'Although injustice may not affect all of us equally, we all must struggle together for our liberation...' Jewish leaders to call for a moratorium on school closings and challenge Rahm Emanuel's closing plans as racist... April 18 afternoon prayer scheduled outside the mayor's City Hall office

Joining the growing coalition that is demanding a moratorium on school closings in Chicago in the face of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announced plan to close 54 of the city's real public schools (and disrupt more than 100 because of the transfers and other changes), a group of Chicago rabbis and other leaders of the Jewish community will deliver a message to the mayor in opposition to his signal local initiative.

Six months before she was elected president of the Chicago Teachers Union by a landslide in a runoff in June 2010, Karen Lewis, at the time a chemistry teacher at King High School, was speaking against school closings and other "actions" at the January 8, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (above). From its inception, CORE (the Caucus Of Rank and file Educators), has been organizing broad coalitions on behalf of the public schools. Lewis became union president on July 1, 2010 and immediately began reorganizing the union to continue to build the organized coalitions that are now facing off against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennet in 2013. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The announcement of the prayer outside the mayor's office on the fifth floor of City Hall came a few hours after the Mayor's Press Office announced that Rahm Emanuel would host a commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at City Hall. The mayor's announcement alerted the press, but noted that there would be no "media availability." "Mayor Emanuel will unveil an exhibit honoring the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Time: 10:00 AM, Location: City Hall, 121 North LaSalle Street, 5th Floor - Press Room Chicago, IL."

According to a press release issued on April 17, 2013:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. JEWISH COMMUNITY RALLIES AGAINST SCHOOL CLOSINGS WITH LETTER TO MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL. Release date: April 15, 2013. Chicago, IL. Contact:. Miriam Grossman, Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools, miriamlevia. (609) 273-4932

Jewish community members will gather on Thursday, April 18th at 4:30pm to deliver a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel that demands an end to the planned CPS school closings. Organized by the group Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS), the letter calls on Jews and the greater community “to show our public officials, Jewish and non-Jewish, that while CPS’s ill-conceived and destabilizing reforms put some children at risk more than others, the resistance will come from people of all ages, races, and neighborhoods.”

In this spirit the group will arrive at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office with cries of “Don’t cut down the tree of knowledge!” and “What would your Bubbie say?” There, Rabbi Brant Rosen will lead the group in prayer before the delivery of the letter.

Citing the disproportionate effect of the school closings on African American and Latino neighborhoods, the letter expresses outrage at the racism inherent in the school closings. It reads: “These discriminatory school closings fly in the face of our Jewish and human values…The proposed school closings would exacerbate inequity, particularly along lines of race and class. They would undermine the promise of our education system to be open to all of us, no matter what neighborhood we live in… Although injustice may not affect all of us equally, we all must struggle together for our liberation.” The letter is signed by over 150 Jews including important Rabbis and religious leaders from the Chicago area.

This event is part of JSAS’s ongoing participation in the movement to stop school closings, led by the Chicago Teachers’ Union and Grassroots Education Movement. JSAS formed as a place for the Jewish community to stand in solidarity and act for education justice in the city of Chicago and beyond.


April 17, 2013 at 9:18 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Thanks to the Rabbis for the very powerful message

Wonderful to hear the rabbis are getting involved. This is the Civil Rights issue of our time. Rabbi Rosen is a hero in my home. Well respected, he is taking on a tough issue. He, like many others, does not have to take a stand. It might even be easier for him if he didn't. But he has the courage of his convictions. I am thankful for all of the people who have the courage and strength to speak out against the destruction of communities.

As historian Howard Zinn has noted, it is impossible to remain neutral on a moving train. All of us need to get engaged in this struggle for social justice.

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