Lew Kreinberg joined the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs on its first day in 1964. For more than thirty years as staff and board member, Lew made himself available to communities across the city in the name of local empowerment and advancement.
Kreinberg was instrumental in the founding of the West Side Federation in 1964, which emerged out of the efforts to transport West Side blacks to a civil rights rally in Soldier Field featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. The West Side Federation served as a coordinating body for West Side organizations. The Reverend Shelvin Hall of Friendship Baptist Church and Father Daniel Mallette, a Catholic Priest at St. Agatha’s Church, were the other leading spirits.
The organizing ferment on Chicago’s West Side, which included Bernard LaFayette’s work with the American Friends Service Committee, led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with an advance team led by James Bevel, to focus its energies on the West Side even as it allied with the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, whose roots were deepest on the city’s South Side.
In February 1966, the West Side Federation, along with CCCO and SCLC, seized a run-down apartment building at 1321 South Homan and assumed “trusteeship” of the structure. This was one of the most important events in the first few months of the Chicago Freedom Movement.
Kreinberg, who had been trained in the Alinsky organizing tradition, was not especially enamored with the open-housing focus of the Chicago Freedom Movement, but he did participate in the marches for equal opportunity in housing. As an organizer for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, he focused on the needs of the inner city long after the Chicago Freedom Movement had ended. In the 1980s, Kreinberg served as an aide to Mayor Harold Washington. With Charles Bowden, he co-authored Street Signs Chicago: Neighborhood and Other Illusions of Big-City Life, a summary of years of experience working on bringing change to life for ordinary Chicagoans.
Rabbi Robert J. Marx is the founder and a past president of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, where he continues to be an active board member, leader and mentor. He is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, which he founded in 1983.
In the 1960s Rabbi Marx began working on addressing inner-city woes and he was pulled into the broader civil rights movement. In 1965, he went to Selma, Alabama, to participate in the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march. The next year, Marx was asked by the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race to help mediate tensions on Chicago’s Southwest Side as the Chicago Freedom Movement’s open-housing campaign intensified. Marx was there when Southwest Side whites erupted in anger over the presence of nonviolent open-housing marches in the Marquette Park area. “What I saw,” he later wrote, “. . .seared my soul in a way that my participation in no other civil rights event had done.” He soon realized that he “should have been with the marchers.” On Friday, August 5, 1966, Marx joined Martin Luther King, Jr., and over five hundred marches as they bore witness to housing discrimination on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Since the 1960s, Marx has continued his tireless pursuit of justice by helping to found Interfaith Worker Justice (formerly the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice) where he is a board member and past president and by serving as a leader of many other organizations including the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities and the Black-Jewish dialogue. Rabbi Marx was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and received a PhD in philosophy from Yale University.