Or Tzedek teens take on the Bring Chicago Home campaign

Categories: Youth Programs

By Noa Polish, Or Tzedek cohort 2021-2022

Throughout Or Tzedek, we’ve been learning about organizing and where it exists on the continuum of change-making. (I’d always perceived organizing as the right way to enact change and other forms as somehow lesser, but I’ve been delighted to learn that all forms of action can, should, and do coexist!) Our cohort is made up of teens from across Chicagoland. We come from many backgrounds and hold many identities; Judaism shows up in our lives in vastly different ways. We’ve loved talking with JCUA staff and stakeholders about various organizing campaigns and learning pieces of incredible Chicago history.

At our virtual Or Tzedek retreat last weekend, which was beautifully organized by Mara and members of the Youth Organizing Caucus, we voted on which JCUA campaign to join for the rest of our time together. After a super thoughtful process — which was eye-opening and entirely new to me — we decided together to take on Bring Chicago Home (BCH), a campaign that aims to reform Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) so as to create a revenue stream earmarked solely for permanent affordable housing. Only properties bought and sold for more than $1 million would be affected by the 1.9 percentage point increase of the one-time tax.

Bring Chicago Home makes a lot of sense. Folks who are able to buy expensive properties (in many cases, constructing a physical barrier between them and the outside world) have an obligation to show up for people experiencing homelessness. In a way, the campaign reminds me of lines from the Torah, in Leviticus, about the commandment to leave the corners of one’s field un-reaped to ensure that those in need are able to eat. Restructuring the RETT is absolutely necessary to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness, and it is up to all of us to win this critical campaign over the next year.

We, the folks of Or Tzedek and the Youth Organizing Caucus, have talked about bringing conversations about BCH to Jewish youth spaces across Chicagoland. By honing in on our experiences with the fundamental right to housing, we hope to make discussions feel personal, local, and immediate. If you, dear reader, want to take action on Bring Chicago Home right this second, reach out to your Chicago alderperson and tell them to sign on to our ordinance! If you have disposable income and a desire to support the campaign financially, please do so! Finally, if you live in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th Wards, join JCUA’s South Side Town Hall at KAM Isaiah Israel, where we’ll discuss BCH and encourage the local alderpeople to support the campaign.