Jewish Journey to Justice

August 12, 2016

By Eliana Chavkin
JCUA Member

“These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out from the land of Egypt in troops by the hand of Moses and Aaron…”

Parshat Masei, Numbers 33:1

HeadshotWe read in Parshat Masei the full list of stops the Jewish people made from Egypt to the land of Israel, where they stop at the end of Numbers. They will spend all of Deuteronomy outside the Promised Land, reviewing the steps they have taken to get there and the rules that will govern their lives when they finally enter.

In some ways, this is a different kind of journey than the one Dr. King described after his march in Marquette Park fifty years ago, one which he called “the first step in a journey of a thousand miles.” For the Israelites, their journey—at least, the exodus from Egypt—is over. For those of us who gathered with JCUA last Saturday to retrace Dr. King’s steps, the journey is still just beginning, although we have been in the desert far longer than the Israelites, and although we do not yet know what the end of our journey looks like.

Still, the emphasis Masei makes on looking back on our journeys was one that carried over our entire weekend, in the unveiling of the new MLK memorial in Marquette Park, the march itself, and the speakers who spoke 20160806_100114about the original march fifty years ago. Hearing those veterans of the Civil Rights Movement reminded us both of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

Pashat Masei also establishes the “safe city”: cities where one who has committed murder by accident may flee to escape blood vengeance. The removal of the murderer from a community gives residents a chance to heal, because, as the parsha says, “blood pollutes the ground.” Injustice, in other words, intentional or otherwise, pollutes entire communities, and each community member has a stake in restoring justice wherever possible. It is this mentality, I think, that spurred so many members of the Jewish community to come to the march: the feeling that we all have a part to play in fighting injustice. Certainly it was a key component in my decision to join the march and ultimately to join JCUA.

Looking around at the many races, religions, and communities that I saw both at our Shabbat service Friday night and at the march Saturday morning, however, I was conscious that reviewing our journey is not enough. As wonderful as it was to retrace Dr. King’s steps and to visit a part of Chicago that I rarely see, I couldn’t help but wonder how such a march would have been received in the city’s wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. Parshat Masei tells us clearly that reliving and honoring the past is only one aspect of fighting injustice: we also must move forward and try new tactics. I look forward to seeing how JCUA and the Jewish community approaches the next nine hundred and ninety-nine miles in our journey, now that we have honored the first steps.


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.   

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