Or Tzedek Registers 200 New Voters

July 24, 2014

10544405_557662764359148_6670906849490635176_nFor the second time in July, Or Tzedek and Jewish Student Connection joined ONE Northside’s Voter Registration campaign to register 5,000 people in Lakeview, Edgewater, Uptown and Rogers Park. Six Or Tzedek participants interned with ONE Northside during Advanced Activism and Or Tzedek youth have continued to work on the campaign throughout the summer. So far, Or Tzedek has registered almost 200 voters with ONE Northside!

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Or Tzedek Advanced Activism 2014 Reflection

July 8, 2014

Or Tzedek’s first two-week overnight session was a huge success. The Advanced Activism program, which was double the length of previous sessions, had sixteen teen participants and five staff members.

Working in partnership with more than 14 Chicago-based social justice organizations, this summer’s Or Tzedek teens registered more than 130 voters, took part in an action to stop deportations and created “know your rights” videos. They canvassed for housing justice and raising the minimum wage.

Click on any photo below to read much more about the 2014 program.

» See it all on OTz’s Instagram page

Or Tzedek Interns at Three Community Organizations

June 11, 2014

d7baf4b2e67660cd2b9fBy Noa Fleischacker, Or Tzedek Program Intern

In less than a week, our Or Tzedek Advanced Activism participants will start their four day internships with Growing Home, Inc., ONE Northside, and Centro Autónomo! These organizations have graciously welcomed us in and will show the Or Tzedek teens different approaches to creating systemic change in Chicago communities.

Join us on Or Tzedek Advanced Activism 2014 through Facebook and Instagram!

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Ban Guns in Houses of Worship with Or Tzedek

May 16, 2014

The culmination of activism for Or Tzedek and Beth Emet’s year round Jewish organizing program is taking place this Sunday, May 18th! Or Tzedek and Beth Emet teens have been diligently working on a gun violence prevention campaign, advocating for an amendment to the Concealed Carry Act that would ban guns in houses of worship.  

The campaign is focusing on moving Representative Carol Sente of the 59th district to support this amendment. 

On Sunday, we will be at Congregation Beth Am and Temple Beth-El, encouraging members to send postcards to Rep. Sente. During the concealed carry legislation debate, Rep. Sente supported concealed carry, saying that the issue was important to her constituents.

Now is the time to show Rep. Sente that as Jews, as Chicagoans, and as constituents, we believe it is important to ensure places of worship remain safe and secure spaces for healing and human development.

Join Or Tzedek and Beth Emet teens in action! 

If you live in the 59th district or are a concerned member of the Chicagoland Jewish community, please call Rep. Sente  at (847) 478-9909 on Sunday, May 18th. Below is a sample script. Make sure to include if you are a constituent of her district or if you are a member of a synagogue in her district.

“As a part of the Chicagoland Jewish community, I feel that my place of worship should be free of guns. Banning guns in houses of worship makes my congregation a safe place for me, my loved ones and my community. Representative Sente, please support gun violence prevention legislation and vote to ban guns in houses of worship. Join me in making Illinois a safer place.”

Click here for more action steps…

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 our Or Tzedek summer counselors, Wendy Mironov, Ari Weber, 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<<<

wendypicWendy Mironov

Wendy’s  work on social justice issues began in college when she joined the Workers’ Rights Center of Madison’s campaign to stop wage theft at a local restaurant and continued through her travels.

Currently, in Chicago, Wendy is involved in immigrants rights and education justice movement work.  She also recently completed nursing school and works at the Chicago Women´s Health Center, a sliding scale health collective on Chicago’s north side. She is active in the Jewish community as an alumni of AVODAH and Moishe  House Chicago, and as a current member of Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools.

When Wendy closes her eyes, she sees her dream Jewish community. This community is engaged in social justice and movement building as a central part of its practice of Judaism.  This dream, combined with her love of cooking huge meals for dozens of people, makes her very excited to staff Or Tzedek this summer!

Ari Weber

Ari is 29 years old and will be a fourth year rabbinical school student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both social welfare and Hebrew.

Following college, Ari spent four of the following five years in Israel learning in yeshiva, serving in the Nachal Brigade of the Israeli army. He volunteered in Tiveria at the Youth Futures branch of the Jewish Agency and in Tsfat at Livnot U’Lihibanot, an outreach program involving hiking, volunteering, and light spirituality. Ari has just completed his third year of rabbinical school studying in Israel at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion. Upon completion of his studies, he is looking into either working on Hillel campuses or in the chaplaincy field.


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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Chicago Father in Deportation Granted 6 Month Stay of Removal

March 6, 2014

Because of his activism with Undocumented Illinois, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, Organized Communities Against Deportation, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other immigrant justice organizations, Anibal Fuentes will remain in Chicago to see his son turn one. Anibal continues to fight for permanent relief and for President Obama to stop all deportations and will share his story at Chicago’s 5th National Coming Out of the Shadows Day. 

Screen-shot-2014-01-12-at-10.41.08-PMChicago, IL – Yesterday afternoon, Anibal Fuentes received the news that the Chicago immigration office granted him a 6 month stay of removal, until September 2014.

His first thought was about his son: “I am relieved. I get to celebrate my son’s first birthday.” But he said the temporary stay is bittersweet and leaves him in limbo. “But what happens after that? Will I see him grow up?” Anibal is also still under supervision and required to wear an ankle bracelet.

Anibal Eligio Fuentes-Aguilar  was placed in immigration detention after immigration officials raided his building on the in the north side of Chicago. He has a 6-month old baby, Franky, who is a US citizen. Anibal  has no criminal record, and was only placed into immigration custody due to his first encounter with border patrol over 5 years ago.

Meanwhile, Anibal will continue to organize alongside local groups. This Saturday, he will be one of the people sharing his story at Chicago’s 5th National Coming Out of the Shadows Day.

Along with other Chicago families facing deportation, Anibal will be calling attention to the mass number of deportations taking place under President Obama.

“I wonder if President Obama knows what it feels like to be separated from your family, taken to detention, and not know if you’ll see your children again. He can do something for our families and stop the raids and deportations,” Anibal said.

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!

(Guest Post) Rabbi Russo and Diverse Faith Leaders Call for Fair Tax

February 25, 2014

Rabbi David Russo, Anshe Emet Synagogue, delivered a powerful speech about the Jewish community’s responsibility to combat poverty at the “A Better Illinois”  interfaith service to call on politicians in Springfield to move forward on progressive income tax legislation. Speakers included Imam Matthew Ramadan, Rev. Booker Vance, Rev. Otis Moss III,  and Bishop Alberto Rojas. Full text of Rabbi Russo’s speech is printed below. Learn more about JCUA’s work on “A Better Illinois.”

By Rabbi David Russo, Anshe Emet Synagogue

photo 1 (2)One of the central projects of the Five Books of Moses, or the Torah, is to transform our personal narratives into a greater sense of empathy and moral responsibility. The starkest example of this is when the text repeats the refrain, “ki eved hayita be’eretz mitzrayim”- for you were once a slave in the land of Egypt.

The Torah seeks to transform us into people  who see those who are vulnerable and exposed and act towards creating a more just society (based on a teaching of Rabbi Shai Held).

This same theme manifests itself in a line that is known to most Jews, recited in a daily prayer. We pray every day, to a God who is “hagadol, hagibor, vehanora, el elyon” – a God who is supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.

But what most people do not know is the continuation of this verse from the Book of Deuteronomy,

“God shows no favor and takes no bribe, but rather God upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

1620457_10152199202594000_349293273_nThe text begins by praising God as “great, mighty, and awesome.” Of what does God’s greatness, mightiness, and awesomeness consist? According to these verses, not of God’s having created the world, and not of God’s having demonstrated God’s ability to smite God’s enemies. No, God’s grandeur is rooted in God’s fairness, a God who shows no favor and takes no bribe, a God who champions the cause of the oppressed and the downtrodden.

Today we are gathering to uphold this very biblical precept – that so long as any person in our community is without food, without clothing, without schooling, without housing, without safety, without security, then none of us are truly free. For our freedom is intertwined together. And only when have cared for all in this great city can we truly say that we are a sacred community, together walking in God’s ways.


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