By Leora Abelson
Rabbinical Student Fellow, JCUA
I saw the movie “The Hunger Games” this spring. I knew nothing about the books or the movie and was caught totally off guard by the horrific premise.
If you aren’t familiar, it’s about a “game” in which teenagers fight each other to the death over the course of several days in a forest, while the rest of the world watches. Fun, right?
One of many intense scenes in the movie depicts a lottery to determine which young people will be forced to participate in the event; the suspense, obviously, is tremendous.
So when one of the high school students participating in JCUA’s Or Tzedek Advanced Activism session compared lotteries to get into high school with that scene in “The Hunger Games,” I was really struck.
It happened at an event called “Youth Power: A Story Slam.” That evening, young people from Or Tzedek, AVODAH, Immigrant Youth Justice League, UIC, CAIR-Chicago and other organizations gathered to tell stories, laugh and support one another. We heard stories about learning how to pray, getting into high school, putting one’s life on the line to fight for the world we want to live in, and being inspired by mentors, parents, and friends.
A couple of brave Or Tzedek participants told compelling stories, two of which were about the process of applying to Selective Enrollment High Schools in Chicago.
One Or Tzedeker mentioned the film, “Waiting for Superman,” which includes a scene about a high school entrance lottery. For him, the Selective Enrollment application process in Chicago felt hardly less arbitrary than a lottery. He compared the stakes to that scene in “The Hunger Games,” saying, essentially, that it feels like a life-or-death moment.