“Why do I observe Shabbat? It is said that Shabbat is a taste of ha’olam ha’ba, the world to come. As a revolutionary, I believe that in the world I’m working for, everyone will have enough food, housing, health and safety. All that they need to survive and thrive, not tied to how much work they are able to do. In the world that we’re working to bring about, in addition to having our basic needs met, we will enjoy space, time, and community…if we don’t take time to envision and live into the world that we’re trying to bring about, then how will we know what we’re working for? You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints; how can you work for a new world without, if occasionally possible, living it?”
From “How to Be a Shabbos Queen: Supporting Shabbat Practice in Your Community”, a zine by Jessica and Sonia
About a month ago, 16 of us gathered in an apartment in our ward to share food, celebrate Shabbat, build community, and learn the ways our new community could become a powerful force in enacting change around JCUA’s police accountability campaigns. This 47th ward Mishkan-JCUA Shabbat on Police Accountability opened with the quote above. As we learned and began envisioning a more just Chicago together, I pictured these same conversations happening at the 44th ward’s dinner (which was happening on the same night), and similar dinners happening all over the city. I pictured groups of Jews connected and mobilized in each ward, ready to take on their aldermen, and it felt like we really were drawing out the blueprints for a powerful movement.
The idea behind these ward Shabbat dinners was born just before I started here at JCUA in September. Mishkan Chicago’s Justice Team came together with JCUA to think about how they could best make use of the post-2016 election justice-oriented motivation, without letting it burn out (you can read more about how these dinners came to be in Rabbi Lauren’s blog post here!). These dinners made sense for renewing energy for the fight ahead, and it also made sense to use them to address an incredibly urgent movement happening in Chicago right now around police accountability.
Laquan McDonald’s death, the DOJ Report, and countless stories of police racially profiling civilians and committing violence upon Chicago’s communities of color have taught us that something needs to change about the way we’re doing policing in this city. JCUA is involved in bringing about this change through both the Coalition for Police Contracts Accountability (CPCA), which poses essential changes to the police union contracts to ensure that the contracts will no longer keep officers from being held accountable for their actions, and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA), which aims to create a community oversight board for CPD. The strategy around both of these campaigns is ward based right now. We know that we have the power to move our aldermen to not approve a new police union contract unless it has all of CPCA’s 14 points. And we know that we have the power to move our aldermen to support the city ordinance that will create the necessary checks and balances to make Chicago safer for everyone. Knowing this, it’s on us to own not only our knowledge about those making decisions in our names and behalf of our wards, but also to own our collective power to do something about that.
This is what it felt like was happening at our 47th ward Mishkan-JCUA Shabbat, that we were building real power that could absolutely influence our alderman. After months of planning and visualizing what a spiritual, community building, political, and powerful Shabbat dinner could look like, it was so energizing to see it actually take place and to begin envisioning a network of these dinners happening all across the city. Going forward, this is what we’re looking to do! So far, we’ve had dinners in 44, 47, and 48, and we are looking to build. In March and April, we’re looking to expand into the 46th, 43rd, 2nd, 49th, and 50th wards, so if you live in one of these neighborhoods and are interested in building power with us, please reach out! And if you live in another part of the city and want to get involved, let us know – the future we’re envisioning includes you, too.