At our Saturday Morning Shabbat service on January 21st, we welcomed Jenny Schaffer, a Mishkanite running for Police District Council, a new position for civilian oversight of the police created by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance, who taught us about the long fight for police reform.
For upcoming Shabbat services and programs, check our event calendar, and see our Accessibility & Inclusion page for information about our venues. Follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook for more updates.
Produced by Mishkan Chicago. Music composed, produced, and performed by Kalman Strauss.
We can take a seat every Shabbat service, we always have a couple rabbis hiding here in the community and one of them came up to me halfway through the service to say, you know the teaching about the window. It's not just about spirituality and connecting to nature. It's actually also and more importantly about not getting complacent in your prayer inside and forgetting about what's going on out in the world. You know, Oh, I'm so spiritual, I'm so connected and then going out in the world and not seeing the injustice that's right in front of your face, because you're so spiritual. God forbid, God forbid. And so actually one of the most important parts of a spiritual practice is not only knowing what's going on out in the world, but doing something about it. Being connected to a justice tradition, is as much a part of Judaism as everything that you all just saw an experience. So I'm so happy this morning, because we get to hear from a community member Jenny Shafer, who is actually running for office. Now, as a 501 C three organization, we are not allowed to endorse candidates, but we can give them a platform to share about why as a Jew, and as a human. And as part of this community, you are taking this really bold and powerful move, which is as much a spiritual action, I think, as it is a political choice. So thank you, Jenny, for sharing. For sharing this with us this morning. Come on up, feel free to use that microphone and use that stand. And thank you to everybody from JCU way who's here this morning from the Jewish Council on urban affairs, whether you dive in here on a regular basis or coming to grace us with your presence this morning. It's so great to have you here and to be in partnership. Thank you. Hey, I'm Jenny Schaefer. I am a builder at Mishkan. And also an awesome leader of our awesome local action team at Michigan with Jackie and Emily who are also here. We'd love to share more about that work we're doing with you later. But the main reason I'm here is like Rabbi Lizzi said, I'm running for a new position called District Council, and I really want to tell you guys about it. It's a brand new elected position and you'll be voting on it in February when you vote for Alder person and Mayor. There are 22 police districts across Chicago, each of the districts will be electing three people to represent them. These three people will serve as neighborhood ambassadors, giving the community of voice and public safety and policing. District Council has a soft power but a very important role in being elected community organizers who can gather neighbors around a shared vision and then work to promote these ideas across the entire district. We know that true power comes when people come together and make their voices heard. Your district council representatives can bring the community together alongside grassroots organizations like DC UA, like Lizzi said a close partner Michigan's and work to push elected officials to lift to lift up alternatives to policing like violence prevention and restorative justice and, and to give community members more of a say over what police do in our neighborhoods. I am running for this position because I want to work with the community to reimagine our definition of public safety and to really come together to understand what creates safety and neighborhoods. When my kids were young. I started volunteering with a local nonprofit called Embark. Embark is embedded in many CPS high schools and provides students with opportunities to get outside of their neighborhoods and experience more of what Chicago has to offer. The relationships I was building with you EMBARC students exposed me to people who are living just a few miles away from my family. But having completely different experiences in Chicago. I had three young kids at the time and I couldn't help but compare their experiences to the students. I was working with an Embark. My kids are growing up in a neighborhood surrounded with support and access to opportunity. We had good school, safe housing and thriving businesses and so much more. Meanwhile, embark students I was meeting were living in neighborhoods that had been divested from for decades, leaving them with deteriorating houses and empty lots schools that couldn't hire enough teachers and invested more in social insecurity than in social workers, corner stores with bars on the windows, lack of access to public transit, mental health care, jobs, grocery stores, and so many other things that we know helped my kids and others in our neighborhood thrive. It became clear to me that the safety of a neighborhood depended on the support and the access that the community had. If we want to address the root causes of violence, we need to invest in communities across the city, so that everyone in Chicago has what they need to thrive. These are the real safety measures that make communities more connected and actually work to prevent crime. Too often when there's crime, then in the neighborhoods, our only solution is to add more police. This reaction is overlooking the fact that at their best police are reactive and not preventative. What I want for us and for our city is to be able to imagine a public safety system that goes beyond policing, and works to address the root causes of violence with massive public investments in things like housing, education, and health and health care. When I read the Torah portion, and I read the whole thing I didn't know we only had a third of it. It's about the plagues that befell the Egyptians and I was reminded of our present day city, our decades of systemic divestment from majority black and brown communities that have led to our modern day plagues of their own, and the times of Pharaoh but it was the frog and the blood in the water and the famine. Today, it manifests as gun violence and property and drug, property and drug abuse and sorry, drug abuse and police violence and harassment. The answer to these plagues was and still is seeking a collective liberation. It's moving away from a system that works to punish and control and perpetuate harm, and work towards a system that heals and restores and liberates. When people have the access to the resources they need in order to thrive, they will, what would our world look like if all the people had the supports? There's no doubt in my mind that world would be safer and freer for all of us. I recognize that these are long term aims. In the short term district councils will also be able to influence an advocate for more immediate ways to improve public safety by pushing for more expansive emergency response systems. Our current current system relies too heavily on policing this of all public safety emergencies, and is just not working. We know we can't have a one size fits all approach to public safety. We need to think critically about each of the areas that identify the professionals and tools needed to respond to those particular crises. For example, mental health care professionals not police should be responding when there's a nonviolent mental health crisis in the community. The local action team at Mishcon alongside our JCA partners and other grassroots organizations have introduced an ordinance called treatment now trauma this ordinance creates seeks to create a 24 hour non police Crisis Response Hotline for mental health related emergencies and to reopen Chicago shuttered public mental health clinics. Sending a mental health professional who is trained to de escalate these situations is the response that will create safety. Coming in with force control and punishment often escalate situations and leads to more violence and dangerous outcomes for all people involved. And simply put does not create meaningful safety and a community for anyone. District Council members can work with grassroots organizations like JCU, a community groups like Michigan's local action teams, and other engaged community members to organize around ordinances like treatment, not trauma, and others that can move away from an over reliance on policing, and more towards a system that carefully examines and analyzes each area public safety to ensure that our responses to these situations are individualized, and create the most amount of safety in the neighborhoods. In addition to mental health responders, we should have things like we should have data driven tools and properly trained professionals responding to homelessness and drug related calls. There are so many innovative solutions that work to expand our public safety system and the public needs to know about them. District Council members will be responsible for collecting these ideas from community organizations and bringing them to the table so that we can educate ourselves and educate an advocate for the solutions that best suit our community. District Council members will be able to organize a community to push towards our collective liberation, we can no longer choose a path that prioritizes one group's needs while harming another Judaism teaches us that our liberation is tied to one another. Therefore we simply cannot create safety for ourselves without upbringing safety to the entire community. We know that these are the conditions that have created our modern day plagues. building walls around communities or hiring private security to protect us is not the answer. We have tried these things and our and our plagues have multiplied. This is the equivalent of Farrell backing down on his promises of freedom. District Council members can help the community move away from systems of punishment and harm and move towards a future that prioritizes growth and healing for all. It's important because we know that this is what creates meaningful safety and communities. District Council members will collaborate with the community to uplift division that creates meaningful safety for everyone. We would love to talk to you more about some of the ordinances that we are most excited about. This feels like a very hopeful time in our city, because there are so many amazing things that activists and cleaning organizations that are doing what they can to build genuine safety in the community and people need to know about them. As Rabbi Lizzi said, there are a bunch of people from JCPOA here and Reubens also running in the 20th district. People know if they want to come talk to you or have questions. Love it. Emily was over there too. So thank you very much for listening to me and please vote in February.