Lew Kreinberg

scott @ Fri, 2005-08-05 10:39

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.