March 23, 2016
Through March and April, JCUA staff and members are presenting at congregations across Chicago on the Trauma Care Campaign. We are sharing the lessons we’ve learned on putting Jewish social justice values into practice through organizing the Jewish community. On Friday, March 11, JCUA Community Organizer Daniel Kaplan and Member Avra Shapiro made this presentation at KAM Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park.
Why are we talking about the trauma center campaign tonight? Since 2010, black youth in the Woodlawn community have led a campaign for the University of Chicago to remedy the decades-long absence of a trauma center on the South Side. These organizations include Fearless Leading by the Youth, Southside Together Organizing for Power, and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. Too many people in this area have lost their lives in ambulance rides, bypassing the University of Chicago for distant trauma care. In particular, the lack of south side trauma care has impacted the security and quality of life of black south side Chicagoans.
Over the past year, the Jewish community has played a significant role in this campaign; and your congregation in particular has been instrumental in our involvement. In November 2015, more than 200 people from across Chicago came to your synagogue to attend “L’Chaim” – a Jewish community meeting in support of trauma care on the south side. Click below to see highlights from “L’Chaim”.
On this day, 15 rabbis and cantors signed a statement in favor of the University of Chicago taking a lead role in opening a south side trauma center. L’Chaim was a tremendous moment for Chicago’s Jewish community. Our public meeting for the trauma center campaign was an unprecedented show of support for a local social justice issue. A little more than a month after this event, the University of Chicago announced that they would build a trauma center on the South Side. We think it’s important to reflect on what this campaign has accomplished, what we have learned, and where we are now. Read the rest of this entry »
February 10, 2016
By Anna Rubin
JCUA’s AVODAH Organizing Fellow
On January 27, JCUA traveled to Springfield with the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC) to protest the continuing budget impasse during Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address. The night before, my AVODAH bayit had a program called “Jews and the Civil Rights Movement.” We had the opportunity to speak with Marv Hoffman and Rosellen Brown, who moved to Mississippi near the end of Freedom Summer to teach at Tougaloo College, an Historically Black College founded in 1869. Their time there continues to inform their dedication to racial justice work today.
During the program, they posed a challenging question to us: Do you plan to be a revolutionary? Practically, becoming a revolutionary had not been part of my game plan (I’ve seen Les Mis too many times), but the budding idealist in me wanted to respond yes. After letting us sit with the question for a moment, Marv and Rosellen told us that despite working for years in Mississippi at the height of the civil rights movement, and despite participating in radical educational and literary circles up through today, they do not consider themselves revolutionaries, or even particularly radical. For them, being a revolutionary means blurring lines between your work life and your personal life, means putting your personal safety on the line consistently, means ignoring the potential harm to those around you for what you deem to be the common good. We shouldn’t all be revolutionaries, but we all have a role to play in the fight, and we must be thoughtful and intentional about what that role is. They encouraged us to critically consider how we are living out and acting on our values every day right now, and how we will choose to fight for justice, in our work this year and in our lives moving forward.
Their words bounced around in my head as we made the three and a half hour journey down to Springfield in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. This was my first trip to Springfield. I had spent the past two months recruiting and planning in preparation for this day, yet I really didn’t know what to expect. Would there be a lot of people? Would everything go as planned? Would it feel like “enough”? That last question had gained additional weight for me since the previous night’s program, especially considering that seven of my housemates decided to take a day off of work to join us on this journey. Would they feel as though their participation was valuable?
Read the rest of this entry »
September 2, 2015
Choice, Privilege and the Fight for South Side Trauma Care
By Michal David
On June 3rd of this year I, along with eight other trauma center activists, was arrested for participating in an action of civil disobedience on behalf of the Trauma Care Coalition. During this action we barricaded ourselves into the front lobby of the University of Chicago’s Administration Building. Our goal was to secure a meeting with University President Robert Zimmer to discuss the opening of a life-saving Level-I trauma center at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
We were detained by University and City Police for 45 hours, about four times longer than the average time people in the US are held for actions of civil disobedience. All nine of us were charged with criminal trespassing, mob action and resisting arrest. The 45 hours I spent in jail were some of the most challenging of my life; I was handcuffed to a bench in an interview room for eleven hours, I was denied access to my medications and to adequate food, and I was continuously dehumanized by the officers charged with protecting me. Three days after release from police custody, we all received letters from the University of Chicago informing us that we were permanently banned from the University’s campus as a consequence of our actions. Just this past week, the University sent a private investigator to my home at 7:00am to again deliver a letter explicitly banning me from campus for life.
This is one of the first times I have shared my experience publicly. Following my release, at the urging of my lawyers, I decided to keep a low public-profile until the legal proceedings related to my arrest were concluded. As a result, I have spent the past few months processing what was both a traumatic and empowering experience with family and friends. One of the most common questions I encountered in response to my arrest was ‘Why? Why choose to be arrested?’. As I have not been able to speak publicly to my experience until now, what follows is my attempt to offer an answer to what I think is ultimately a very important question. Read the rest of this entry »
May 4, 2015
By Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer
On April 14th, JCUA delivered 200 signatures collected from our members, community partners and allies, to University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer. We want to share more with you about this successful action along with other updates from the past month. We also want to give you more follow-up opportunities, so don’t forget to check them out at the bottom of this blog!
JCUA members and other members of the Trauma Care Coalition entered President Zimmer’s office dressed up as Moses and Miriam. Singing, “Go down Moses,” we presented the signatures and called for President Zimmer to meet with the broader Trauma Care Coalition. Check out photos from this action here and a video here.
After this action , the University of Chicago called our office and offered to arrange a meeting with a U of C Vice President (Cristal Thomas) and a senior adviser to President Zimmer (Susan Sher). While we were excited to secure this meeting, the broader coalition had already met with these administrators several times, and the university’s delegates have never followed through on agreements produced in these meetings. The University of Chicago has never agreed to include a key decision maker in any of these meetings, such at President Zimmer, Dean Kenneth Polonsky, or University of Chicago Medical Center President Sharon O’Keefe.
Read the rest of this entry »
April 30, 2015
A Reflection on the Campaign for a Level-I Trauma Care Center By Aryeh Bernstein JCUA Member (You can also view this post at Jewschool: Progressive Jews and Views, of which Aryeh is the Senior Editor)
A disproportionate amount of the alarming gun violence in Chicago takes place on the South Side, yet the South Side lacks even a single level one adult trauma center. Consequently, gunshot victims sometimes minutes from death must be transported miles away to Downtown or North Side hospitals. In 2010, after Damien Turner, an 18-year-old resident of the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood, died waiting for an ambulance to drive him ten miles to a downtown hospital instead of two blocks to the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), a grassroots collaboration of community organizations, faith leaders, and University of Chicago student groups began organizing the Trauma Center Coalition, dedicated to reopening a Level 1 adult trauma center at UCMC, the most well-resourced hospital on the South Side. So far, the university has refused. As part of the coalition’s ongoing campaign, last week, dozens of activists gathered on the university’s historic Midway field, for a vigil of prayer and song from different faith traditions. At dusk, participants lit candles to spell out “Trauma Center Now”, right across from the home of U. Chicago President Robert Zimmer, and then camped out for the night. As a representative of coalition partner Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, I was invited to offer a Jewish prayer, which is reproduced here; I read it in both the English and Hebrew. Read the rest of this entry »
March 17, 2015
Judy Levey at Interfaith Clergy Breakfast for a Trauma Center
By Judy Levey
JCUA, Executive Director
This past Thursday, an inspiring group of interfaith clergy and coalition members gathered at the University Church in Hyde Park to urge the University of Chicago to include community input in the trauma center study they have agreed to conduct. This is a crucial next step in the trauma center campaign.
Rabbi Capers Funnye, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Rev. Alice Harper-Jones, and Rev. Julian DeShazier all spoke to the urgent need for a level I adult trauma center at the University of Chicago. Veronia Morris Moore of Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) gave a compelling presentation about the trauma “desert” on the south side and the resulting increased chance of death for south siders who are victims of gun violence.
This campaign, which JCUA has worked on for the past several months, speaks to the abject disparity that we tolerate in access to health care in our city. Numerous studies have made the case – first rate teaching hospitals in urban areas all have trauma centers EXCEPT for the University of Chicago. The Illinois Department of Health has found that the University of Chicago is the only hospital on the south side with the capacity for a trauma center, and the community is suffering. While expensive, a trauma center would only require half of one percent of the University of Chicago’s recently-launched 4.5 billion dollar capital campaign. Most recently, Crain’s Chicago Business issued an editorial calling on the University of Chicago to open the level 1 trauma center.
As part of the clergy breakfast, I spoke at the press conference on why this issue resonates deeply with the Jewish community. I was joined at the press conference by Rabbi Capers Funnye and Cantor David Berger. JCUA’s longstanding work is to stand with those whose voices are insufficiently heard, to combat the root causes of inequality and disparity. No one I know believes that access to health care should only be for some and not for others in Chicago, merely because of where you live.
Come join us in fighting for what’s right and acting on your Jewish values. Become a JCUA member.
March 3, 2015
Editor’s Note: “On a Just Path” is a series of stories about former JCUA employees, where they are now and the impact JCUA had on them. Interviews were conducted and edited by Nathaniel Seeskin, AVODAH Organizing Fellow at JCUA.
Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.
A. I worked at JCUA from 1998-2000 and I was the Director of the Associate Division.
Q. What was special about working here?
A. There was so much that was so special – working at JCUA confirmed my commitment to working in the Jewish community, and it opened my eyes to the effects and complexities of poverty, bigotry and racism in Chicago and elsewhere. I have so many memories – There are two that stand out the most:
I was planning a program with the leadership council at Cabrini-Green, I believe it was a financial education course. We planned the course for a Sunday afternoon. I took a taxi from my apartment in Lakeview and the taxi driver didn’t want to take me to Cabrini. He told me it wasn’t safe for me, and once I did convince him to drive me there, he wouldn’t leave until I found the individuals I was working with. It raised so many questions for me – this was the home to so many Chicagoans, and yet the cab driver, however well-intentioned, did not believe it was okay for me to go there in the middle of the day on a Sunday – why is it okay for some people to live in certain conditions, and not others? I learned so much about the meaning of community from the people we worked with and for in public housing. Up until then, the buildings around Chicago were these foreboding, almost mythological edifices, but when you actually knew residents, worked with them, one quickly realized that the depths of the community bonds were intense, and that when those buildings came down, important communities were separated from each other. It was so apparent, and heartbreaking, to learn in real time how some communities “matter”, and others are taken for granted, or not valued at all. I was proud that a Jewish organization was working and advocating with this community to say “it matters”. Read the rest of this entry »