUA Member/Guest Blogger

More than 15 years ago, I was a JCUA staff person. Today, I am member of JCUA. I’d like to share my journey with JCUA and explain why you should join with me as a member of JCUA.

JCUA introduced me to the city of Chicago and helped me to understand justice in America. My knowledge of justice was the Civil Rights movement, and I was as a spectator of a historic past. JCUA opened my understanding of the heart of the movement and allowed me to go from spectator to an actor for change.

Jews and social justice issues are linked most often with the Civil Rights movement in partnership with Black Americans. Injustices in the political and social justice sphere culminated in Jewish and Black collaborations. Both communities were victims of a long history of institutionalized discrimination and social shunning by mostly white, Christian populations.

Jim Crow signage often proclaimed, “No Jews, no Dogs, no Negroes.” At the height of the Civil Rights era, Jews and Blacks marched together in Selma (Dr. King, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Rabbi Robert J. Marx), and challenged housing discrimination in Chicago. This past August (2014) marked the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. Chaney (African American), Goodman and Schwerner (both Jewish) were lynched for daring to register Black voters in Mississippi in 1964.

JCUA member Tina Escobar kindles the lights of Hanukkah at the JCUA member party.

JCUA member Tina Escobar kindles the lights of Hanukkah at the JCUA member party.

Born from a shared history

It is out of this history JCUA was born. For over 50 years JCUA has partnered with diverse communities to carry out the prophetic vision of tzedek, tzedek, tirdof–Justice, Justice, shall you pursue.

As my first employer after graduate school, JCUA holds a special place in my heart and professional career. I was and still am drawn to JCUA because of its core values–Justice and Tikkun Olam. JCUA recognizes that Jews are neither powerful nor powerless, but they can be bridge builders and relate to both the powerful and the powerless.

Today, as a member of JCUA, I can be my whole, authentic self: A Jew, Black, multicultural, a woman and a citizen concerned for my fellow man, without being asked to choose only one. As a Jew of color, I realize that I have a dual consciousness and I can be a living bridge between my communities as well as many others.

As leaders, we must come together once again and harness the common ground of humanity to shed light on the plagues of darkness that foster racism, anti-Semitism, and all forms of oppression. New prophets may never arise such as Moses, Dr. King, or Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, but Judaism calls on us to be prophetic voices, lights among darkness.

Lights in the darkness

Rabbi Schneuer Zalman of Liadi once said, “A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” The Talmud teaches, “We don’t depend on miracles,” we have the opportunities to be lights in the darkness.

JCUA is a treasure trove in both Chicago and social justice history that is rare to find. Sometimes I know I can feel paralyzed by what I hear on the news. But as a member of JCUA, I have the opportunity to be a part of solutions. JCUA acts as the shamash (servant candle on our Hanukkiah that lights the other candles). As a JCUA member, I get information about issues and how to process them according to Jewish values. And I also get to lend my voice and experiences.

What am I saying? JCUA is looking for a few good members to be lights in this generation. As I look out I see many lights shining tonight. Let’s keep the flames of Justice burning bright long after Hanukkah. Join with me as a member of JCUA; there is room at the table.

Let JCUA keep your flame shining brightly.

I will see you at our next member meeting.


Stacey presented these remarks at the JCUA member Hanukkah party. Our next member meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, location TBD. 

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JCUA October Newsletter

October 8, 2014

In the October issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • Bring social justice into your sukkah.
  • Upcoming JCUA membership meeting to review two important campaigns for justice.
  • Immigration Reform workshops at JRC in Evanston.
  • Or Tzedek teens: The Hot Chocolate’s On Us!
  • Supporting a Mexican immigrant in her quest for a special visa
  • Cantors to sing for expanded trauma care.

Read it now!


On Rosh Hashanah, New Beginnings Bring New Resolutions

September 24, 2014

By Nate Seeskin
AVODAH Organizing Fellow, JCUA

Nate SeeskinSeptember marks two new beginnings for me with the coming of the Jewish New Year and my starting as an Organizing Fellow at JCUA. This is not just another year where I look to improve myself, but one where I look to engage with my new community.

Many people look to the High Holidays as an opportunity to reflect on how they can improve themselves. As an organizing fellow I understand that in order to effectively attend to outside factors in our lives, such as family and work, self-care and reflection are essential.

Along with the emphasis on self-improvement, there should be equal weight placed on the betterment of community (Tikkun Olam) and social justice (Tzedek). I moved to Chicago last month largely because I considered it like a second home throughout my life with the personal connections I have here. Yet I can also relate to this city because of its many similarities to my home city, St. Louis. Both are steeped in rich traditions (especially baseball and food) and have a special type of folksy flavor that you cannot find on either coast.

At a recent rally, Chicago-area Jewish clergy sound the shofar to call for a level one trauma center on the South Side.

At a recent rally, Chicago-area Jewish clergy sound the shofar to call for a level one trauma center on the South Side.

At the same time, both cities are plagued with problems like gun violence and police brutality. Disparities in access to resources are rampant, whether it be the recent incidents in Ferguson, Missouri or the shortage of emergency health care on the South Side of Chicago. These problems are only symptomatic of a broader problem: segregation. Last year, St. Louis and Chicago were respectively ranked as the sixth and seventh most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the U.S. Within this ranking, 12 of the 25 most racially segregated American cities are in the Midwest. As the third largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and the largest city in the Midwest, Chicago is prime battleground for our fight for social justice.

Social justice plays a foundational role of Jewish faith and communal expression. Our history is one of both persecution and perseverance and in our annual period of reflection, we must not take for granted the world around us.

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Praying With Your Feet: Rosh Hashanah and Healthcare Justice

September 16, 2014

By Leah Greenblum
JCUA Member and Guest Blogger

ACTION ALERT

Thursday, Sept. 18, 4:00 pm
Outside the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine
Corner of Maryland Ave. and E. 58th St. [MAP IT]
RSVP here

Leah Greenblum

Leah Greenblum

Most of us who live in Chicago are vastly aware of the city’s segregation. For me and many of my white friends, our interactions with the city’s south side are limited to visiting a select few locations. It may be eating the best pasties with a good friend, people-watching the students at University of Chicago, or checking out a mural or 20 in Pilsen. But while we’re enjoying what this area of the city has to offer, sometimes we forget that many of the residents of the South Side are still very much victims of structural discrimination that deeply affects their lives.

What does structural discrimination look like in Chicago? One manifestation is the  lack of trauma center on the south side. While eight trauma centers are distributed throughout the Chicago area, none are located in south side neighborhoods. There are countless stories of women and men dying from treatable gunshots in inordinately long ambulance rides to distant trauma centers.

This maldistribution of resources is an an amalgamation of many inequalities at once. We all know that Chicago has some high violent crime. In particular we know that this crime is often concentrated in pockets of neighborhoods blighted by high levels of poverty, such as Englewood, Chatham, Washington Park, and Fuller Park. We also know that gunshot victims (many of whom are not associated with gangs, but are innocent bystanders) and others who incur events causing trauma (Who hasn’t had a bicycle accident?) are often in unstable physical condition so much so that time—we’re talking minutes and seconds—can be the difference in life and death.

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Why we lament: a JCUA reflection on Tisha b’Av

August 4, 2014
Sara Sandmel Headshot

Sara Sandmel

by Sara Sandmel
JCUA summer intern

Tisha b’Av begins tonight, marking the end of a three week period of mourning on the Jewish calendar. We mourn, traditionally for the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, both of which – according to the Jewish tradition – were destroyed on the ninth day of the month of Av. Most Jews who mark Tisha b’Av do so through a 24 hour fast and reading Lamentations (Eicha). Tisha b’Av is the most devastating day on the Jewish calendar; even the study of Torah is too joyous an occasion for this holiday.

For many Jews, including myself, Tisha b’Av falls through the cracks of the secular, school-based calendar, especially because it lacks any cheery songs that can easily fit into a Hebrew school curriculum. This year, though, for many reasons, I feel an urge to mourn together with my community, to allow myself to experience overwhelming pain and suffering of history. I feel this need, in a large part, because I hear cries of mourning and loss all around me. To prepare, I sat down and read Lamentations for the first time.

Lamentations begins with one question: Why? Why was the Temple destroyed? Why has our community been abandoned to suffer alone? Why do we deserve this fate?  Why does our enemy torment us? The author goes back and forth between a deep anger at God for allowing the destruction of their community and looking inward, asking “what did I  do wrong?”

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