Jews United for Justice - St. Louis is dedicated to working in coalition with partners and allies for the goals of economic, social and racial justice in the St. Louis metropolitan area
JUJ was organized to be a progressive presence in the Jewish community and a Jewish presence in the progressive community.
In its first few years JUJ operated as an all-volunteer organization and engaged in lengthy discussions in the Jewish community to determine the need and direction for such an organization.
Through this process JUJ members determined our priorities would be to:
• Work with local partners for racial equity in St. Louis area schools;
• Work with local partners to improve the conditions of workers in the health care industry;
• Provide information in a Jewish context about workers’ rights, educational equity, and healthcare through publications and written resources and through forums and discussions in the Jewish community;
• Provide JUJ members, Jewish organizations and congregations with social justice materials for the High Holidays and Passover
Equity for Low Wage Workers in the Health Care Industry/ Quality Healthcare for Long Term Patients JUJ’s Health Care/Workers’ rights Task Force educated itself on the problems of low wage workers in this industry. In fact, the lowest wage workers are taking care of our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes. There is a strong Jewish tradition to support equity for workers and there is a strong link between improvement of workers’ conditions and improvement in patient care. With the help of Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, JUJ developed and distributed a Working Paper on a Jewish Perspective on Workers’ Rights. JUJ has lead forums and discussions with local congregations and organizations on this issue..
The Jewish Center for the Aged
As JUJ was researching this issue, a crisis erupted at the Jewish Center for the Aged in January 2003. The JCA’s mission involves serving the elderly in a nurturing environment regardless of individual resources in a context of fiscal responsibility. In January the JCA Board announced that it would be significantly reducing their Medicaid beds for low-income residents. While the JCA was justifying this by financial woes, JUJ learned that their new facility scheduled to open in the fall of 2003 cost over $60 million and was designed as a luxury nursing home with a price tag for residents of over $80,000 per year. JUJ’s research also disclosed that the JCA Executive Director had an annual income of over $400,000 with salary and bonuses. JUJ began organizing with the following activities and results:
• conducted a JUJ membership meeting at Hillel in January - where JUJ decided to fight these Medicaid cuts and work to move the JCA back to its mission.
• organized a core group of close to 100 Rabbis, Jewish organizations, and family members of JCA residents and other concerned community members to fight the Medicaid cuts.
• placed several ads in the Jewish Light weekly newspaper to inform the community of the JCA’s change in priorities -these ads were signed by over 50 community members that cut across Reformed, Conservative and Orthodox Jews.
• held a public forum in March, which drew over 200 people who came together to address the JCA crisis and seek solutions.
• produced and distributed a report on the public forum.
• used this growing movement and power to negotiate with JCA leaders to insist on 2 things:
1) for the JCA to withdraw their application to decertify 98 Medicaid beds and
2) for the JCA to enter into a broad based community task force process to study the problem and seek solutions that meet the JCA mission.
VICTORY: In March 2003, the JCA agreed to enter a Community Task Force Process to seek solutions and agreed to withdraw their application to decertify 98 Medicaid beds, at least until the Task Force process comes to a close. Our work is not over --JUJ is dedicated to continue to press for a long-term solution that ensures a place for low and moderate income Jews in a facility with a strong Jewish identity and to work with low wage workers at the nursing home to improve their conditions. JUJ has formed partnerships with many groups in the community including the Rabbinical Association, the Rabbinic Council, American Jewish Congress, and Jobs with Justice and others to seek equitable solutions for these critical problems.
Racial Equity in St. Louis Area Schools
JUJ formed an active Education Force that has studied racial inequities in education between students of color and white students both nationally and locally. We formed a partnership with the Black Leadership Roundtable to work on this critical issue. With the help of Rabbi Randy Fleisher, JUJ has written and distributed a Working Paper on the Jewish Context of Racial Justice in Education. JUJ leads forums and discussions with local congregations and organizations on this issue.
Jewish Holiday Materials
With the help of Rabbi Randy Fleisher, Rabbi Janine Schloss, and the Jewish Social Justice Network JUJ has collected and distributed materials for the High Holidays and Passover that provide information that join the tradition and liturgies of these holidays with social justice. These materials are distributed to and used by the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, the Jewish Social Action Network and JUJ members and are available on this web site.