Remembering Bobbie Johnson: A Fearless Community Advocate and Partner

November 5, 2012

by Judy Levey
Executive Director, JCUA

Judy Levey reflects upon her encounters with Bobbie Johnson, a fearless community advocate on Chicago’s south side, who recently passed away.


Bobbie Johnson z”l

On Saturday, 11/3/12, I attended the memorial service of Bobbie Johnson, a woman I was honored to be able to call my friend.

Bobbie reached out to me in 2009 in my former role as the Director of Community Development at JCUA. Bobbie re-introduced me to the Rosenwald, a historic building in Bronzville on Chicago’s south side, which I was familiar with through my previous work on affordable housing preservation. She taught me about the history of the building, what it was like to live there, why it was so hard to redevelop it, and how she had been devoting more than 20 years of her life to preventing its demolition. Bobbie was not your average activist – although in my experience, “average activist” is an oxymoron. She was truly extraordinary. She was relentless, pushy, funny, determined, and knew how to celebrate life. She was a mother and grandmother, nurse, historian, organizer, program director, social worker, grant writer, teen mentor, and a bible scholar. She was larger than life.

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Make the Vision Possible, Says JCUA’s CEO

June 27, 2012

Judy Levey, JCUA’s chief executive officer, was a featured speaker at our recent “Acts of Change” event (June 20, 2012). She identifies JCUA’s main issue areas as immigration, housing, Jewish-Muslim community building and empowerment of Jewish teens. The event honored immigration attorney Kalman Resnick and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with the Rabbi Robert J. Marx Social Justice Award.

Judy Levey, JCUA CEO

It is an honor to be here, following the great tradition of Rabbi Marx, Jane Ramsey, and others have led this organization. Our honorees, Kalman and Chuy are role models for social justice. They, together with our community partners, and all of you – are Actors of Change.

I would like to illustrate several of the ways JCUA, with your help, makes our world more just. These examples make clear what a group of committed and focused people can accomplish when we work together.

Proposed Crete Detention Center

Let’s begin with the dramatic recent events taking place in the Village of Crete. The Corrections Corporation of America was hoping to construct a private immigration detention center there. But the CCA has a bad track record, and their profit incentives lead them to skimp on food and health care. Private detention centers in general are notorious for violations of basic human rights.

JCUA has been working in Crete since late last year, joining forces with the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, of which we are a founding member. With our help, the residents of Crete got organized and fought to make their voices heard.

There were some setbacks, but a couple of weeks ago the Village Board of Crete voted to kill the project.

Did it happen overnight? No, it was the result of the sustained efforts of the residents of Crete, JCUA, and allies, working together, building relationships, and persevering even in the face of what looked like defeat.

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