Or Tzedek–At It Again!

August 17, 2015

By Deborah Goldberg
JCUA’s Coordinator of Teen Programs

It seems like yesterday that the second session of our summer Or Tzedek program came to a close. In just 10 days, we were able to build an incredible community, engage with Jewish texts and traditions, explore social justice issues and campaigns happening in Chicago today, and take action to make Chicago a more just city.

The 11 teens who participated in this session were curious, energetic, excited, inclusive, and eager to put our Jewish values into action.  We started Or Tzedek as individuals and left, 10 days later, as a community.  Every step of the way–from deeply engaging in workshops on identity, privilege, and systemic causes of injustice to celebrating two Shabbatot as a community, from advocating to Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison’s Chief of Staff on the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights to leading a prayer vigil in support of the Trauma center Campaign—the teens’ commitment to Jewish social justice work was inspiring.

It’s impossible to capture everything we did in 10 days in one paragraph.  The photo essay below shares some of the highlights of our 10 days together: (Click on any photo below to see a slideshow with comments!)

I tell people all the time—I have the best job in the whole world and that I get to work with young people from around the country who all have the power to create positive, systemic change.  On our final morning together, I shared with the teens that I hope Or Tzedek and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs are always places they will feel at home (I shared the same hope with our first session participants).  It was sad to depart on that Sunday morning because the teens had truly built a Jewish social justice home in 10 short days together.  At the same time, I am so excited to continue working with all our teens throughout this coming year and beyond as they continue to work to make the world a more just place!

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!

Governor Rauner: Be A Pursuer of Justice

May 27, 2015

Rabbi-ReevesBy Guest Blogger Rabbi Frederick Reeves 
KAM Isaiah Israel

On Wednesday, May 13, JCUA took part in a rally with over 200 people to call attention to the devastating impact of Governor Rauner’s “Turnaround Budget” on those who are most vulnerable across the state.  As we gathered in front of one of the Governor’s ten homes, Rabbi Fred Reeves of KAM Isaiah Israel gave the opening prayer, posted below.

Together we turn our thoughts and direct our words to the Eternal in this universe.

Eternal One, we gather together here this day each one of us from our own place. We come from many neighborhoods; we come from many faith traditions, but we are united in our belief that bringing justice into our world is the duty of humanity.

Grant diligence to us as we work for the betterment all the citizens of Illinois. Imbue us with a love of our fellow human beings so that we work not for our self- aggrandizement, but for the improvement of the position of others.

Keep our elected leaders in health as they perform the difficult task of leading this great state, and grant wisdom and discernment to them as they make the choices that determine the direction that this state will go. And especially to our governor, Bruce Rauner, grant a deep and motivating sense of justice for all of the citizens of Illinois. Help him do what is right. Silence those voices around him encouraging him to help those who do not need his help, and strengthen those voices calling on him to help the helpless, lift up the fallen, feed the hungry. Make our governor into a Pursuer of Justice.

For all this, we pray to You, Eternal One. We say together, Amen.


As a rabbi, I am guided by the words of my own tradition, and there are two words which call out most powerfully, so powerfully in fact, that one of them is used twice. Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof: Justice Pursue Justice. We stand here as part of the Responsible Budget Coalition rejecting Governor Rauner’s proposed budget because of the unacceptable way that he has tried to make an unbalanced budget look like a balanced one. A truly balanced budget is not only balanced in terms of dollars and sense, it also is balanced in social responsibility and balanced on the scales of justice for our society.

It is an unbalanced budget that slashes critical investments in Illinois families and our future including transportation, education, and health care.

It is an unbalanced budget that denies Illinois families the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty, make ends meet and send their children off to school.

It is an unbalanced budget that denies access to health care, a good education, quality child care, and universities people can afford, and good roads, buses and trains to get back and forth to work.

It is an unbalanced budget that creates revenue shortfalls by failing to maintain responsible tax rates and instead has harmful and shortsighted tax cuts which have time and again failed to produce the benefits that their supporters promise.

So I call on Governor Rauner to clean up his unbalanced budget, and to present one that balances responsibility with the needs of those whom he was elected to serve. I call on him to put the teachings of justice into practice and become a pursuer of justice for all of the citizens of Illinois.

“This is how I became a member of JCore”

March 9, 2015

By Alex Lopez
JCUA Member and Guest Blogger

Alex Lopez

Alex Lopez

Hi, I’m Alex and I’m here to recruit you.

I should start with a disclosure. I haven’t been to services in so long that I don’t know the name of my congregation’s current rabbi. My dog understands more Hebrew than I do. I forgot Purim was coming up until I saw hamantaschen recipes in my Facebook feed (and I just now googled how to spell “hamantaschen”). But there are plenty of Jewish groups in Chicago that provide weekly services and Hebrew classes and Purim carnivals. I’m not here to recruit you for that.

Learn more about how you can become a member today and join JCUA as we work for a just Chicago.

I wasn’t always a Jew and I didn’t grow up in Chicago. Upon arrival to both I was astonished at how many different opportunities there were to be part of the Jewish community here. There was the shul shopping and Shabbat dinners and fundraising events until my calendar was fuller than a Cathy comic word bubble. It was such a blessing to be introduced to such a thriving and growing Jewish community. But, I wanted more.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rabbi David Russo and JCUA Member Stacey Flint Testify on Behalf of Workers’ Rights

February 20, 2015

Last week, the Cook County board voted overwhelmingly to pass one of the nation’s toughest wage theft laws. JCUA leaders provided testimony in support of the legislation. These statements by Stacey Flint and Rabbi David Russo reinforce the importance of workers rights in Jewish values and in the Jewish community.

‘We Are All Responsible.’

Testimony by Rabbi David Russo, Anshe Emet Synagogue

Every week, Jews around the world read from the Torah. And in this coming week [Feb. 9-13], we will all read a particular verse from the Book of Exodus (22:21-22):

Rabbi David Russo

Rabbi David Russo

כָּל־אַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם לֹא תְעַנּוּן

You shall not afflict any widow, or orphaned child.

אִם־עַנֵּה תְעַנֶּה אֹתוֹ

If you afflict them in any way,

כִּי אִם־צָעֹק יִצְעַק אֵלַי

If they cry to me,

שָׁמֹעַ אֶשְׁמַע צַעֲקָתוֹ

I God will surely hear their cry.

Rabbinic tradition asserts that the Bible is identifying afflictions not only of a specific group of people, i.e. widows or orphans, but any teshushei koach, anyone who is weak, who is vulnerable (Rashi).

And Jewish tradition emphasizes that God will not only bring consequences upon the people inflicting the damage – but that if people are aware of the injustice, and they do nothing, then the punishment is upon the entire community (Ibn Ezra).

We all are responsible. Read the rest of this entry »

JCUA Newsletter – February 2015

February 11, 2015

In the February 2015 issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • JCUA congratulates Arise Chicago and Golan’s workers for winning their strike and first union contract.
  • RSVP to join JCUA and other members of the Trauma Center Coalition for an Interfaith Vigil.
  • Register now for JCUA’s 2015 Passover Seder – Getting to the Promised Land.
  • JCore Member Meeting – Wednesday, February 18.
  • Sign up for Or Tzedek 2015 summer sessions.
  • Save the Date for JCUA’s first progressive dinner – ‘Just Eat’ – on June 15.
  • Rabbi Ari Hart reflects on his work with JCUA.

Read it now

JCUA Inducted into the Trauma Center Coalition

January 29, 2015

Randi Stern – JCUA Member

By Randi Stern

JCUA Member and Guest Blogger

At the end of last year, JCUA members chose to organize around two social justice campaigns. One of the campaigns we chose was organizing for a trauma center at the University of Chicago. Last week, the Trauma Center Coalition reciprocated by formally voting in JCUA as its newest member. It was a moment of pride and excitement for me to be present as community, student and medical organizations invited us to organize with them. The Coalition inducted JCUA because we demonstrated that we can meet their organizing expectations. It’s a major marker in JCUA’s development as a relevant and important player in Chicago’s organizing world.

► Join JCUA members for an Interfaith Vigil for a Trauma Center, Thursday, Feb. 12 from 6:30-7 pm outside the Duchossois Center on the U of C Campus. More info and RSVP.

The goal of the trauma center campaign is to organize for the University of Chicago Medical Center to commit to opening an adult Level I or II trauma center. There is currently a “trauma center desert” on the south side of Chicago. Someone with a gunshot wound or other serious injury on the city’s south side has to travel over five miles to get treatment, greatly diminishing their likelihood of survival. In an area that needs nearby trauma care more than any other part of the city, it is a travesty that none exists.

JCUA Member joined the Trauma Center Coalition in September 2014 to "Sing for a Trauma Center."

JCUA members joined the Trauma Center Coalition in September 2014 to “Sing for a Trauma Center.”

The trauma center campaign reflects JCUA’s mission: to combat social and economic injustice in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities. The areas affected most by the trauma center desert are predominately working class communities of color. A diverse coalition organized this campaign, and it is led by community groups who have personally felt the effects of living in a trauma center desert.

Read the rest of this entry »


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