What is Jewish about JCUA?
At the core of the Jewish people’s story is our slavery and liberation in Egypt, and that this liberation points toward a responsibility to undermine oppression wherever we meet it. The Torah insists, no less than 36 times, that remembering that we were slaves in Egypt means safeguarding the dignity, economic security, and inclusion of structurally vulnerable people on the margins of economy. Our lot is bound up with others, Jewish or not. In the same way that we, as Jews, have special responsibilities to fellow Jews, JCUA believes that we, as Chicagoans, have special responsibilities to fellow Chicagoans, Jewish or not.
The Torah exposes the structural nature of oppression. Torah wisdom has always understood that life will leave some people poor sometimes, and that charitable giving is always necessary. That same Torah also knows the difference between poor-ness and poverty, that exploiting people when they are poor and vulnerable can plunge them into structural poverty, and that the law must not tolerate that. If one’s house burns down, we provide tzedaka; if they are chronically unable to find safe, affordable housing, we ask “What is creating this condition?” and change those conditions. Oppression and poverty are structural and political; JCUA’s work must be directed at root causes.
JCUA does not speak for those whose voices are chronically muffled, but instead we work in coalitions with people who are directly affected, supporting them and amplifying their voices as allies. God promises to hear the cries of exploited people directly, so we strive to hear their voices on earth because it is the right and “Godly” thing to do, and because it is through honest and dignified relationship-building and allyship that we combat anti-Semitism.
JCUA’s Jewish Values
Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof
This prophetic message is carried forward throughout our tradition – our faith demands action through the pursuit of justice.
Our freedom as Jews is tied inextricably to the freedom of others. We share responsibility for each other.
Root Cause Analysis
The Torah teaches us to recognize that oppression and poverty are structural and political. Rashi taught in the 10th century: “Do not wait until he has gone down and fallen, because it will be difficult to raise him up. Instead, strengthen him at the time when his hand is slipping.” – Rashi
We are deeply concerned about the world that our children and their children will inherit. We need to “pay it forward” so that they will not be burdened with a broken world.