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 »

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