Meet Our Super Awesome Or Tzedek Summer Staff!

May 19, 2015

deborah-goldbergBy Deborah Goldberg
JCUA Manager of Teen Programs

I am so thrilled that Or Tzedek Summer 2015 is right around the corner!  My name is Deborah Goldberg and I am the Or Tzedek program coordinator.  I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and before working for JCUA, I worked as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. (I’m also the reigning treasure hunting champion of Washington University, I love puzzles and brainteasers, and I would live in Panera if they would let me.) I like to tell people that my job at JCUA is the best job in the world because I get to do what I love—engage teens in social justice work within a Jewish context, and have fun doing it!

Below, you can read more about the other staff members who will be joining the Or Tzedek team this summer!  They are experienced, passionate, talented people, and I am so happy they’ll be part of our community.

There are still spaces left for teens to be part of this transformational summer program!  Register here, or contact Deborah Goldberg, Coordinator of Teen Programs, at or 312-663-0960 for more information.

Talia Barzel

Talia Barzel

“I am so excited to join Or Tzedek as a staff member this summer! As a mixed-race Chinese-American Jew, issues of racism, immigration, and labor justice motivate me both personally and professionally. I am equally passionate about study and mentoring youth.  I spent the last several years teaching Hebrew school in the Philadelphia area, designing justice-oriented Jewish curricula, and counseling teenagers of many backgrounds.”

Talia holds a B.A. in linguistics from the U of C and will begin a Master’s of Social Work at Columbia in the fall. She will be joining us for both sessions of Or Tzedek.

Sam Sawyer


“I’m finishing up my final semester at the University of Vermont, where I majored in Global Studies and Spanish.  I’m originally from Minneapolis, and I participated in Or Tzedek as a teen and spent a summer interning for JCUA.  Or Tzedek inspired me to see how social justice issues are Jewish issues.

I am passionate about refugee and immigrant rights and how health disparities are related to racism and other systems of oppression.  I am excited to start my post-college life in Chicago and to inspire teens to fight injustice through a Jewish lens!”

Sam will be joining us for Session 1.

Emma Epstein


“I am so excited to be staffing Or Tzedek this summer!  When teens are exposed to new ideas and communities, it can be a transformative experience that shines light on new ways of thinking.

I want to infuse Or Tzedek with kavana, or intention, connecting our spirituality and faith to the values of creating a better world for all. This will be my first summer in the Midwest and I am ready to learn, grow and celebrate with you in Chicago!!”

Emma is a social work graduate student at the University of Chicago, and she will be joining us for Session 2.

Aryeh Bernstein

Aryeh-BernstinAryeh is hanging with Or Tzedek as our Jewish educational consultant. He is a Torah educator, culture integrator, and 5th-generation South Sider. He teaches for Mishkan Chicago and elsewhere, and co-founded the Northwoods Beit Midrash at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. In 2011, he independently released a hip-hop album called A Roomful of Ottomans.

“I can’t wait to get to work on the amazing task of translating, to the best of my ability, what Torah expects of us as responsible human beings and Jews in today’s metro Chicago, and have fun doing it!”

(Panel Discussion) Widening the Circle: Theory & Identity in the Praxis of Solidarity

October 31, 2013

Asaf Bar-Tura, JCUA’s Director of Operations, will be speaking at a panel discussion (Thursday, November 14, 2013) convened by the University of Chicago Divinity School and four theological seminaries. The topic will be “Theory and Solidarity.” 

Asaf Bar-Tura

Asaf Bar-Tura


The University of Chicago Divinity School is collaborating with seminarians from McCormick Theological Seminary, the Catholic Theological Union, the Lutheran School of Theology, and the Chicago Theological Seminary, in organizing the Annual Ministry Conference. This year’s focus: “Widening the Circle: Theory & Identity in the Praxis of Solidarity.”

The Annual Ministry Conference consists of three panel discussions throughout the year, the first of which will take place on Thursday, November 14, 2013 (5:00-7:00pm).


  • Discussion Topic: “Theory & Solidarity”
  • When: November 14th, 5-7pm
  • Where: McCormick Theological Seminary, Common Room (5460 S University Ave, Chicago)
  • Click here to RSVP

Topic Overview: 

Recognizing that solidarity movements address a wide variety of justice issues, we seek to begin the conversation by hearing about the theoretical perspectives and personal commitments that are at stake in the praxis of solidarity.


  • Asaf Bar-Tura: Director of Operations, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
  • Mikki Kendal: writer and pop culture analyst. Most recently known for her feminist/womanist work related to #solidarityisforwhitewomen.
  • Heath Carter: Associate Professor and historian at Valparaiso University. Particularly interested in issues of economic inequality and how American Christians relate to them.

Discussion Moderator:

  • Rev. Dr. Linda Eastwood: Adjunct Professor and Coordinator of the Colombia Accompaniment Program at McCormick Theological Seminary.

A light dinner will be served. Suggested donation of $5 is welcomed but not required.

Click here to RSVP.

Additional Panel Discussions in this Series:

  • “Identity in Solidarity”: February 6th, 2014 at Chicago Theological Seminary
  • “The Praxis of Solidarity”: May 2, 2014 at the University of Chicago Divinity School

JCUA’s Director of Organizing Will Speak on Immigration Through a Jewish Lens at Southside Community Gathering

May 21, 2013

Rabbi Ali Abrams will be talking about immigration from a Jewish perspective at the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council 2013 Annual Meeting.


Rabbi Ali Abrams

  • When: Tuesday, June 4, 6:00pm
  • Where: Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.  Below is a summary of the event’s schedule.

Event Schedule:

6 p.m. – Registration and dinner (buffet style) will begin.  Those coming for dinner are asked to contribute $10 toward its costs.

6:30 p.m.  While dinning continues, the program will begin.

The program is entitled “Welcoming the Stranger?  Faith Traditions on Immigration Reform.”  A panel of 3 or 4 individuals, from the Jewish, Christian, and eastern religious traditions, will speak on how their faiths inform and guide them in responding to the current Immigration Reform legislation and debate.

7:45 p.m. (to roughly 8:30 p.m.)  Annual Business Meeting


If you have further questions please contact Rabbi Ali Abrams at


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