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Client Spotlight: Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA)

Updated: Jul 10

A Q&A with Executive Director, Judy Levey

Judy Levey, Executive Director

Colorful Connections is proud to be partnering with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) in their search for a Director of Operations and Finance. This critical role will be a hands-on manager who will be responsible for managing core areas of finance, operational planning and budgets, human resources administration, and IT. JCUA is a nonprofit organization that was founded during the Civil Right Movement, whose mission is to combat poverty, racism, and antisemitism in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities.

JCUA’s work includes four central program areas:

1. Issue-based Campaigns and Community Organizing

2. Youth Organizing and Engagement

3. Community Development

4. Advancing and elevating Racial Equity

To achieve its mission, JCUA develops and mobilizes a base of individuals and institutions within the Jewish community who become engaged as members, leaders, donors, and participants in campaigns, activities, and programs. Through a variety of programs and initiatives, JCUA targets the root causes of inequality in Chicago.

We at Colorful Connections couldn’t be more thrilled to be conducting this search for their next great staff member who will enable their small but mighty team to take their work to the next level while serving the community. To gain deeper insight as to what JCUA is all about, especially as it pertains to DEI, we asked Executive Director Judy Levey to answer a few questions on behalf of the organization.

We hope this Q&A will provide those interested in supporting JCUA with valuable insight, as well as those who are considering applying for the role.

Q1: What does DEI mean for JCUA?

A1: As an organization that was founded during the Civil Rights Movement, we are well versed in the ways in which systemic racism has shaped policies and access to resources across the country and in Chicago. Our longstanding mission has been to combat poverty, racism and antisemitism working in partnership with diverse communities in Chicago, and we see our work as building a region that is more just and equitable.

As we pursue racial and economic justice through our organizing and advocacy, we have since taken steps to transform our own organizational culture and make JCUA a welcoming and empowering space for people of all backgrounds and identities. In 2017, volunteers leaders at JCUA started the Kol Or Caucus (meaning “all hues” and “voices of illumination” in Hebrew) to provide a community space for Jews of Color. This group has continued to grow and evolve, and its members play a leading role in our work. Shortly after its start, members created a White Racial Justice Working Group to provide space for white-identifying JCUA members to dismantle white supremacist attitudes and practices within themselves, their work, and the wider world.

Additionally, we have collaborated with several organizations, coaches, and thought leaders over the past few years to understand how we move JCUA along the path of being an antiracist organization and community, because to undo the harm that has been caused requires a pro-active conscientiousness that needs to be at the forefront of how we work.

Q2: What positive outcomes or benefits have you seen as a result of JCUA’s commitment to DEI?

A2: We are seeing numerous positive outcomes to our work to embrace anti-racism as a core priority and value for the organization. When we turn out a more diverse group of leaders to our grassroots organizing campaigns, we are able to act as a more meaningful partner in multiracial coalitions. Though the Jewish community of Chicago identifies primarily as white and of Ashkenazi descent (descending from Jewish people who lived in Central and Eastern Europe), our board is now 20% People of Color, who bring a diversity of opinion and experiences that help us make better governance decisions. We are working internally to become more practiced at difficult conversations so that all staff feel valued and a sense of belonging.

Q3: How has this been received by the staff?

A3: The changes we are making are both welcomed and informed by the staff. Much of this work is now led by our full-time Director of Antiracism and Equity, Jackie Baldwin. We have a team of staff members who offer a full-day training on racial justice to our members each year, and a smaller group of staff are working to bring restorative justice practices to the organization. We are driven by our Jewish values, which call on us to see every individual as created in the image of God. Our current DEI work is a natural next step in centering those values and bringing them to all aspects of our work.

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