Emily Chaleff: Opening My Eyes

March 3, 2015

On a Just Path Logo

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.

Emily Chaleff

 

Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.

A. I worked at JCUA from 1998-2000 and I was the Director of the Associate Division.

Q. What was special about working here?

A. There was so much that was so special – working at JCUA confirmed my commitment to working in the Jewish community, and it opened my eyes to the effects and complexities of poverty, bigotry and racism in Chicago and elsewhere.  I have so many memories – There are two that stand out the most:

I was planning a program with the leadership council at Cabrini-Green, I believe it was a financial education course.  We planned the course for a Sunday afternoon. I took a taxi from my apartment in Lakeview and the taxi driver didn’t want to take me to Cabrini.  He told me it wasn’t safe for me, and once I did convince him to drive me there, he wouldn’t leave until I found the individuals I was working with.  It raised so many questions for me – this was the home to so many Chicagoans, and yet the cab driver, however well-intentioned, did not believe it was okay for me to go there in the middle of the day on a Sunday – why is it okay for some people to live in certain conditions, and not others?  I learned so much about the meaning of community from the people we worked with and for in public housing.  Up until then, the buildings around Chicago were these foreboding, almost mythological edifices, but when you actually knew residents, worked with them, one quickly realized that the depths of the community bonds were intense, and that when those buildings came down, important communities were separated from each other.  It was so apparent, and heartbreaking, to learn in real time how some communities “matter”, and others are taken for granted, or not valued at all.  I was proud that a Jewish organization was working and advocating with this community to say “it matters”. Read the rest of this entry »



Rosenwald Courts, Recipient of JCUA Community Ventures Loan, Celebrates Groundbreaking

February 23, 2015
From Left: David Roos, Landwhite Developers LLC, Peter Ascoli, grandson of Julius Rosenwald, and Judy Levey, Exec. Dir. of JCUA

From Left: David Roos, Landwhite Developers LLC, Peter Ascoli, grandson of Julius Rosenwald, and Judy Levey, Exec. Dir. of JCUA

February 18, 2015, marked the long-awaited ground breaking for the redevelopment of the historic Rosenwald Building in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Gathered together in a small, heated tent at the site, Alderman Pat Dowell emceed the event as long-time community members, the development team and supporters celebrated this momentous occasion.

Through its Community Ventures Program, JCUA provided a zero-interest, pre-development loan of $100,000 in the early stages of the project. JCUA invested in this project at a time when others would not, in part because of a longstanding feeling of connection to the neighborhood. As Julius Rosenwald, the original developer, once was inspired to invest in supporting and creating quality affordable housing and vibrant retail, so too was JCUA when approached by the new developer, Landwhite, in 2012. To learn more about the project, visit JCUA’s earlier blog post.

Once complete, the newly renovated Rosenwald Apartments will have 239 one and two-bedroom units of senior and family affordable housing, two-acres of usable courtyard green space, as well as 40,000 square feet of retail and office space along 47th Street. This development will serve as a major catalyst for other redevelopment opportunities throughout Bronzeville and JCUA is proud to be a part of making this project possible. This once iconic, bustling hot spot in Bronzeville is finally getting the much needed attention it deserves to revive this community anchor, as it was in its glory days.

JCUA Executive Director, Judy Levey, JCUA Manager of Community Building, Sarah Gold, and Community Ventures Program Advisory Council member Ralph Brown attended the event, along with long-time JCUA supporter Peter Ascoli.

JCUA salutes the late community activist and friend Bobbie Johnson, whose tireless work to save the Rosenwald is no longer just a dream.


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


Rabbi Ari Hart: Planting the Seeds

February 3, 2015

On a Just Path Logo

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 Ari Hart

Rabbi Ari Hart

Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.

A. I was the Founding Director of Or Tzedek, JCUA’s teen social justice program, in 2006​.

Q. What was special about working here?

A. I loved working at JCUA. JCUA is not afraid to ask the tough questions about what goes on in Chicago, not afraid to take action. It was one of the most meaningful opportunities for me to pursue real social justice work in a Jewish context.

Q. What impact did your work at JCUA have on the community?

A. My work planted the seeds of social justice in teens, exposed them to dimensions of their city that they had never seen before, and connected very diverse groups (teens in Englewood and Highland Park) over justice work. One of the most rewarding things is seeing Or Tzedek participants who were 14, 15 years old now launching careers as justice activists, doing amazing work in the world.​

Q. How did your experience at JCUA impact what you do now? 

A. My experience at JCUA taught me about the power of deep relationships, long term activism, how to truly stand in solidarity with communities. The concept of interstitiality has always stayed with me. I think about our role as both an oppressed and empowered community all the time, and what that means for today and for our future.


Rabbi Ari Hart is a co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization dedicated to combating suffering and oppression. Ari currently serves as Associate Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and as Director of Admissions for Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Ari learned at Yeshivat HaKotel, Machon Pardes, and graduated from Grinnell College in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,544 other followers

%d bloggers like this: