Jewish Community Letter Against School Closings

March 2013 / Passover 5773

“Rabbi Eliezer the son of Shamua would say: The dignity of your student should be as precious to you as your own.”
Pirkei Avot 4:12

Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett,

As members of the Jewish community, as Chicago residents and allies, we are deeply concerned about the threatened closing of over 50 public schools in Chicago. Rather than invest resources to improve our struggling schools, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is proposing to shut down an unprecedented number of them. Public opposition to the closings has been overwhelming, and with good reason. CPS questionably claims the schools are “under-utilized”; meanwhile, it has contracted for dozens of new charter schools to be built instead. Of particular concern is that CPS plans to disproportionately close schools in low-income communities and communities of color - neighborhoods already underserved by the City. This continues a pattern of educational inequity: since 2001, over 80 percent of schools affected by CPS closure or “turn-around” plans have been comprised of over 99 percent students of color. And past school closings have had disastrous consequences, severely disrupting students’ education, spiking violence, and removing institutions that were stabilizing forces in their communities.

This is why we stand in solidarity with the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), students and teachers to demand loudly and clearly: NO SCHOOL CLOSINGS!

They don’t call Jews the “people of the book” for nothing; we care about education. Jews have long participated in our public education system - as students, teachers, principals and labor organizers - and we continue to do so today. Quality public education has offered Jews and other Americans great opportunities that were often unavailable elsewhere. But we know that education access remains unequal. The proposed school closings would exacerbate this 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.

These discriminatory school closings fly in the face of our Jewish and human values. At our Passover tables this spring, we gather to study and ask questions about the story of the Israelites’ liberation. We read that the Israelites are liberated with “a mixed multitude” of slaves and free people, of Hebrews, Egyptians and others. What does this mean for us? Perhaps it’s a story of how although injustice may not affect all of us equally, we all must struggle together for our liberation.

In this spirit, we stand behind all our public schools. If public education in some neighborhoods is under attack, then public education for all is under attack. This is why on March 27, the second day of Passover, Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS) joined in a March and Rally Against School Closings from the Daley Center in Chicago. This is why Jewish community members, organizations, and congregations must join in this collective struggle. We must 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.


Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Rabbi Laurence Edwards, Congregation Or Chadash
Rabbi Capers Funnye
Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann
Rabbi Menachem Cohen, Mitziut
Rabbi David Cooper
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Rabbi Dov Taylor
Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay
Rabbi Daniel Grossman, Congregation Adath Israel
Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Cantor Michael Davis
Leora Abelson, Rabbinical Student
Jessica Rosenberg, Rabbinical Student
Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein, Rabbinical Student
Hannah Spiro, Rabbinical Student
Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS)
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
The Gan Project
Miriam Grossman, JSAS
Liz London, JSAS
Jeremy Siegman, JSAS
Lev Hirschhorn, JSAS
Wendy Mironov, JSAS
Marilyn Sneiderman
Ross Hyman
Adam Yalowitz
Amy B. Dean, The Century Foundation & ABD Ventures
Pamela Klier-Weidner
Daniel Kaplan
Hannah Chazin
Michael Klonsky
Rachel Sumekh, Swipes for the Homeless
Scout Bratt
Abigail Weber
Allison Fisher, JSAS
Hannah Gelder, Avodah Alumna
Sarah Moskowitz
Eleanor Mulshine, Moishe House
Sarah Miles, JSAS/Moishe House
Amir Starr Weg
Jill Zenoff, The Gan Project
Martin Levine, Levine Partners Consulting
Stefanie Fox, JVP
Hasan Bhatti, AVID Chapel Hill
Yaniv Ron-El, University of Chicago
Laura Landau
Eleni Zimiles
Leila Shooshani, Moishe House Chicago
Haley Leibovitz, Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps
Jessica Schaffe, Jewish Child & Family Services
Mk Davis
Kelly Viselman, JSAS
Daniel Weyl
Elise Goldin, JRC
Shana Rubenstein, JSAS
Raphi Rechitsky
Elana Baurer, Georgetown University Law Center
Dani Baurer, Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps
Max Clemons
Sarah Richman
Erin Dubnow
Orli Ginsburg, Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.)
Elie Zwiebel, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
Aaron Simmons, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
Traci Schlesinger
Simon Fisher, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Eli Goldberg
Asher Miller, JRC
Ross David Jacobs, CIWC
Emma Schwartz
Staci Akselrod
Emily Feder
Adam Reisberg
Rachel Brustein
Lily Gordon-Koven
Rebecca Katz
Talia Stein
Annie Greene
Simon Swartzman
Matthew Ginsberg-Jaeckle
Martin Ritter, CTU
Francine Greenberg-Reizen
Yasmin Salmi
David, CPS
Diane Horwitz, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education
Katherine Kampf, Respect Children's Rights
Robin Koloms
Sara Abelson
Tammie Vinson, CTU
Miriam Socoloff
Michael Presser
Sylvia Margolin, KAM Isaiah Israel
Bill Dolnick
Carol Goldbaum, Congregation Or Chadash
Paula Baronn
Don Rose, Don Rose Communications
Marlene Slavitt, CTU Retiree Delegate
Abby Rosenstein
Pauline Lipman
Dan Newman
Rico Gutstein, Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago)
Myron Perlman
Sherrie Tillmon
Arlene Gloria Hirsch, CTU
Steve Bild
Sandra Cruz
Craig Seip
Liane Casten, CAPOW--Citizens Act to Protect Our Water
Leo Gorenstein
Victoria M. Jackson, CPS
Tina and Joab Oberlander, Am Yisrael Congregation
Phillip Cantor, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Frank Rawland
Summer Hale
Kate S Goldstein, Americorps Alum
Elena Solomon
Gita Karasov
Sidney Hollander
C. Gilbert
Deborah Estin, JSAS
Aaron Lawee
Andrew Ginsberg
Lillian Kass
Mimi Harris
Julie Putterman
Billie Rosman, School social worker (retired)
Myra Glassman
June Lapidus, Emanuel Congregation
Carol Gittler, Congregation Rodfei Zedek
Susan Beal, Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus
Eileen Fitzsimons
Arlene C Rubin
Tam Newby,
Robin Kaufman
Susan Klonsky
Kerry Bowen, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
Ellen Gradman
Michael Klonsky
Julie D. Kosowski, CPS parent
Lisa Kosowski, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Marcia Rothenberg
Rhoda Rosen
Ellen Gradman, Jewish Educator
Caren Levy-Van Slyke, Learning Unlimited
Esther Greenberg
Judith Raphael
Grace Gleason, The University of Chicago
Tally Sumekh
Diana Lauber
Charles Dabah
Margaret Saphir, First Unitarian Church
Zach Gordon
Vadim Y. Gershteyn, University of Illinois-Chicago
Stephanie Liora Spiro
Jen Daniels
Sarah Hairston, CTS
Robert Johnston, Teaching of History Program, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dena Goldstein, AVODAH
Sandy Johnston, NTEHEM, graduate of List College (JTS)
Benjamin Ratskoff
James Flood
Bailey Hanselman
Charna Albert, The University of Chicago
Dory Fox, jU Chicago
Ione Barrows, jU Chicago
Meaghan Murphy, The University of Chicago
Kenzo Shibata
Jared Beverly, Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS)
Jeff Glassman
Jessica Fisher
Cathy Dale
Barbara Engel
Vivian Handel

Note: Organizations listed after names are for the purposes of identification only.

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