Meet JCUA’s 2016 Summer Interns

June 16, 2016

By Andie Linker
JCUA Intern

JCUA has 3 dynamic individuals joining our team for the summer! Keep on reading to get to know them a little better.


Ethan Ramsay

Ethan hails from Oak Park, Illinois and currently attends Carleton College, where he studies history. He is passionate about theater and recently directed a play entitled “My Kind of Town” which was about police brutality in Chicago. His favorite family tradition from growing up was observing the Iranian-Jewish Passover tradition of hitting people with green onions during the Seder, which serves as reminder of the pain inflicted upon the Jewish people. Ethan connects to Judaism through the lens of social justice, and is excited to work at JCUA because he believes that Judaism is all about taking action and he is passionate about giving marginalized people a voice.


Tali Shapiro

Tali is from Highland Park, Illinois and studies at Vassar College. Last year, she took a gap year all throughout Central America, which she looks back upon fondly. Tali loves to sing, and is a member of an all Disney a cappella group at school. Her favorite Jewish holiday growing up was always Hanukkah because she loves lighting candles and eating Latkes. Tali is excited to work at JCUA because she loves surrounding herself with like-minded, progressive Jews. She wants to explore her own Jewish identity through working with social justice and Judaism.


Andie Linker

Andie is from Chicago, Illinois and is a journalism student at Northwestern University. She loves to bake, and is very involved with Northwestern’s chapter of Challah for Hunger, where they bake and sell challah weekly and donate the proceeds to Jewish foundations. Andie’s favorite tradition growing up was spending most every Friday night dinner with her family and observing their own version of Shabbat. Andie is excited to work at JCUA because she has grown up hearing about and living among the problems that face Chicago everyday, but often did not know what she could do about it. She loves that JCUA is able to blend action with Judaism, an identity she holds very close.   

Always the Stranger

April 27, 2016

On  April 11, Northwestern Hillel’s Executive Director and JCUA Member Michael Simon spoke at JCUA’s 2016 Freedom and Justice Seder: The 11th Plague – Standing Against Islamophobia. In celebration of Passover this week, we are honored to share his inspiring presentation in full.

Michael SimonBy Michael Simon

I am the Executive Director of Northwestern Hillel, the center and catalyst for Jewish life at Northwestern.  We work to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.  But beyond those lofty goals, we work in the day-to-day, here-and-now of campus.  The rhetoric related to issues of diversity and inclusion, of Israel and Palestine, of intersectionality and marginalization, of power and privilege – all have become more intense and more strident in the past couple of years. What drives me in my work, in general and also, particularly, in working with Sister Tahera on Muslim-Jewish and other interfaith and intercultural initiatives, is to fully bring myself and ourselves to conversations that put the particularism of Jewish identity into tension with the universalism of being human.  How do I bring my full self, flaws and inconsistencies and all, to this or any table?

In a moment, we’ll drink the 2nd cup of wine.  Traditionally, this comes at the end of the maggid section, in which we ask the four questions and tell the story of the Exodus.  In this section we also talk of four children:  one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know how to ask a question.  When I was younger, I wanted to be the wise child.  I saw myself as the good one, the one who always tried to do the right thing.  But I’ve found myself drawn more and more over the years to an idea expressed by Rabbi Israel Salanter in the 19th century, that “We each have all the four children within us.”  We have a desire to fight bigotry and a streak of bigotry.  A desire to stand up against injustice and a desire to just stay quiet and hope no one will notice.  A need to scream at authority and a lack of knowing even where to begin.

Michael-and-TaheraA couple of weeks ago, a member of the Chicago Jewish community who happens to be a Northwestern alum wrote to challenge the very premise of this event.  He asked, “Are you perhaps also ‘standing’ against radical Islamic violence directed at Christians and Jews?”  I responded that I do, indeed, stand against such violence – terrorism – done by Muslims against not only Christians and Jews but also other Muslims and many others, done by Muslim extremists who justify their actions through a twisted and hateful reading of their religious precepts.

I reminded this person that I have my own experience with terrorism – my intended fiancée was murdered by the Hamas terrorist bombing at Hebrew University in 2002.  I understand – viscerally – the need to stand against terrorists and those who honor and support them.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Son Came Home

April 13, 2016

(This blog post was originally printed in Oy! Chicago on March 25, 2016)

Annice MosesBy Annice Moses
JCUA Member

Three teen boys running around with saggy pants and backpacks. One of them is wearing a black hoodie — hood up, a bandana covering the lower half of his face. That kid has a gun in his hand. He’s shooting it. The police are called. You know what happens next…

What happens next is I get a call from my son. He tells me his friend was being an idiot and shooting squirrels. Someone called the cops. Can I come pick him up? He gives me the address. It’s not the address of the police station.

I am the first parent to arrive on the scene. There are two police Suburbans parked, their engines running. My son and his two friends are standing nervously. Two guns and a giant canister of ammo sit on the hood of one of the police vehicles. The officers are extremely polite. They tell me that the boy with the hoodie had been shooting his Airsoft gun and both my son and the third boy had not. They said the boys had all been cooperative. My son was free to go. Free. To. Go.

I found out later — many days later — that my son also had an Airsoft gun. A gun that was shifting anxiously in my son’s backpack, while he was being respectfully questioned by officers. A backpack that was never searched — a gun that was never discovered.

My son, at age 13, had just gotten a big dose of white privilege. A privilege that may have saved his life.

My son came home that day. He left his bed unmade and his towel on the floor the next day and the day after that, and the day after that. My son continues to have breakfast every Sunday with his grandparents. He still opens up a mouth about having to clean his dishes before going out with friends. He still takes too long doing his hair and regularly makes his brothers late to school. He got strep throat. He turned 14. My son came home.

Tamir Rice was black. He was 12 years old. He was playing with a BB gun in a park. He will never play in that park again. He will never celebrate another birthday. He was shot by an officer before he had a chance to explain his gun was a toy; before he had a chance to hide it in his backpack; before he had a chance to call his mom and say he needed her to pick him up; before he felt his nerves kick in worrying about what his mom was going to say. He’ll never come home again.

I can’t stop thinking about it. But I can if I want to. I’m not raising a black son. I don’t need to teach my son — my sons — to keep their hands on the steering wheel when they get pulled over. I don’t have to help my sons’ white friends understand that the usual mischief boys get into can’t be for mine because I fear his life may be taken in a “misunderstanding” because he’s black. When the dispatcher comes over the radio saying, “Suspect is a black male…” somehow those words — BLACK MALE — strike such a fear, that a routine nuisance call can escalate to a child dying in a park next to his toy gun. The gratitude that my son came home is forever paired with shame. There can be no solace in injustice, even if my son came home.

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