Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

JCUA large logo (link) by JCUA is licensed CC0 (link)



Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $2,491,644
Expenses: $1,058,213
Assets: $2,992,766


Left-of-center Religious Activist Organization




Judy Levey

Budget (2021):

Revenue: $1,719,055
Expenses: $1,357,845
Assets: $2,864,005

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The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) is an activist organization based in Chicago, Illinois which works to advance left-wing economic, social, and racial causes. Claiming to be acting in accordance with Jewish religious and cultural values, the group opposes imprisoning criminals, campaigns against the enforcement of immigration laws, and offers loans to fund low-income housing projects, among other initiatives.

JCUA also places a special emphasis on combating sentiments which it claims to be motivated by what it labels “white supremacy.” JCUA mainly works towards its goals by training activists and helping organize pressure campaigns in the city of Chicago and across the state of Illinois. 1


Jewish Council on Urban Affairs claims inspiration from the Reform movement within Judaism, which combines a less traditional interpretation of Jewish religious law and teaching with a strong emphasis on left-of-center social activism. The group was founded in 1964 by Rabbi Robert Marx, the head of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, who died in 2021. Now called the Union for Reform Judaism, it is a leading association of theologically and culturally liberal Jewish congregations, as well as a long-time advocate for causes such as taxpayer-funded abortion, preferential treatment of racial minorities under law, and liberal immigration policy. Marx himself was involved in left-wing activism since the 1960s and later developed a close relationship with left-wing Democratic politician and Black-identity-politics activist Jesse Jackson. 2


Jewish Council on Urban Affairs recognizes prominent left-of-center activists or influential associates of the group with the annual Rabbi Robert J. Marx Social Justice Award. In 2021, the group gave the award to Heather McGhee, a writer and pundit who attributes a broad range of perceived problems with American society, from the 2008 financial crisis to student debt to public infrastructure failures, to racism. McGhee’s 2021 book The Sum of Us received praise from radical left-wing activist Ibram X. Kendi, who similarly attributes a wide variety of social issues to racism and calls for preferential treatment of minority groups by societal institutions. 3 4

The JCUA “community safety” project blames allegedly discriminatory political and economic structures for the high crime rates among Black and other racial minority populations in Chicago. It also claims that the safety of Jews in Chicago is impacted by purportedly excessive policing of minority areas, as well as that more crime can be deterred through “treatment not trauma,” and not through increased law enforcement presence and activity. 5

The JCUA “immigration justice” project attacks restrictions on immigration into the United States and claims that Jewish teaching mandates “freedom of movement” across borders. It also claims that the American immigration system is built on “white supremacy” and that societies have an effectively unlimited obligation to admit and accommodate outsiders. The project collaborates with other pro-open borders and anti-immigration enforcement organizations in Chicago and across Illinois. 6

The JCUA “community development” project primarily involves giving out loans to build low-income housing. The group claims that the city of Chicago faces “intensifying gentrification” and “racial injustice” and that its housing projects lead to “equitable job growth.” 7


Karyn Bass Ehler is the president of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs board. She is also the assistant chief deputy to the attorney general of Illinois. She is a career state government bureaucrat, having worked for the Illinois Department of Public Health and Civil Rights Bureau. 8

Judy Levey is the executive director of the JCUA. She previously spent seven years working for the Human Resources Administration of the New York City municipal government. 9

Jackie Baldwin is the director of “antiracism and equity” at the JCUA. She joined the group in 2019. Baldwin previously managed the group’s campaign to increase taxes in Illinois and its push to limit incarceration of criminals. 10


In 2021, the JCUA received just under $1.7 million in contributions and held more than $2.8 million in net assets. 11 The group has received nearly $500,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the largest and most influential left-of-center grantmaking organizations in the United States. 12


  1. About JCUA.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  2. Gabe Friedman. “Rabbi Robert Marx, social justice pioneer who marched with Martin Luther King, dies at 93.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  3. Eileen Hoenigman Meyer. “‘The right wing is not a friend of the Jewish community:’ Q & A with Heather McGhee.” The Jewish Daily Forward. June 17, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  4. Heather McGhee. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  5. “Community Safety.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  6. “Immigration Justice.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  7. [1]“Community Development.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  8. [1]“Karyn L. Bass Ehler.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  9. “Judy Levey.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  10. “Jackie Baldwin.” JCUA. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  11. Jewish Council on Urban Affairs 2021 Internal Revenue Service Form 990. Accessed June 17, 2023.
  12. [1]“Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.” MacArthur Foundation. Accessed June 17, 2023.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1966

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $2,491,644 $1,058,213 $2,992,766 $530,372 N $2,489,708 $8,912 $6,690 $98,812
    2019 Dec Form 990 $988,015 $1,007,101 $1,408,110 $407,790 N $939,610 $44,179 $7,636 $98,483 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $1,388,752 $961,202 $1,295,346 $305,286 N $1,040,422 $282,093 $6,228 $95,615 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $983,031 $863,251 $963,658 $390,925 N $924,582 $52,709 $4,948 $92,829 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $853,838 $796,581 $800,685 $363,904 N $812,103 $39,237 $3,305 $95,525 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $852,335 $832,466 $758,550 $386,848 N $815,029 $34,782 $2,578 $83,610 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $851,047 $815,126 $812,637 $455,479 N $822,769 $24,532 $3,746 $90,400 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $970,579 $808,541 $755,578 $435,278 N $938,936 $30,033 $1,739 $73,733 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $920,118 $1,136,145 $631,251 $525,377 N $908,112 $28,653 $4,169 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,036,891 $1,220,673 $912,218 $585,679 N $910,411 $58,098 $9,311 $0 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $1,027,330 $1,543,690 $1,038,576 $508,233 N $1,024,261 $40,614 $10,598 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

    4411 North Ravenswood Avenue, Suite 300