In Support of Dyett Hunger Strikers: An Open Letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education from Members of the Chicago Jewish Community

September 2015 / Elul 5775

Since August 17, twelve community members, activists and faith leaders have been engaged in a hunger strike in an attempt to keep Dyett High School alive as the only open enrollment public school in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. These courageous hunger strikers are leaders in a community coalition that has created a widely respected proposal to save Dyett High School after Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced its closing four years ago. The proposal, known as the “Walter H. Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School” was created by a wide community-based coalition.

As members of the Jewish community of Chicago, we stand with the Dyett High School hunger strikers. We understand that they did not undertake this action lightly and that they only made the decision to hunger strike when it became clear that CPS was not dealing with them in good faith. For years, CPS has responded to this inspiring proposal with repeated stonewalling, if not outright contempt. The final straw occurred when the latest meeting on the proposal – and two others that have been submitted – was postponed until September 15.

We are currently in the Hebrew month of Elul, a time to begin the process of asking for forgiveness from the people one has wronged in preparation for the High Holy Days. We call on Mayor Emanuel to begin this process of repentance with the members of the Bronzeville community who have lost their only open enrollment public high school and to right the wrongs of the past by accepting their proposal for the Walter H. Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

The Dyett hunger strikers are currently in the fourth week of their fast – and there are signs that it is taking a serious toll on their health. Three hungers strikers have already been hospitalized and doctors have stated they are now at risk of permanently endangering their health if their hunger strike continues. In light of this, we are deeply dismayed that there have been no commitments made to consider their plan in any serious way.

In Jewish tradition – the value of pikuach nefesh – saving a life – is considered sacrosanct above all others. For the sake of pikuach nefesh – as well as the sacred Jewish values of limud (education), kehillah (community) and tzedek (justice), we implore Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forest Claypool, and the Chicago Board of Education to respond immediately to accept the plan of the Dyett High School families.


Rabbi Brant Rosen, Tzedek Chicago
Rabbi Bruce Elder, Congregation Hakafa
Cantor Michael Davis
Hannah Gelder, Tzedek Chicago / Avodah Alumna
Kelly Viselman, Tzedek Chicago / Avodah Alumna
Daniel Kaplan, Tzedek Chicago
Sarah Rothschild Hainds, ARISE Chicago
Sarah Miles, Tzedek Chicago / Avodah Alumna
Robin Potter, Robin Potter & Associates
Emma Schwartz
Ben Fogel, Beth Emet / Avodah Alumna
Jonathan Levine, Tzedek Chicago
Phillip Dworkin-Cantor, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Isaac Krantz-Perlman, Caucus of Rank and File Educators
Simon Swartzman
Francine Greenberg-Reizen, Tzedek Chicago
Michael Klonsky, Small Schools Workshop
Michael Deheeger, Jewish Voice for Peace
Julie Kosowski, Tzedek Chicago
Elaine Waxman, Tzedek Chicago
Lori Clark, Jane Addams Senior Caucus
Ellen Gradman, Caucus of Rank and File Educators
Solomon Dolnick
Susan Klonsky, Tzedek Chicago
Lili Gecker, Avodah Alumna
Tanya Fink, Avodah Alumna
Abi Weber, Mishkan Chicago / Avodah Alumna
Julie Oppenheimer, Congregation Rodfei Tzedek
Eleanor Mulshine, Avodah Alumna / Mishkan Chicago
Daniel Weyl, Avodah Alumna and Advisory Council Member
Aaron Lawee
Ivan Handler, J Street
Lauren Binkovitz
Charles Dabah, Avodah Alumna
Hannah Rosenbaum, SSA / JCUA / Avodah Alumna
Kalman D. Resnick, Beth Emet Synagogue
Hallie Rosen, Tzedek Chicago
Liz London, Avodah Alumna
Abigail Harris-Ridker, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation / Avodah Alumna
Tracy Ullman
Jenna Pollock, Avodah Alumna
Rhonda Present
Martin Ritter
Elli Krandel, Avodah Alumna
Michelle Adelstein, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Laurie Goldstein
Hannah Arwe, Howard Area Community Center
Lara Trubowitz
Wendy Mironov
Elissa Vinnik
Rachel Lee, Avodah Alumna
Haley Liebovitz, Avodah Alumna
Thomas Van Housen
Elise Golden, Street Vendor Project
Saul Lieberman
Alex Lopez
Beth Miller
Keren Wasserman Mishkan Chicago/Moishe House
Leah Shefsky, Avodah Alumna
Leonor Stephens
Lawrence Klevans, KAM Isaiah Israel
Perry Shaffer
Aryeh Bernstein, Congregation Rodfei Tzedek
Hannah Chazin
Heidi Levin, Tzedek Chicago
Rebecca Waxman
Ivy Levy
Denise Chaitkin
Carol Friedman
Sam Frolichstein-Appel
Don Seeley
Maria Tolpin, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Mary Ramirez, Tzedek Chicago
Judith Mandel
Riza Falk
Lev Hirschhorn, Avodah Alumna
Susan Gzesh
Kyra Auslander, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Elizabeth Berkeley
Maya Schenwar
Nancy Shier
Seth Freeman, Tzedek Chicago
Caren Levy-Van Slyke, Tzedek Chicago
Danya Lagos, Hyde Park Jewish Community
Marla Bramble
Laurie Hasbrook, Tzedek Chicago
Salem Pierce, Hebrew College Rabbinical School
Mark Miller, Tzedek Chicago
Shira Saliman, Mishkan Chicago
Gabi Friedman, Avodah Alumna
Rico Gutstein, Teachers for Social Justice
Leah Fried, United Electrical Workers
Ted Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer Family Foundation
Emily White, OPT
Dani Baurer
Lindsay Eanet, Mishkan Chicago
Louis Weiss, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Hollen Reischer, Avodah Alumna
Ben Lorber, Tzedek Chicago
Julia Baskin, Avodah Alumna
Tina Escobar, Tzedek Chicago / Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Laura Gluckman
Lesley Williams, Tzedek Chicago
Erica Friedman, Avodah Alumna
Stephanie Eisner, Beth Judea
Jennifer Mcgowan
Eleni Zemiles, Avodah Alumna
Kate Kinser, Tzedek Chicago
J Kurtovic
Michal David, JCUA
Agnieszka Kusmierz
Elana Eisen-Markowitz, Teachers Unite / Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Rhoda Rosen
Bill Dolnik, Am Chai
Irina Zadov, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum / Hyde Park Dacha / Chicago Home Theater Festival
Jerry Herst, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Josh Samuels, Mitziut
Ashley J. Bohrer, Congregation Tzedek Chicago / Jewish Voice for Peace
Ariel Levin, Tzedek Chicago
Jonathan Katz
Erin Weinstein
Randi Stern, JCUA
Scout Bratt, Tzedek Chicago
David Minkus, Congregation Rodfei Tzedek
Andrés Fabián Henao Castro, University of Massachusetts Boston
Jennifer Moran
Hannah Utain-Evans, FURIE / Beth Zion Beth Israel
I. Rugg
Jane S. Heron
Laurie Chesler Clark
Hannah Willage, Temple Shalom
Eva Lerner
Anna Fogel, Avodah Alumna
Grace Gleason, Mishkan ChIcago
Craig Woods, Two Piece Fest
Daniel Casasanto
Laura Staum Casasanto
Harry Eskin
Paul Swartz
Arlene Gloria Hirsch
Daniel Cohen, Tzedek Chicago
Miguel Gualdrón, DePaul University
Nadia Underhill
Lindsey Rose
Nora O'Connor Kean
Ricky Hill, Mishkan Chicago
Joseph Spilberg, North Shore Congregation Israel
Cara Gold, Avodah Chicago
Sarah Moskowitz-Gordon, Avodah Alumna
Alana Zalas
Kelly McMeen, Anshe Emet
Sarah Gold, Avodah Alumna
Benjamin Balthaser, Tzedek Chicago
Netiya Shiner
Ruth Fuerst
Jim Block, DePaul University
Megan Groves, Uptown People's Law Center
Ronnie Kuller
Charles Austin
Lynn Pollack, Tzedek Chicago
Meaghan Murphy, JU Chicago
Nadav David
Debra S. Gleason
Danya Rosen
Barbara Cruz, Cornell University
David Eber, Avodah Alumna
Lisa Bendoff, JCUA
Parker Asmann, DePaul University
Elizabeth Busch, Jewish for Economic and Racial Justice
Melissa Lawrence
Jeremy Siegman, University of Chicago
Cali Linstrom, University of Chicago, Jewish Life
Joan E. Mendelson, Emanuel Congregation
David Feldman, Jewish Voice for Peace, Santa Barbara
Robbyn Ratskoff
Jim Ridker, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Lindsey Adelman, Avodah Chicago
Wendy Carson, Tzedek Chicago
Hannah Wolod, JCUA
Karen Goozner
Kathy McGroarty-Torres
Nathaniel Seeskin, JCUA, Avodah Alumna
Rae Levinstein, Avodah Alumna
Clare Hipschman
Myra Glassman, SEIU Healthcare IL&IN
Pauline Lipman, Teachers for Social Justice
Helen Hailes

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