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!

Deadline for Illinois Budget Negotiations Passes: Take Action Now!

June 11, 2015
JCUA Board Chair and member Peggy Slater is interviewed at Raunerville action in MAy.

JCUA Board Chair and member Peggy Slater is interviewed at the Raunerville action in May.

By Nate Seeskin
AVODAH Organizing Fellow

Time is of the essence in the negotiations over the Illinois state budget and political games continue to dominate the scene in Springfield, leaving Illinoisans to question how our state will look once Fiscal Year 2016 begins in July. Members of the Democratic-controlled Illinois General Assembly (ILGA) failed to reach a budget agreement with Republican Governor Bruce Rauner by the June 1st deadline. Now, ILGA must approve a budget plan by the end of June with a supermajority in both chambers (36 in the Senate, 71 in the House) in order to pass. In the mean time, Governor Rauner is suggesting that with decreased revenues coming in this year, that Illinois has no choice but to make $6 billion in cuts to social services like Medicaid, mental health programs, public transportation, and state universities. At the same time, Governor Rauner is attaching his controversial pro-business Turnaround Agenda as a condition to achieving any type of agreement in the negotiations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

JCUA Demonstrates Opposition to Governor’s Proposed Budget

April 15, 2015

By Nate Seeskin
JCUA’s AVODAH Organizing Fellow

Good Friday on April 3rd saw only the beginning of what could be drastic cuts to the Illinois state budget as Governor Bruce Rauner, by executive order, suspended $26 million in social services for the rest of this fiscal year. Programs and areas impacted by these immediate cuts include assistance for the homeless and immigrant integration services. As echoed in Governor Rauner’s larger budget plan, these cuts unfairly target vulnerable populations, especially since no revenue increases are entertained on his behalf.

JCUA members attend budget hearing

JCUA members attend budget hearing

JCUA has been busy at work demonstrating our opposition to the Governor’s proposed budget. On Wednesday, April 1st, several members attended a packed hearing hosted by the Illinois State House Appropriations-Human Services Committee, where numerous non-profit leaders and community members testified how devastating these cuts will be to them. At various points, the hearing was emotional as people expressed how these aggressive cuts targeting vulnerable populations like immigrants, the physically disabled, mentally ill, and the homeless would be. 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 »

Justice Pursued – A Week of Victories

February 13, 2015

In January, JCUA members committed to two organizing campaigns. This week, we took action on both campaigns and celebrated watershed milestones for worker justice.

mazel tov golans
Golan’s Strikers Victorious

For six months, workers at Golan’s Moving and Storage have been on strike. The owners at Golan’s regularly committed wage theft by requiring employees to work unpaid hours and to  pay a ‘deposit’ when promoted. Unable to get the owners to renegotiate a fair contract, the workers went on strike. After six months, their persitance has paid off! The strike has ended, a new contract has been written, and people are back at work, as new members of Teamsters Local 705. Mazel tov to the Golan’s workers for the win and to our community partner Arise Chicago for their perseverance in this crucial fight for economic justice.

  •  Want to celebrate the win? Join Arise Chicago and the Golan’s workers for a victory party on Sunday, March 1.
  • For party details and more info about the Golan’s strike, check out Arise Chicago’s February e-Newsletter.

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


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