Judy Levey has been JCUA’s executive director since 2012. She originally joined the staff in 2009 to manage JCUA’s community development work. Building on JCUA’s strong history, Judy has led the renewed membership initiative to help galvanize JCUA’s voice and impact as a partner and ally to marginalized communities in Chicago. She was formerly the executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, where she led a successful campaign to establish permanent statewide funding for affordable housing. Earlier in her career, Judy spent seven years working for New York City’s Human Resources Administration. She holds a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.
A life-long Chicagoan, Jackie joined JCUA in 2019 as a community organizer. Jackie has wide ranging social activist experience that includes registering voters, voter education workshops, working on political campaigns and volunteer work with multiple grassroots organizations. She is passionate about pursuing social justice. A Columbia College graduate with a B.A. in Marketing/Communications, she has worked as an educator and realtor. Jackie is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She attends Beth Shalom B’Nai Zaken EHC. In her free time she likes to spend time with her daughter, Racquel.
Associate Director and Director of Organizing
Marla Bramble joined JCUA as the Director of Organizing in 2014. With more than 15 years of organizing in Chicago, Marla brings a passion for justice and a breadth of campaign experience and relationships to the new position. She previously built a grassroots leadership development program and has worked with various coalitions to win victories on community, city, and statewide issues. Marla graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BSW degree. Marla is a swimmer and enjoys Chicago’s forest preserves, parks and lakefront.
Jonathan Elbaz joined JCUA in 2019 after beginning his career in journalism and education. He first worked as a newspaper reporter for the Montgomery Sentinel in Maryland and later as a web producer for POLITICO. He became fascinated by the power of Judaism to spur civic engagement when he spent a year volunteering for the NGO Ma’ase Olam, which seeks to empower and connect religious and ethnic minority students in northern Israel. Jonathan grew up in Bethesda, Md. and holds a bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s in Civic Media from Emerson College. Outside of work, he loves spending time with friends, doing crosswords and exploring the city.
Emma is JCUA’s Avodah Organizer for 2019-2020. Growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio was where she first gained interest in the power of community and how it can lead to positive social change. In May 2019, Emma graduated with a BA in Public Affairs from Ohio State University. During her undergraduate career she spent time organizing around community police relations with Sustained Dialogue and served as a student ambassador for Hillel’s MitzVote Campaign. Emma looks forward to assisting in JCUA’s campaigns this year and building relationships with members. While not at work you can find her visiting the nearest public library, running on the lakefront or spending time with her 15 roommates!
Director of Development
Jill joined JCUA in 2015 with a deep passion for social justice and a breadth of political advocacy and development experience. Having served most recently as the Finance Director for Andrea Zopp’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, she played a crucial role in setting up fundraising operations that raised record funds within the first 30 days. Previously the Regional Finance Director for J Street, she led fundraising and political strategy that contributed to the organization’s successful growth. She holds a degree in International Development and Economics from Michigan State University.
Anna rejoined JCUA in 2017 after working as the Avodah Organizing Fellow in 2015-16. In the intervening year, Anna worked as a national field organizer with Interfaith Worker Justice, organizing around issues of worker rights and immigration justice across the country. She is excited to bring those experiences to the work JCUA is doing organizing for just immigration policies here in Chicago. Anna graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Religion and a certificate in Judaic Studies. Outside of work, you can find Anna hanging out in other rad Jewish spaces in Chicago and spending as much time at the lake as possible.
Avra joined JCUA in 2017. She graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Global Health Studies. She first began organizing on her college campus to create a group to fight for campus and Chicago-based justice issues. She is deeply invested in building a more just Chicago. Avra was a 2016 Avodah Justice Fellow, and she is in training to become a Hebrew Priestess through the Kohenet Institute. When she is not building power, she enjoys writing poetry, singing and swimming.
Manager of Youth Engagement
Mara Wolkoff rejoined the JCUA staff in 2019 after organizing around Chicago’s municipal elections and housing justice issues with Grassroots Illinois Action in Humboldt Park. In 2017-2018, Mara was JCUA’s Avodah Organizing Fellow. She studied Sociology and Public Policy at Smith College. She leads JCUA’s youth engagement work and is eager to bring her experience to JCUA’s work with high school and young adults. When not at work, you can find Mara laughing with her friends and with her toes in the lake.
Community Development Program Manager
Brenda brings to JCUA more than 25 years experience working with community-based organizations on a local, state and national level to build coalitions, design programs, and deliver training to increase the availability of affordable housing. As an attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation, she worked with residents of public housing to help them access their options under CHA’s Plan for Transformation. She has provided technical assistance to nonprofit developers to expand their capacity and partner with local CBOs, financial institutions and local municipalities. As Housing Policy Advisor at the Office of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, she established a statewide foreclosure helpline for Illinois residents at risk of foreclosure and identified approximately $1 million in new funding to support the program. Brenda received her JD from the University of Illinois and her BA from Northwestern University.
Jewish Education Consultant
Aryeh Bernstein is a Torah educator, culture integrator, and 5th-generation South Sider. He is the Director of Avodah’s Justice Fellowship in Chicago, teaches for Mishkan Chicago and elsewhere, and co-founded the Northwoods Beit Midrash at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. In 2011, he independently released a hip-hop album, called A Roomful of Ottomans.