JCUA’s Or Tzedek Honored by Slingshot Fund


Teen social justice program is the only Chicago organization recognized among the nation’s 50 ‘most innovative’ Jewish nonprofits

Slingshot FundCHICAGO, Nov. 8, 2012 – A Chicago-based program that engages Jewish teenagers in social justice activism has been named one of North America’s 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits. Or Tzedek, the teen social justice program of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, is the only Chicago organization included in the 2012-2013 edition of Slingshot, a funders’ resource guide for Jewish innovation.

Or Tzedek, which means “Light of Justice” in Hebrew, offers 8-day summer immersion sessions, a winter break leadership training retreat and numerous programs during the year. Crossing racial, religious and ethnic lines, Or Tzedek teens work closely with peers in Chicago’s diverse communities.

Enrollment in Or Tzedek has increased fivefold since its debut in 2007. Now engaging and inspiring as many as 500 young people each year, Or Tzedek participants have come from 18 states and Germany.

The 2012 Or Tzedek Winter Leadership Retreat is scheduled for Dec. 26-29 in downtown Chicago. Curriculum information and registration is available at ortzedek.org.

“The reason for Or Tzedek’s success,” say the Slingshot evaluators, “is that it does not approach teens with an agenda, but rather uses an innovative version of service learning to encourage them to explore and discuss Judaism through hands-on experiences, discussion groups and text study.”

Slingshot goes on to say, “Or Tzedek allows teens to come to their own conclusions about the role justice must play in their lives as adults.”

Across North America, Slingshot organizations grapple with concerns in Jewish life such as identity, community, social justice and tradition, each with different missions, perspectives and strategies. Slingshot organizations are selected from among hundreds of nominees based on innovation, impact, leadership and organizational efficiency.

The Slingshot resource guide is distributed to 7,500 funders, foundation professionals, and organizational leaders. Readers use Slingshot to identify the most inspiring and trail blazing organizations, projects, and programs in the North American Jewish community today.

JCUA has been listed in several previous editions of Slingshot. This is the first time a specific JCUA program was singled out for special recognition.

“Slingshot exposes Or Tzedek and JCUA to a vibrant funding community, a valuable vehicle as we work to meet the increasing interest and demand for meaningful teen programming in the Jewish community,” says Judy Levey, JCUA’s executive director. 

About Slingshot (www.slingshotfund.org)

Slingshot was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios with the most innovative and effective organizations and programs in North America. This guide contains information about each organization’s origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. Now in its eighth edition, Slingshot has proven to be a catalyst for next generation funding and offers a telling snapshot of shifting trends in North America’s Jewish community.

Inspired six years ago by Slingshot, a group of next-generation philanthropists launched the Slingshot Fund, a collective giving mechanism to support innovative Jewish life. In just six cycles, 58 members of the Slingshot Fund have contributed more than $2.1 million to innovative Jewish organizations.

About JCUA (www.jcua.org)

Founded in 1964, the mission of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities. Guided by prophetic Jewish principles, JCUA pursues social and economic justice for Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods by promoting a vision of empowering communities from within.

Teens Talk About Their Or Tzedek Experiences

  • “I don’t think I’ve made relationships on this deep a level before. I don’t think I would be as complete a person as I am now if it hadn’t been for what we learned in this week.” – Vered
  • “I really loved looking at my religion [through] a different lens. I learned not just about the community, but about how to connect with people.” – Stacy
  • “I met Jews from all different races, backgrounds, economic classes and geographic locations. It was very cool.” – Noah
  • “I finally saw injustices in Chicago. I knew they existed in the world, but I saw how someone in Chicago can do so many things to change people’s lives.” – Avital
  • “Or Tzedek opened my eyes to problems that burst my little bubble and made me confront injustice face-to-face, making me realize how much I can do and change.” – Miranda
  • “One of the biggest things I’ll be taking away from this program is that social justice and Judaism go hand and hand.” – Sarah

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