About JCUA

The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) has been a leading voice for social justice for six decades. Founded in the Civil Rights Movement by Rabbi Robert J. Marx, we initially focused on combating unfair housing practices and supporting community organizations in low-income neighborhoods of Chicago. As our organization grew throughout the 1970s, 1980s and beyond, we expanded our mission to address a wide range of social issues, including job discrimination, affordable housing, police accountability, workers’ rights, and more.

At the core of JCUA’s work is a deep commitment to solidarity. We recognize that antisemitism is linked to other forms of oppression and that safety for Jews is tied to the well-being of all communities. JCUA’s foundational principle of solidarity has enabled us to forge strong partnerships across Chicago and Illinois. For decades, we have participated in multiracial, multi-faith coalitions to advance systemic change, fostering mutual understanding and a shared commitment to protect and support each other.

JCUA is driven by a dynamic and dedicated base of more than 2,000 members throughout Chicago and Illinois. These individuals are not merely participants in our work; they are the heart of our campaigns. Equipped with a profound understanding of and commitment to JCUA’s mission, our members collaborate with our staff, Board, and allies in the national Jewish social justice community to harness the power of organized people – the most crucial element for creating transformative change.

Please join us as we continue building a region where all people have safety, dignity, and the resources they need to flourish.

We organize our people and resources to advance racial and economic justice

JCUA works in collaboration with directly impacted communities to transform unjust systems and bring material improvements to people’s lives. Our Community Safety Committee advocates for robust accountability of the Chicago Police Department and the expansion of non-carceral approaches to public safety. Our Immigration Justice Committee advocates for municipal, state, and federal legislation to protect and support immigrant communities. Our Housing & Economic Justice Committee advocates for solutions to homelessness and for progressive taxation and distribution of resources. Our Community Ventures Program (CVP) strengthens neighborhoods by providing interest-free loans for affordable housing and economic development projects.

We equip leaders with the tools and support they need to shape the future

JCUA develops powerful leaders in the Jewish community by providing training, mentorship, and opportunities for personal growth. Our Youth Organizing programs — including the Or Tzedek Teen Internship and our Youth Organizing Caucuses — create space for teens and young adults to learn about social justice through a Jewish lens. Our training programs — on antisemitism & white supremacy, racial justice, and community organizing — ensure our activism is grounded in historical knowledge and shared political analysis. Through Individual Leadership Plans (ILPs), we work one-on-one with JCUA members to bring intentional support to their individual growth and role within JCUA.

We build a world free of antisemitism and white supremacy

Since the Civil Rights Movement, JCUA has worked side-by-side with communities fighting for justice and equity. We stand on the shoulders of giants, including our founder Rabbi Marx, Lew Kreinberg, and longtime executive director Jane Ramsey, who demonstrated the power in building relationships across lines of difference. Today, our work for a better world takes many forms. Our Kol Or Jews of Color Caucus brings together Jews of Color to build community and lead JCUA’s work. Our White Racial Justice Working Group creates space for JCUA members to lean into the discomfort of unlearning and challenging white supremacy. We combat antisemitism by educating our members and partners about the history and functions of antisemitism, its connections to white supremacy and other forms of oppression, and how we can keep each other safe. As staff, members, Board and partners, we are working to implement antiracist norms and restorative, equitable practices across all of JCUA’s work.