Editor’s Note: “On a Just Path” is a series of stories about former JCUA employees, where they are now and the impact JCUA had on them. Interviews were conducted and edited by Nathaniel Seeskin, AVODAH Organizing Fellow at JCUA.
Q. Tell us about your time at JCUA.
A. I was the Founding Director of Or Tzedek, JCUA’s teen social justice program, in 2006.
Q. What was special about working here?
A. I loved working at JCUA. JCUA is not afraid to ask the tough questions about what goes on in Chicago, not afraid to take action. It was one of the most meaningful opportunities for me to pursue real social justice work in a Jewish context.
Q. What impact did your work at JCUA have on the community?
A. My work planted the seeds of social justice in teens, exposed them to dimensions of their city that they had never seen before, and connected very diverse groups (teens in Englewood and Highland Park) over justice work. One of the most rewarding things is seeing Or Tzedek participants who were 14, 15 years old now launching careers as justice activists, doing amazing work in the world.
Q. How did your experience at JCUA impact what you do now?
A. My experience at JCUA taught me about the power of deep relationships, long term activism, how to truly stand in solidarity with communities. The concept of interstitiality has always stayed with me. I think about our role as both an oppressed and empowered community all the time, and what that means for today and for our future.
Rabbi Ari Hart is a co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization dedicated to combating suffering and oppression. Ari currently serves as Associate Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and as Director of Admissions for Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Ari learned at Yeshivat HaKotel, Machon Pardes, and graduated from Grinnell College in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition.