Meet Our Super Awesome Or Tzedek Summer Staff!

May 19, 2015

deborah-goldbergBy Deborah Goldberg
JCUA Manager of Teen Programs

I am so thrilled that Or Tzedek Summer 2015 is right around the corner!  My name is Deborah Goldberg and I am the Or Tzedek program coordinator.  I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and before working for JCUA, I worked as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. (I’m also the reigning treasure hunting champion of Washington University, I love puzzles and brainteasers, and I would live in Panera if they would let me.) I like to tell people that my job at JCUA is the best job in the world because I get to do what I love—engage teens in social justice work within a Jewish context, and have fun doing it!

Below, you can read more about the other staff members who will be joining the Or Tzedek team this summer!  They are experienced, passionate, talented people, and I am so happy they’ll be part of our community.

There are still spaces left for teens to be part of this transformational summer program!  Register here, or contact Deborah Goldberg, Coordinator of Teen Programs, at deborah@jcua.org or 312-663-0960 for more information.

Talia Barzel

Talia Barzel

“I am so excited to join Or Tzedek as a staff member this summer! As a mixed-race Chinese-American Jew, issues of racism, immigration, and labor justice motivate me both personally and professionally. I am equally passionate about study and mentoring youth.  I spent the last several years teaching Hebrew school in the Philadelphia area, designing justice-oriented Jewish curricula, and counseling teenagers of many backgrounds.”

Talia holds a B.A. in linguistics from the U of C and will begin a Master’s of Social Work at Columbia in the fall. She will be joining us for both sessions of Or Tzedek.

Sam Sawyer

Sam2

“I’m finishing up my final semester at the University of Vermont, where I majored in Global Studies and Spanish.  I’m originally from Minneapolis, and I participated in Or Tzedek as a teen and spent a summer interning for JCUA.  Or Tzedek inspired me to see how social justice issues are Jewish issues.

I am passionate about refugee and immigrant rights and how health disparities are related to racism and other systems of oppression.  I am excited to start my post-college life in Chicago and to inspire teens to fight injustice through a Jewish lens!”

Sam will be joining us for Session 1.

Emma Epstein

emma3

“I am so excited to be staffing Or Tzedek this summer!  When teens are exposed to new ideas and communities, it can be a transformative experience that shines light on new ways of thinking.

I want to infuse Or Tzedek with kavana, or intention, connecting our spirituality and faith to the values of creating a better world for all. This will be my first summer in the Midwest and I am ready to learn, grow and celebrate with you in Chicago!!”

Emma is a social work graduate student at the University of Chicago, and she will be joining us for Session 2.

Aryeh Bernstein

Aryeh-BernstinAryeh is hanging with Or Tzedek as our Jewish educational consultant. He is a Torah educator, culture integrator, and 5th-generation South Sider. He teaches for Mishkan Chicago and elsewhere, and co-founded the Northwoods Beit Midrash at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. In 2011, he independently released a hip-hop album called A Roomful of Ottomans.

“I can’t wait to get to work on the amazing task of translating, to the best of my ability, what Torah expects of us as responsible human beings and Jews in today’s metro Chicago, and have fun doing it!”



‘Just’ Eat at the JCUA Family Supper Table

May 14, 2015

By Adam Sawyer
‘Just’ Eat Event Committee Member

Greetings friends!  My name is Adam Sawyer, and I was asked to join the host committee for JCUA’s ‘Just’ Eat annual fundraiser by my fiancé and JCUA’s communications manager, Hannah Wolod.  Being deeply infatuated with this woman, I couldn’t say no.  So here I am, absolutely thrilled to be helping out with an event that she cares about, but that also speaks to the heart of what it means to me to be a family.

Growing up in a one-horse town in the middle of Central Illinois, we didn’t have a family meal nearly enough.  My father was an iron foundry worker who changed his shift more times than I could count during my childhood.  Couple this with the fact that myself, my brother, and my sister were always busy with after-school stuff, the regular family dinner was somewhat of a rarity.  This wasn’t due to a lack of trying from my mother though.  If and when there was a time when we were all together in the house during “Supper” time, we were eating together as a family, dammit! I urge YOU to join JCUA on June 15 at their supper table, ‘Just’ Eat.

Evite Just Eat Heading DraftWhy should you come? Because for me, it was these semi-rare suppers that helped create the man I am today.  While they may not have been high in quantity, they were loaded with quality content.  Some of my first political, social, and spiritual belief systems were developed around that table.  It was at this table, eating Hamburger Helper, where I first truly understood what it meant to be part of the lower-middle class.  It was at this table where I realized how important education equality, access to health care, and stamping out other social injustices was. So join JCUA at their supper table, ‘Just’ Eat, and help them continue to influence beliefs in Chicago like my table shaped me.

JCUA is a family, bound together by a belief structure that as a community, we can make Chicago, the greatest city in the world, a beacon in a country ripped apart by racial, social, and socioeconomic injustice.  That, and I promise you, the food will be way better than the Hamburger Helper I’m used to!

P.S. Did I mention that the company I work for, Genuine Scooters, is also proudly participating in this event. Enter the ‘Just’ Raffle for your chance to win any of several super awesome prizes. The grand prize scooter package comes with a brand new Buddy ‘Brit” Scooter! Ride away in style. Buy raffle tickets now!

buddy50_brit




Why You Should ‘Just’ Eat on June 15

May 6, 2015

Max-WolodBy Max Wolod
‘Just’ Eat Event Committee Member and Guest Blogger

My name is Max Wolod and I am thrilled to be a small part of the planning committee for JCUA’s “Just Eat” event on June 15th. My sister Hannah is a JCUA employee and an all-around awesome person, and when she asked me a few months ago if I would like to be a part of said committee, I was leaning away from participating. Work for free? FEH!

Hannah approached me because of my professional background in bars and restaurants. If I’m being honest, and what better place than an online bio that will be read by maybe 3 people for honestly, she hoped to work me for my “cool people” industry contacts. BUT, when I learned more about JCUA and about the ‘Just’ Eat event itself, I made up my mind and decided to do what I could to help out.

It ended up being an easy choice. JCUA is a group of wholly devoted and soulful and interesting and altruistic people, doing incredibly important work with limited means, advocating for the RIGHT causes, helping make Chicago, the city I love and YOU love, a just place for all its people…my association with them, limited though it may be, has made me feel good. REALLY good. I don’t know about you, but the majority of my pursuits could hardly be considered worthwhile. So the opportunity to do something empirically good and soul-nourishing with food, easily the most important thing in both my personal and professional life…I’m a lucky guy. Read the rest of this entry »



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