By Deborah Goldberg
JCUA’s Teen Programs Coordinator
Yesterday, Or Emet teens put their advocacy skills into action. We met with State Senator Daniel Biss, the chief of staff in Senator Julie Morrison’s office, and State Representative Julie Fine to talk about state licensing of gun dealers in order to reduce gun violence in Illinois. Our meetings were the culmination of several months of learning about gun violence, listening to community partners engaging with this issue, researching legislation, and preparing remarks for our meetings.
JCUA knows that teens’ voices and power are an important part of building a more just Chicago and world. Each of the legislators’ offices we visited shared how much they appreciated hearing from informed, passionate young people.
Last weekend, many of us participated in a Passover seder. The seder is full of social justice themes, but as someone who has the privilege of working with youth as a part of my professional life, I am always struck by the section on the four children. Tradition tells us that there are four children: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child, and the child who doesn’t know how to ask. They ask different questions and we respond to them differently. I think each of us has a bit of each child within us at all times, and I think our work as social justice activists cycles through each of the four children. The wise child asks, “What can we do together to make the world a more just place?” The wicked child asks, “Why should I care when nothing we do makes a difference?” The simple child asks, “What is injustice?” And the one who doesn’t know how to ask doesn’t know where to begin. On any given day, I can feel myself, and I see our teens, embody each of the four children.
During the Passover seder, we specifically encourage our young people to ask questions—to understand our own history as a Jewish people, our individual family’s history, and the issues that plague our cities and world today. Throughout this year, the teens participating in Or Emet have asked thoughtful questions about injustice and inequality in our city; they have also asked questions about how we begin to undo structures that preserve and protect injustice and inequality. Meeting with legislators to ask them to enact legislation that would reduce and prevent gun violence feels especially powerful on Passover.
Even though yesterday was a culmination of our Or Emet Year of Action program, I also hope that tomorrow is just the beginning of our teens’ involvement in advocacy, activism, and community organizing. Be sure to click on the photos below to see our teens in action in our meetings with Senator Biss, Senator Morrison’s chief of staff, and Representative Fine!
If you or an 8th-11th grader you know would like to be involved in Or Tzedek, register for our immersive summer session! Spend 12 amazing days in the city of Chicago building your leadership skills, creating change, and making friends from around Chicago and the country. For more info and to register, visit http://www.jcua.org/ortzedeksummer