“The Community is Suffering”

March 17, 2015
judy-clergy-bfast

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.


Emily Chaleff: Opening My Eyes

March 3, 2015

On a Just Path Logo

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.

Emily Chaleff

 

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 »


Amanda Klonsky: Tapping into Our Own Stories

January 21, 2015

On a Just Path Logo

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.

Asaf Bar-Tura

Amanda Klonsky

Q. When did you work here and what was your position title?

A. I was at JCUA during the early 2000s and was the Coordinator of the Jewish and Muslim Community Building Initiative as the program launched.

Q. What was special about working here?

A. I made several of my closest friends while working at JCUA and entered into a large network of progressive Jewish activists whom I stay in touch with to this day. It was the first time I felt my Jewish identity and my activist identity were in sync and visible in my adult life.

Q. What impact did your work at JCUA have on the community?

A. We began organizing in response to hate crimes and attacks against Muslim community centers and mosques in Chicago. Ultimately, we organized a campaign in response to the PATRIOT Act. We collaborated with CAIR Chicago and several other Arab and Muslim community organizations to pass city council resolutions against the PATRIOT Act. It wasn’t always easy to convince Jewish community leaders that we should organize against the attacks on Arab and Muslim people– but we were able to tap into our own stories and experiences of persecution as immigrants– and built a powerful community across lines of difference.

Q. How did your experience at JCUA impact what you do now? 

A. I spent the last decade working in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, where I co-led Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program– which provides arts and literacy education to youth who are detained there. I then went on to work at Chicago Public Schools, leading an effort to support formerly detained and incarcerated youth in returning to school in Chicago.

I am now at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I am earning my doctorate. I am interested in expanding access to education for people in prison. My interest in these issues was catalyzed at least in part by the important work that was happening at JCUA when I was there, in response to the John Burge torture cases. I was introduced to a whole world of activists who were organizing in defense of those people who had been wrongfully convicted as a result of torture at the hands of John Burge. It changed my life to meet those brave people who stood up and challenged power, after having experienced such trauma.


Amanda Klonsky is currently studying for her Doctorate in Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her work is focused on expanding access to education for youth returning from juvenile detention and prison. 


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. 

» Become a member of JCUA — get meeting notifications and action alerts


Chicago Trauma Center Victory: Black Lives Do Matter

December 15, 2014

By Michal David
JCUA member and guest blogger

‘I can’t breathe’

Die in protest against police brutality

Activists take part in a die-in in the Bronzeville neighborhood to protest police brutality against people of color.

On Sunday, Dec. 7, I attended a #blacklivesmatter demonstration in downtown Chicago to protest the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, and to stand up against a persistent system of police brutality in this country. Like many other protests across the nation over the past few weeks, one of the most powerful phrases chanted by demonstrators was “I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Eric Garner before he was placed in a choke hold and killed by a New York City police officer in July of this year.

Michal David

Michal David

While chanting these words, I found myself walking next to an older Black man standing in front of dozens of police officers blocking the march. He was urgently yelling, “But I literally can’t breathe.”

When I asked him to explain, he said: “I go through my life with the feeling that I’m suffocating. That no matter what I do, I can’t do anything right.”

The response left me with a deep sense of despair. How could we even begin to make change in a system that it causes individuals to feel like they are suffocating from severe disenfranchisement? These feelings of helplessness lingered with me as I entered my work week the day following the protest.

Trauma center victory

And then, something wonderful happened. We had a win.

On Tuesday, Dec. 9, the University of Chicago announced that it would begin the process of expanding its pediatric trauma program to include 16- and 17-year-olds. Since the closing of the University’s Level 1 Adult Trauma Center in 1988 and the subsequent closing of the Michael Reese Trauma Center a year later, the South Side of Chicago has been devoid of an adult trauma center. As a result, adults on the South Side who suffer from traumatic injuries are often forced to travel up to 12 miles to receive the care they need.

Join JCUA members in observance of Hanukkah, Thursday, Dec. 18 from 6-8 pm at Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn. RSVP here.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


#TraumaCenterNow: Why gun violence and trauma centers are a Jewish issue

May 22, 2014

by Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday, JCUA took part in an interfaith vigil with student and community groups comprising the Trauma Center Coalition.  Several dozen strong, we  marched to one of the most prestigious medical centers in the country: the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Our march was part of a greater campaign to address gun violence in the neighborhood and a lack of response from surrounding institutions.  Gun violence remains a crisis of epidemic proportions, particularly on Chicago’s south side near the medical center.  Yet while our city has six trauma centers for gunshot victims, not a single one is located on the south side.

For this reason, we held vigil as part of a broader week of action to demand the University of Chicago open a level 1 adult trauma center for the surrounding community.  While the University of Chicago operates a pediatric trauma center, it has not opened its doors for nearby adult victims of gun violence since 1988.  While reflecting on the crisis, we heard stories of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons who were gunned down within reach of the university.  Even though the medical center has the facilities to treat gunshot trauma, these people died in ambulance rides on the way to trauma centers elsewhere.

I was appalled to hear these stories from an area that many are calling a “trauma center desert“.  This desert covers an area with one of the city’s highest rates of gun violence.  Chicagoans in the trauma center desert are disproportionately black and lacking health insurance relative to better served parts of the city.  Listening to the testimony of lost loved ones, I could not help but wonder: why are our resources for treating gun violence completely absent in neighborhoods where they are the most needed?  Why has the University of Chicago not responded to this glaring disparity by reopening its center?

If family and community members were dying in trauma center deserts on the north side, would nearby universities respond differently?

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,544 other followers

%d bloggers like this: