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!<<<
Read the rest of this entry »

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.


Religious and Faith Leaders Demand a Progressive Income Tax

February 24, 2014

With only 70 days before deadline to pass the Fair Tax Act, over 100 religious & faith leaders say that Illinois’ elected officials must take swift action to prevent the state’s budget collapse for education, healthcare, and vital human services that support low-income and working families. JCUA, Arise Chicago, Community Renewal Society, SEIU, and other coalition partners have organized this interfaith service. Join us on Feb. 25, 10:30 am, at the Chicago Temple. 

logo-hoverChicago, IL – Approximately 100 religious and faith leaders are expected at an interfaith service at the Chicago Temple on Tuesday to call on politicians in Springfield to move forward on legislation to create a Fair Tax in Illinois, with lower tax rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes.

People of faith feel compelled to act due to the injustice of Illinois’ tax code, where lower and middle income families pay a tax rate that is more than twice that of the very rich, when considering all state and local taxes paid.  They are deeply concerned that without fundamental budget reform that includes a Fair Tax, the looming fiscal cliff in Springfield will bring irreparable harm to Illinois’ most vulnerable communities – including children, seniors, and the poor – and impose intense suffering for years to come.

The revenue lost from expiration of the 2011 temporary income tax increase is projected to create an additional $2 billion hole on top of the state’s $6 billion in unpaid bills.

The broad and diverse coalition of faith leaders supporting a Fair Tax will speak to the urgency for action by leaders in Springfield on Tuesday, and will include representatives from Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Muslim, and Jewish teachings.  More than 225 faith leaders from across the state have joined the coalition to date.


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 »


A Strong Jewish Voice for Economic Justice

January 22, 2014

443Seventy-five Jewish community members from JCUA, Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS), Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation and Moishe House came together for havdallah and economic justice training. Despite the cold weather outside, Moishe House was filled with Jews from different generations raising their voices to address the inequitable distribution of resources.

Rabbi Brant Rosen from JRC led a text study that used Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to  illuminate the racial and economic inequalities currently present in Chicago. We left the evening ready to fight for a more justice city with the “A Better Illinois” campaign. 486

Act Now for Economic Justice!

Click here to learn more about JCUA’s work for a fair and just tax system.  JCUA is a proud member of the “A Better Illinois” campaign, advocating for a fair and just tax structure in Illinois.


(Guest Post) MLK Weekend Havdallah and Training

January 13, 2014

Join JCUA, Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS), Moishe House, and Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston for a powerful havdallah and workshop to learn about organizing for economic justice legislation. The event will be held  on Saturday, January 18 from 6-8:30 at Moishe House, 6418 North Glenwood Avenue. Take action with JCUA  for a fair and just tax system in Illinois and RSVP. 

By Ben Lorber
Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools

goodwin2In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we will gather this Saturday night as Jews to educate and organize the Chicagoland Jewish community around the struggles to create a fair income tax system and to close corporate tax loopholes in Illinois. At this special havdallah evening, study the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel, learn about the ongoing fight for racial and economic justice in Chicago, and motivate ourselves to take action to bring justice to our city!

“A Better Illinois” is a coalition of over 70 community, labor, faith, and civic organizations, , including JCUA, JSAS, and Rabbi Rosen, that is working to create a progressive income tax rate in the state of Illinois. Currently, Illinois’ citizens are taxed at a flat rate irrespective of income. Under this system, a single mother surviving on $15,000 a year sees the same percentage of her income- 5% taken out for taxes as does a business executive making $15,000,000 a year. Clearly, a loss of 5% yearly income is much more serious for the former than for the latter.

Read the rest of this entry »


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