Last month, Or Tzedek held its second annual Winter Leadership Retreat. Fourteen teens from diverse Jewish backgrounds attended these four powerful days of learning, building relationships and creating change.
Through their actions and workshops, Or Tzedek’s youth leaders demonstrated the power of youth working together to address root causes of injustice and build relationships between teen leaders in Chicago’s diverse communities.
By advocating for immigration reform with the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights to phone banking for Southsiders United for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), sharing experiences with a community of Chicago’s young activists at the Faith in Youth Power Story Slam to working on alternatives to our current unjust detention system with the Interfaith Committee on Detained Immigrants, Or Tzedek was, at its core, combating racism, anti-semitism and poverty in Chicago.
Rose, Bud, and Thorn: Reflections on the Retreat
On Friday of the retreat, to facilitate our transition into Shabbat and reflect on our intensive couple of days, we did an exercise called “rose, bud, thorn.” Going around in a circle, we each shared an experience/moment/idea from the retreat that we loved, one that we wanted to pursue further, and one that challenged us to step outside of our comfort zones.
The following are two out of many roses from Or Tzedek’s Winter Retreat, from Emily Dana, Or Tzedek participant and Rebecca Katz, manager of teen programs.
Rebecca’s experience at “Faith in Youth Power Stay Slam”:
On Thursday, the second night of the Winter Leadership Retreat, Or Tzedek partnered with AVODAH, Jewish Student Connection, Mishkan, Moishe House Chicago to put on “Faith in Youth Power Story Slam.”
This open mic night, which took place at Moishe House Chicago in Lakeview, was an opportunity to bring together Chicago’s youth activists, organizers, and leaders and create a space for them to share their faith in youth power or the power they find from faith.
MC’d by one of our own Or Tzedekers, Miranda, and a resident of Moishe House, both of whom helped plan the story slam, over 45 people attended the slam. Over half of the retreat participants performed a poem or story during the event, bravely sharing their experiences as young people actively engaging in their faith and city.
The eloquence in which people told their stories and the respect in which people listened made me feel a part of a movement of young Chicagoans committed to justice.
Emily’s reflection on a Shabbat workshop:
It was our last day together and we were already looking back on the amazing four days that we had spent together. Then we were shaken back into the present by a workshop about the modern needs and wants of a teenager and how we should balance school, sports and the rest of our busy lives, led by retreat participant Stacy Stern.
As we tried to figure out what our priorities were and how we wanted to match our time up with them, I really realized that we all had a lot in common when it came to stress, pressure and mixed up lives. We were all from different backgrounds, different schools, and different grades; yet, in that moment, I may have felt closer to and more empathetic to the rest of our participants and staff than I did at any other time over the retreat.
After discussing what we might change about what we spend time on and what we let influence us, we did an activity where we stood in a circle and someone would say a statement about time management or something of the sort, and if you related to it, you would step forward. I was shocked to see that I was not alone.
Many teenagers often feel that they are alone in the issues that they have to deal with, but in reality, people are just too scared to be open about them. If we all would talk to each other a little bit more, we could all be a little bit happier. After all, it takes a village to keep a teenager sane.