Or Tzedek–At It Again!

August 17, 2015

By Deborah Goldberg
JCUA’s Coordinator of Teen Programs

It seems like yesterday that the second session of our summer Or Tzedek program came to a close. In just 10 days, we were able to build an incredible community, engage with Jewish texts and traditions, explore social justice issues and campaigns happening in Chicago today, and take action to make Chicago a more just city.

The 11 teens who participated in this session were curious, energetic, excited, inclusive, and eager to put our Jewish values into action.  We started Or Tzedek as individuals and left, 10 days later, as a community.  Every step of the way–from deeply engaging in workshops on identity, privilege, and systemic causes of injustice to celebrating two Shabbatot as a community, from advocating to Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison’s Chief of Staff on the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights to leading a prayer vigil in support of the Trauma center Campaign—the teens’ commitment to Jewish social justice work was inspiring.

It’s impossible to capture everything we did in 10 days in one paragraph.  The photo essay below shares some of the highlights of our 10 days together: (Click on any photo below to see a slideshow with comments!)

I tell people all the time—I have the best job in the whole world and that I get to work with young people from around the country who all have the power to create positive, systemic change.  On our final morning together, I shared with the teens that I hope Or Tzedek and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs are always places they will feel at home (I shared the same hope with our first session participants).  It was sad to depart on that Sunday morning because the teens had truly built a Jewish social justice home in 10 short days together.  At the same time, I am so excited to continue working with all our teens throughout this coming year and beyond as they continue to work to make the world a more just place!

Reflecting on 10 Days of Change: Or Tzedek 2015 Summer Session 1

July 2, 2015

By Deborah Goldberg
JCUA’s Coordinator of Teen Programs

It’s hard to believe that at this time two weeks ago, our first summer 2015 session was just getting under way!  It was an incredible 10 days of activism, advocacy, organizing, and having fun together.  If I could sum up 10 days in 10 numbers, here’s what I would say:

10 amazing teens

9 workshops on social justice concepts and campaigns

8 partner organizations visited

7 hours of prep for two prayer vigils and an advocacy visit with the President of the Illinois Senate

6 amazing staff members

5 states represented

4 jumbo bags of M&Ms consumed

3 views of Chicago (by boat, by car, and from the 37th floor of a downtown office!)

2 Shabbatot

1 incredible Or Tzedek session

There’s no possible way to capture the enthusiasm and passion of our first session teens in words and numbers alone.  From participating in meaningful workshops to advocating to the president of the Illinois State Senate on the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights, from leading a prayer vigil in support of the Trauma Center Campaign to celebrating two Shabbatot together, the teens’ energy, curiosity, and willingness to give 100% of themselves in every workshop and meeting was inspiring.

Check out the photo essay below for more information on our experiences! (Click on any photo below to see a slideshow with comments!)

As our first summer session came to a close on Sunday morning, I shared with the teens that I hope Or Tzedek and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs are always places where they feel at home.  In just 10 short days, we were able to build a community, take action on several campaigns, celebrate Shabbat, and help prepare our teens to take their new skills and passion for social justice home.  We can’t wait to see these teens again at future Or Tzedek and JCUA programs!

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 deborah@jcua.org 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!”

JCUA Newsletter – February 2015

February 11, 2015

In the February 2015 issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • JCUA congratulates Arise Chicago and Golan’s workers for winning their strike and first union contract.
  • RSVP to join JCUA and other members of the Trauma Center Coalition for an Interfaith Vigil.
  • Register now for JCUA’s 2015 Passover Seder – Getting to the Promised Land.
  • JCore Member Meeting – Wednesday, February 18.
  • Sign up for Or Tzedek 2015 summer sessions.
  • Save the Date for JCUA’s first progressive dinner – ‘Just Eat’ – on June 15.
  • Rabbi Ari Hart reflects on his work with JCUA.

Read it now


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