Or Tzedek Summer 2016 is right around the corner (88 days and counting until our first session begins!), and we are so excited for another amazing summer of activism, advocacy, and community organizing.
My name is Deborah Goldberg, and I am the Or Tzedek program coordinator. My work at JCUA combines three things I’m passionate about–working with young people, engaging in social justice work, and exploring what Judaism has to say about our imperative to pursue justice. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and spent my summers as a camper and staff member at URJ Camp Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute. Before working for JCUA, I worked as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. I am so excited to spend another summer with an amazing group of teens committed to making the world a more just and equitable place!
Below, you can read more about the staff members who will be joining us this summer. They are experienced and talented educators and counselors, and all of them are excited to be connecting (and reconnecting) to Or Tzedek this summer.
We will be joined all summer by Aryeh Bernstein, Or Tzedek’s lead Jewish educator:
Aryeh Bernstein returns for his second summer as Or Tzedek’s lead Jewish educator. He is also the Founding Director of the Hyde Park Teen Beit Midrash, the Program Coordinator for the Avodah Chicago Fellows program, and a resident Jewish educator for Farm Forward’s Jewish Initiative for Animals, is a Senior Editor of Jewschool.com, and teaches Torah for Mishkan Chicago, the University of Chicago Hillel, and elsewhere. He is a 5th-generation South Sider, who lives in Hyde Park, previously lived in Israel for 14 years, and has taught Torah in many settings, including Mechon Hadar, Drisha, the TAKUM social justice beit midrash, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the National Havurah Institute, and synagogues and campus groups across the denominational spectrum. He has studied at Columbia University, JTS, YU, YCT, and Yeshivat Maale Gilboa.
SESSION 1 STAFF
Talia Barzel:“I cannot wait to return to staff Or Tzedek this June. As a second-generation Chinese American Jew and a former Hebrew School teacher, I have lots of experience discussing race, ethnicity, and immigration within Jewish circles and the United States as a whole. I love how Or Tzedek is a respectful, supportive community where teens can explore many kinds of social justice and discover which causes most inspire them to take action. I also enjoy exploring different Chicago neighborhoods through Or Tzedek and weaving Torah discussion into our advocacy.
I have a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the University of Chicago and I am currently studying for a Master’s in Social Work at Columbia University in New York. My favorite Or Tzedek activity is the Neo-Futurists show and one of my Jewish social justice heroes is Rose Schneiderman.”
Emma Epstein: “I am so excited to return to Or Tzedek this summer! I am looking forward to continuing to learn about how awesome Chicago is and how much incredible work is happening in this city. I will be graduating with a Masters in Social Work 3 days before the beginning of Or Tzedek, and I am looking forward to building relationships and continuing learning.
A particularly memorable experience from last year was when we visited the KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Hyde Park. They showed us their massive volunteer-run garden that they built on the front lawn of the synagogue (right next to Obama’s house!). In just a few years, they have been able to grow enough produce to deliver 1000s of pounds of fresh produce to soup kitchens and food banks. Incredible!”
SESSION 2 STAFF
Emily Isaacson: “I am so excited to be staffing the second session of Or Tzedek this summer! I was a participant in the program in 2011-2013, and last summer I was a programming intern at JCUA. As a participant, Or Tzedek was such a formative experience in developing a relationship between my Jewish and Social Justice values, and I care deeply about the work JCUA is doing. I’m excited to help make this summer an amazing experience for a new group of teens.
I’m looking forward to getting to know the city of Chicago better with a new group of people from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, learning about systems of oppression and community organizing models, and doing it all through a Jewish lens!”
Lili Gecker: “I am so excited to join Or Tzedek this summer! After graduating Brandeis University, I did a year of service with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. It was through AVODAH that I first began connecting my value for social justice with my Jewish identity. Since then I have worked in political and labor organizing, and I am currently an active member of JCUA’s organizing campaigns. I believe that young people have the power to make real social and political change, and Or Tzedek gives young people the tools to begin. In my free time I enjoy seeing contemporary art and taking improv class at iO. This fall I will begin graduate school at University of Chicago pursuing my master’s in social work.”