Action Steps for Gun Violence Prevention Campaign

April 23, 2014

safe sacred spacesThe joint Jewish organizing teen program of Or Tzedek and Beth Emet is working on a campaign to ban guns in houses of worship. Under the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act, the only legal safeguard against guns in houses of worship (as well as businesses and institutions) is a small “No Guns” sign.

As a community of young, Jewish Chicagoans committed to social justice, we must ensure places of worship remain safe and secure spaces where communities can come together to create solutions for root causes of violence.

>>>Read about the campaign here.<<<

As the focus of our campaign to ban guns in houses of worship, we decided to work on moving a decision-maker in the northern suburbs, state Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills)  to publicly support gun violence prevention legislation.

  • During the concealed carry legislation debate, Rep. Sente supported concealed carry, saying that the issue was important to her constituents. On July 9, 2013, Rep. Sente voted to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the concealed carry bill that authorizes an individual to carry a concealed firearm, effective immediately.

With many synagogues in her state legislative district (59th), this is a powerful opportunity to organize a strong Chicagoland Jewish voice against gun violence.

Act now to show Rep. Sente that as Jews, as Chicagoans, and as constituents, we support gun violence prevention legislation.

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Meet Or Tzedek’s Summer Staff

April 18, 2014

We would like to introduce two of our Or Tzedek summer counselors, Graie Barasch-Hagans and Hannah Arwe.  We are excited to welcome such experienced and passionate people to the team.

>>> Learn more about Or Tzedek’s two week overnight summer program<<<

Or Tzedek Bio PicGraie Barasch-Hagans

Graie is a St. Louis native who is currently living in Philadelphia while pursuing a Masters in Public Policy from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.

Last year he spent a year in service through Americorps Vista in New Orleans. Graie is an active member of Kol Tzedek, a Reconstructionist Synagogue in West Philly.

He is passionate about Judaism, social justice, public education, and working with youth. Graie is excited to be spending this summer with Or Tzedek!


headshot or tzedekHannah Arwe

Hannah is currently finishing her master’s degree in Women’s & Gender Studies at DePaul University.  She has a passion for social activism, specifically when it is grounded in principles of transformative justice and community accountability.

Hannah has focused most of her educational and professional efforts in anti-violence work, specifically domestic violence and youth violence, and has been educating Chicago youth as well as advocating for survivors of domestic violence since she moved to Chicago 3 years ago.

At DePaul, her research has focused on anti-racism and dismantling white privilege.  Hannah is excited to bring her Jewish identity into her social justice work, and can’t wait to get started at Or Tzedek this summer!

Jewish Teens to Mobilize 59th District Synagogues

March 13, 2014
photo 3 At Or Tzedek and Beth Emet’s latest Jewish organizing workshop, Mark Walsh and Camiella Williams from the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence shared both statistical and personally powerful arguments for gun violence prevention legislation.

Sixteen year old May Pat Hector, national youth director for National Action Network and founder of Youth in Action, spoke about her activism to mobilize youth to stand against gun violence in our country.
>>> To keep up with Or Tzedek and Beth Emet’s campaign, like us on Facebook!<<<
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Or Tzedek Participant, Joel Spiegel, Receives Youth of the Year Award from Beth Judea

February 28, 2014

1907817_10151985263673175_757371701_oJewish youth activist Joel Spiegel received the Youth of the Year Award from Congregation Beth Judea at the regional dinner sponsored by the Midwest region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs.

Joel has been a leader in Or Tzedek, participating in Or Tzedek’s “Activism and Community Organizing” in summer 2012 and “Advanced Activism” in summer 2013.  Joel is currently running for precinct committeeman in Buffalo Grove and is a senior at Stevenson High School.

In his acceptance speech, Joel named  Or Tzedek as one of his major influences, stating, ” I wouldn’t not be here today if it weren’t for Marc Sender, Joan Smith, and Rebecca Katz of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs continuing to push me to be the very best I can be.”

894446_10151985268193175_2060826368_oJoel has a gift for engaging people with a diversity of backgrounds and connecting across both similarities and differences. His genuine interest in people’s experiences allows them to open up and share their perspective.  He is truly a community builder.

Joel models the inclusive and supportive behavior necessary for a powerful community. He has the important, but too often rare, leadership quality of offering the support and guidance necessary for others to step out of their comfort zones and discover their own leadership capabilities.

Mazel Tov, Joel!

Jewish Youth Organizing for Gun Control

February 13, 2014
hannah, paulina, and jonahOr Tzedek and Beth Emet’s Jewish organizing  teen program chose by consensus to work on the campaign to ban guns in houses of worship, led by the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence with JCUA , Fierce Women of Faith, and other community partners.

 >>>Read about the campaign here.<<<

From our action planning session, we decided that the target of our action plan will be 59th District State Rep. Carol Sente. With nineteen synagogues in her state congressional district, there is a great opportunity here to organize a strong Jewish voice for control legislation.
>>>Want to be a part of Or Tzedek? Learn more and register for Or Tzedek’s summer programs.<<<

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur time-bound goal will be to move Rep. Sente to vote for the gun control legislation.The tactics we will be using are canvassing (going door to door and engaging residents in her district) and planning a town hall meeting.

The next step will be to split into action teams, in charge of different components of the campaign from outreach and communications to planning actions and connecting with our community partners.

Additionally, it was smartly brought up at the retreat that, to become a powerful, united community, we needed a singular name for the Or Tzedek and Beth Emet Jewish organizing program. So we have decided on Or Emet, a combination of Or Tzedek and Beth Emet that means “light of truth” in Hebrew.

Or Tzedek and Beth Emet Youth Build Power and Community

February 6, 2014

As a part of Or Tzedek and Beth Emet’s joint Jewish organizing program, thirty-six teens came together over the weekend to learn about JCUA’s two social justice campaigns about gun violence and economic justice.  At this overnight retreat, the participants’ passion for creating change in their city and thoughtful approach to choosing a campaign demonstrated their power as a community of powerful Jewish youth. 

1604381_475068609264027_336993884_nWe hear stories of gun violence and poverty in the media and see food deserts and homelessness on the streets of our city. Over the course of Or Tzedek’s summer sessions, many of us have built relationships and acted in solidarity with Chicago’s directly impacted communities. Organizers, teens and religious leaders from different neighborhoods organizations, like Growing Home, Imagine Englewood If.., Fierce Women of Faith, Immigrant Youth Justice League, took the time to meet with us and teach us about their social justice work.

1555476_478157592288462_58978486_nLearning about systemic oppression and institutionalized racism during Or Tzedek, many of us can often feel powerless in the face of these entrenched systems of inequality. But this year long program is opportunity for us to act, as Jews, as Chicagoans, and as young people, for justice in our city. Choosing and working on one of JCUA’s critical campaigns over the next five months is the opportunity to make a real difference as joint, powerful community. Read the rest of this entry »

Or Tzedek Announces Expanded Summer Sessions

January 26, 2014
Or Tzedek Summer 2014

Get the word from Rebecca

Two weeks discovering yourself and your city.

Two weeks of changing your world!

July 27 through Aug. 10, 2014

June 15 through June 29, 2014

Early Bird Registration Discount

Register before March 1 and get 10% off tuition. Join the movement of young, powerful people committed to justice.


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Or Tzedek Hiring Summer Counselors

December 26, 2013

IMG_0945Or Tzedek is hiring its staff for summer 2014.  We are seeking  two junior and two senior counselors to staff our overnight Jewish teen social justice programs on June 15-29 and July 27-10.

Each session will have a team of six staff members: two junior counselors, two senior counselors, Or Tzedek program director and the rabbinical student fellow. We will be accepting applications on a rolling basis for the counselor positions. Compensation is competitive and commensurate with experience.

Learn more and apply online. 

If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Katz, Director of Teen Programs, at rebecca@jcua,org or 312-663-0960, ext. 124.

Or Tzedek Summer Social Justice Program Expands to Two-Week Sessions

December 18, 2013


Deeper engagement in social justice campaigns with JCUA’s community partners — that’s the goal of doubling the length of JCUA’s Or Tzedek summer overnight teen programs.

Registration is open now for the new two-week sessions, created in response to feedback from past participants asking for a more immersive experience.

Summer 2014 Schedule

Advanced Activism
For returning participants and Year of Action/Chavaya participants
June 15-29, 2014

Activism and Community Organizing
For first-time participants
July 27-Aug. 10, 2014

register button

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Director of Teen Programs Speaks about Faith Informed Justice

December 11, 2013

Yesterday evening, Rebecca Katz, JCUA’s Director of Teen Programs, spoke at the 8th Day Center for Justice Young Adult Council and the Brother David Darst Center’s “Speaker Series: Faith Informed Justice.” Together with Jerica Arents, peace activist and educator, and Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, the panel explored how their faith tradition shape their work for justice. Over forty people attended the event, held at the Darst Center.

Rebecca, Jerica, and Gerald at the panel.

Rebecca, Jerica, and Gerald at the panel.

During the panel, Gerald reflected on how his Muslim faith guides his activism work. Addressing how her spirituality shapes her justice work, Jerica described how she uses silence and reflection as a space to examine and combat internalized oppression.

During the Q&A session, many of the questions focused on the panelists’ experiences teaching youth about social injustices in Chicago. One audience member asked,” How do you help teens who are struggling with feelings of guilt?” Speaking from her experience with Or Tzedek, Rebecca answered that guilt is a natural, but unproductive emotion that often causes people to run away from social justice engagement.

As a strategy to move from guilt to (productive) responsibility, Rebecca explained the importance of teaching teens concrete activism and advocacy skills, like creating an action plan or identifying attainable goals. This training allows teens to break down a seemingly insurmountable oppression, like institutionalized racism, into a campaign focused on a specific issue, like gun violence in Chicago.


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