This Is Not Normal

Categories: Other

By Jeff Zaluda
JCUA Member & Board of Directors

Jeff gave the following speech last weekend at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) Refugee Remix Rally: Fighting Fear, Building Power.

My name is Jeff Zaluda and I am the grandson of immigrants who fled persecution for a better life in this nation. I am honored to be here as a board leader of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.  For 53 years – yes you heard me right – for 53 years, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has stood shoulder to shoulder with our allies for social justice in every corner of this city. We have successfully and fully participated in campaigns directly impacting Chicago’s immigrant communities, including campaigns that resulted in fair housing laws and development of affordable housing, health care equity, domestic workers’ rights, the right of undocumented immigrants to legally drive a car, fair wage laws in entry level jobs and on and on through dozens and dozens of campaigns.

So as Chicago Jews who have so comfortably and successfully assimilated into American society, why does the JCUA fight these fights on behalf of Chicago’s diverse communities?  Because we know that as Chicagoans, if we fail to stand up for our neighbors in distress, what type of Chicagoans are we?  Because we know that as Jews, if we fail to stand up for our neighbors in distress, what type of Jews are we?  And as human beings, if we fail to stand up for neighbors in distress, what kind of human beings are we?

We face an unprecedented crisis today in which a US President exploits hate and bigotry and division as political tools for power.  The JCUA will never accept this as normal.  Never.

But we also know that injustice in Chicago did not begin with Mr. Trump and it will not end with him.  And while we may need to raise our voices more vociferously today than ever, I can promise you all here today that just as the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has raised its voice on behalf of Chicago’s Jewish comunity for the last 50 years fighting for justice for all Chicagoans, it will continue to do so for the next 50 years.  And I am asking all of you here to hold me accountable for that statement.

Holding those in power accountable for their actions, organizing for systemic change, being responsible one for the other, affirming my humanity by recognizing your humanity, loving the stranger as ourselves because we were all once strangers…These are ways in which I aspire to live my life and these are the hallmarks of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.

In Hebrew we say Hineni:  Here I am.  I am present.  I am ready.  So I ask you all to say Hineni with me and the JCUA.  Hineni to fight hate.  Hineni to fight fear.  Hineni to serve all of our neighbors regardless of circumstances of birth or opportunity. Hineni for love.  Hineni for peace.  Hineni.  I am here.  The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is here.  With you, shoulder to shoulder, together as one.