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Abstract

In 1951, nearly all of the Chicagoland Jewish population was concentrated in the city. Just 30 years later, a strong majority of the population had moved to the suburbs, chasing better housing and schools, and fleeing the growing Black populations on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Despite the newfound luxuries of the community’s increasing affluence and distance from urban life, however, many Chicago Jews strove to maintain a connection to the city and a commitment to reducing urban poverty and racial segregation. The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), a local organization founded in 1964, continued to advocate for liberal Jewish involvement in urban advocacy in the later 1960s and 1970s, despite the changing demographics and increasingly separatist politics of these years. In this thesis, I argue that the JCUA serves as a powerful counterexample to existing scholarly narratives of growing Jewish distance from urban life and politics from the 1960s to the 1980s, as an organization that successfully adapted liberal interracial politics in a way that viably, if imperfectly, forged a path for urban Jewish social justice activism.

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