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 »
April 28, 2015
By Judy Levey
JCUA Executive Director
This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the Chicago Theological Seminary’s (CTS) conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Selma, Selma at 50: Still Marching. Sitting on a panel between Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia and Reverend Otis Moss III of Trinity Baptist, and downt the row from longtime JCUA friend and IMAN Executive Director Rami Nashashibi, I was amazed at the extraordinary leadership that exists in Chicago… leaders who work across all sectors and throughout the city on inequality and racism.
Selmat at 50 Panel from left to right:
Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, Judy Levey, JCUA
Rev. Otis Moss III, Trinity United Church of Christ
Rami Nashashibi, Inner-City Muslim Action Center
Sylvia Puente, Latino Policy Forum
Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
The questions posed by Dr. Lee Butler of CTS made for an interesting dialogue among the panelists, whose comments touched on income inequality, strengthening communities, immigration reform, and racism. Listening to community leaders talk about the urgent need for social investment was riveting, and their passionate pleas to invest in families, health, community stability, young people, and immigrants were so compelling that I wished there would have been thousands in the audience rather than about 200.
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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 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 »
April 14, 2015
‘Just Eat’ – JCUA’s New Annual Fundraising Event on June 15th
By Pamela Klier-Weidner
JCUA Director of Development and Organizational Advancement
Whoa JCUA. What’s this whole, ‘Just’ Eat: A Progressive Dinner thing? Where’s our gala? Who’s the honoree? Why do you always serve chicken? All great questions. I hope I can answer them here. But first…
When I was a teenager, I loved the movie, “Footloose.” You’ve seen it, right? Without getting into too much detail, due to a horrific tragedy, a rural town has a strict ban on dancing and listening to rock/pop music. Throughout the film, you can see how hungry people are to dance; to be lifted up by sheer fun. Ultimately, Kevin Bacon’s character successfully organizes his community and there’s a super happy ending where everyone is dancing and rocking out to loud music. A victorious organizing campaign for sure. JCUA’s work can be weighty and we are all serious about it. Each day, we tirelessly pursue social and economic justice here in Chicago, working shoulder to shoulder with our JCUA members and coalition partners on the root causes of poverty, racism and other deplorable injustices that run rampant throughout our city.
In the past our large fundraising events have represented the heft of our work and our heroes. They’ve also been extremely successful, especially last year’s 50th anniversary gala where we honored JCUA’s incomparable founder, Rabbi Robert Marx. After I came down from the event high I experienced last year, I knew JCUA couldn’t follow our blowout 50th gala with another gala this year. Read the rest of this entry »
March 27, 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.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Q. When were you at JCUA and what was your position?
A. I had the pleasure of working for JCUA from 2003 to the end of 2005 in the position of Director of Outreach and Education.
Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.
A. My role was to lead the Outreach and Education Department at a time when JCUA was exploring deliberate ways to reach out to the Jewish community. JCUA had a longstanding strength in working in low-income communities, but there was a renewed interest in organizing within the Jewish community. We had an incredible team of people who were and still are very dedicated to the Jewish community and social justice. Our work at JCUA at that time included:
- Organizing the Jewish community to work with day laborers in Albany Park to create a day labor center, partnering with public housing tenants to stop the demolition of Cabrini-Green and raising concerns about the fates of tenants, and working to support hotel workers during the Congress Hotel strike. We built a strong social justice voice within the Jewish community in Chicago.
- Running the Judaism and Urban Poverty (JUP) curriculum, one of JCUA’s hallmark programs at the time. We initiated the Nadiv Fellowship, through which dedicated young people in their twenties and early thirties studied Judaism and social justice and then taught the JUP curriculum to seventh graders in synagogues through Chicago and in the suburbs.
- Creating the Jewish Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) and partnering with the Chicago’s Muslim community on programs like ‘Iftar in the Sukkah’ and ‘Cafe Finjan’.
- Running social justice trainings and public programming in synagogues and other venues. For instance, we held a full-day Jewish social justice learning event for over one hundred people at the Spertus Institute, and we developed a series of community organizing trainings for synagogue leaders.
Read the rest of this entry »
March 26, 2015
By Sarah Gold
JCUA Manager of Community Building
As part of my ‘initiation’ into my new role leading JCUA’s Community Ventures Program (CVP), I had the opportunity to visit and touch base with each of our current projects. Here is a snapshot of how JCUA’s loan fund is being used to make a difference by supporting three essential affordable housing and economic development projects throughout Chicago.
Breaking Ground – Rehabbing of Foreclosed homes
Current redevelopment two-flat project.
Breaking Ground, Inc. is a community-based organization on the west side of Chicago, which provides leadership development, manufacturing job training, and employment in construction and related fields to residents of Lawndale and Garfield Park. Breaking Ground is working to rehabilitate abandoned and foreclosed homes in West Lawndale, Berwyn, Bellwood, Maywood, and Austin. In 2011, JCUA provided a zero-interest loan of $90,000 to support housing redevelopment work.
Interior under construction.
As of today, Breaking Ground has leveraged the CVP loan and is redeveloping and selling 45 homes as follows:
► Sold – 26 units
► In construction / completed waiting to be sold – 13 units
► Under Contract to acquire – 6 units
JCUA’s loan is enabling Breaking Ground to continually rehab multiple properties at once. I had the opportunity to visit two homes, one under construction and one under contract to be sold. When visiting with Breaking Ground, Josh DeGraff, Director of Housing stated, “Without the much needed help from the JCUA loan keeping our contractors working we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the great things we have done in the Chicagoland affordable housing community during the past few years. We are very thankful for Breaking Ground’s partnership with JCUA.” Learn more about Breaking Ground.
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.