Introducing Maetal Gerson, JCUA Avodah Organizer 2021-2022
Hello! My name is Maetal and I’m the Avodah Organizer for JCUA this coming year. I’m so excited to be working with college and high-school-aged individuals to help them organize around key issues and campaigns. I look forward to connecting them with opportunities to engage in direct service and action from a Jewish perspective. This is especially important to me since I found my home in Chicago through my participation in JCUA’s college organizing fellowship as a college junior. Through the fellowship, I learned that practicing accountability to Jewish values creates space for being accountable to the larger Chicago community. In this way, Judaism engenders systemic action. I look forward to working with the youth in the JCUA community and passing on my experience and passion for social action.
While I grew up in Los Angeles, I consider my college years in Chicago to be the most formative and I call Chicago home. During college, I was heavily involved with Hillel and also in social justice groups on campus. I also have always loved working with kids and young adults, especially in Jewish education settings. In my first two years, I participated in a program geared at training college students who intended to pursue careers in education. While I chose to not pursue this career, the disparities I learned about and witnessed in the education sector caused me to search for ways in which I could contribute to systemic change. During my second year, I served as Social Justice Chair of the Student Leadership Board at Hillel where I organized days of service and connected college students to social justice resources. While I enjoyed working on individual projects, I continued to search for ways of addressing the root of various kinds of injustice. My search for this kind of work led me to JCUA.
When I first started the college organizing fellowship at JCUA, I soon realized that there was a lot more to learn about social justice than I had anticipated. However, instead of hammering into me a fixed conception of social justice, JCUA allowed me to explore my own relationship with social justice. This relationship I found in the connections I made with fellow Jews of Color within the Kol Or caucus and it was there that I found community in community organizing. I hope to encourage others this year to be able to recognize the power that can be derived from a supportive community and also take pride in their Jewish identity as a source of strength.
I am so excited to be spending this year working with this wonderful community to combat systemic oppression and to support their work in transforming the vastly unequal socio-economic landscape within Chicago.