Rabbi Robert Marx
Early Chicago activism
Jack Egan involved religious cohorts from the Interreligious Council on Urban Affairs in both the contract buyers dispute and in appeals to local groups to accept neighborhood integration. “I can’t believe the courage it took for you, an urban priest, a member of the establishment, to go into churches where people were terrified of losing their homes and preach integration,” Rabbi Robert Marx told Jack Egan over dinner one evening at Marx’s home. “I remember you and me and Edgar Chandler, Church Federation of Greater Chicago, spending countless evenings going as a team into churches, mostly Catholic, and telling them how life could be beautiful in a society where all people were equal. You took the lead in doing that.”
Rabbi Marx, Jack Egan’s loyal IRCUA ally, remembers first meeting Monsignor Egan at an IRCUA session shortly after Marx arrived in Chicago in 1962 as the head of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. “There was this dynamic Catholic priest—bald even in those days—talking about community organizations.” As a result of Jack Egan’s work, Rabbi Marx “got into something which was to change my life directly.” When Saul Alinsky called the attention of the Merrill Trust to the fine work Rabbi Marx was doing in The Woodlawn Organization, a vice president of the trust came to Marx’s door with free good-doing grant money for the rabbi.
As Marx tells it, only minutes after the Merrill Trust vice president handed over the $15,000 check made out to Rabbi Robert Marx, Marx’s phone rang. At the Jewish Federation office, a former professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin was asking about a job. “In that moment.” Rabbi Marx says, “the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs was created. We used the $15,000 to hire the bearded scholar Lew Kreinberg, an esoteric human being, and set him to work on housing with the Northwest Community Organization.” (In 1990, John McCarron would call Kreinberg “a man of a million causes,” in the Chicago Tribune.)
The first complaint JCUA handled, Marx says, “related to a slum landlord who happened to be Jewish.” Called into Marx’s office, he agreed to remove housing code violations. “We had our first successful resolution of a problem related to the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs,” Marx reports. As a man who has given much thought to the situation of Jews in society, Rabbi Marx saw how easy it was to focus on the role of the Jews holding blacks’ contracts in Lawndale. While it was true there was “a group of unscrupulous businessmen, I’m sorry to say most of them Jewish, who went around Lawndale, which was primarily a Jewish neighborhood in the early sixties, saying `The blacks are coming,’” there were other contributing groups. The mortgage houses, the banks, the insurers, all had redlined Lawndale.
Clergy and Laity Concerned, Chicago Chapter
Tribute to Golub and Montgomery
ON November 16, 1989, Robert Marx served on the Tribute Committee for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Tribute to Leon Golub and Lucy Montgomery, held at the Congress Hotel, Chicago.
- With knowledge that the basic tenets of all faith traditions support the rights of workers, Arise Chicago organizes the religious community to bring about just resolutions to workplace injustice.
- When workers wish to form a union, they are often met with intimidation and harassment. Arise Chicago organizes religious leaders through its Faith and Labor Solidarity program to support workers seeking unionization.
Interfaith Worker Justice
Interfaith Worker Justice was founded in 1996 with the mission of "engaging the religious community in low-wage worker campaigns and rebuilding partnerships with the labor movement."
Kim Bobo, IWJ Executive Director, founded the organization using her bedroom as an office and a $5,000 bequest left to her by her grandmother as the initial budget. Despite these humble origins, she had mighty helpers as part of her original Board of Directors. This founding group included Rabbi Robert Marx, Bishop Jesse DeWitt, Monsignor George Higgins, Monsignor Jack Egan, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Michael Rouse, Rev. Addie Wyatt, Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Monsignor Phil Murnion, Rev. Wayne Stumme, Bishop James Malone, Sr. Nancy Sylvester, Rev. Jim Sessions, Ms. Evely Laser-Shlensky, Mr. Thomas Shellabarger and Mr. J. Chris Sanders.
- In just eleven years, IWJ has organized a national network of more than 70 interfaith committees, workers' centers and student groups, making it the leading national organization working to strengthen the religious community's involvement in issues of workplace justice.
Jewish Alliance for Justice & Peace
- Clergy and Laity Concerned, Metro Chicago chapter letterhead, March 22, 1983
- Tribute to Golub and Montgomery: Program, Nov. 16, 1989
- Healthcare-Now! Board
- Rabbinic Cabinet