Organizing requires pride. To fight for justice for your community you have to feel a sense of ownership and accountability for where you are in the world. Whatever the reason, you must have a personal investment in the who, what, and where of your fight. You must believe in where you are.
I’m not originally from Chicago, but I am here now. I did not grow up in its city or suburbs. I do not hail from its schools. I was not raised by its Jewish community. But 6 years ago I arrived here and chose to make it my home. I explored its neighborhoods, ate its food, and traveled its streets. And I spent a lot of time listening. I listened to neighbors, friends, teachers, co-workers, business owners, community organizers and faith leaders. And I fell in love.
Although I cannot claim Chicago as my place of origin, now that it has become my home I feel invested in its well-being. Working for social justice, I feel this investment at my highest and lowest moments. When opportunities are created or when voices are heard I feel that swell of pride and gratitude for a city that has welcomed me and that is transforming into what I know it can be. When communities around me are slighted or violated I feel even more proud in my anger that this city is falling far from my expectations. That prideful anger keeps me pushing, resisting and moving because there is no other option. This is the place I now come from and it is the place I must protect.
At JCUA, I engage young teen and college-aged voices and minds in the fight for justice because young folks are vibrant, energetic, and most of all newly proud. They are building ownership over their physical and emotional selves, their community, and the world around them for the first time and they have more passion and drive than anyone else I know. They have the most potential for change because they are at the peak of their pride for their home and community. They are the most poised to be the next community organizers who will lead this great city to its liberation. That may sound lofty but it is truthful.
Judaism tells us that it is important to repair what is broken in our own community, before moving outside to help others. That is why I organize young Jews, and that is why I fight for justice in Chicago. My ask is that if you are a young Chicagoan who is proud of where you come from, you join this fight and learn to organize to make real systemic change. Don’t wait. Get started right now. Your city needs you.