By Deborah Goldberg
JCUA Teen Programming Coordinator
It’s been six months since last summer ended, and we have been busy with year-round programs and planning for the summer. In October, we kicked off our partnership with Beth Emet Synagogue – Or Emet: Year of Action. We spent October, November, & December exploring and understanding identity & privilege, root causes of social justice, and the principles of community organizing. In January, we came together for a weekend retreat in downtown Chicago. We heard from people working on current campaigns and began to think strategically about how we can take action throughout the rest of the year,which will culminate in a day of advocacy in Springfield in April. Also in October, we started working with the machonikim (teachers’ aids) at Anshe Emet Synagogue to explore community organizing from a Jewish perspective. We will continue meeting once a month until May. In November, we spent three days with the junior class of Rochelle Zell Jewish High School. This past Monday, Or Tzedek finished up a three-part workshop with 10th graders at Congregation Beth Am, Congregation Beth Judea, and Temple Chai, where we examined community organizing and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign.
I’m tired just typing all the things we’ve been up to this past school year!
One of the best parts of Or Tzedek is the diverse groups of teens who come together to learn about and take action on issues they care about. This week’s parsha, T’rumah, details the building of the Miskhan, the Tabernacle. The parsha begins: “‘Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved’” (Exodus 25:2). Or Tzedek teens come across the Jewish community–Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, Unaffiliated; freshmen through seniors; suburban and city teens; those who know that social justice is their passion and those who are discovering their love of social justice for the first time. Just as the Israelites brought their own gifts to the building of the Tabernacle, Or Tzedek teens each bring their own gifts to build our holy and intentional communities.
I’ve been dreaming about summer 2016–not just because the single-digit temperatures when I leave my apartment in the morning make we want to move to Hawaii, but because I am so excited about Or Tzedek’s summer plans!
This summer, teens from across the country will come to Chicago to be a part of the Or Tzedek community. Our two sessions will offer teens the opportunity to learn from leaders on the forefront of activism in Chicago, take action on current social justice campaigns, meet other teens who are passionate about social justice, and find their voice and power as Jewish leaders. Perhaps most importantly, teens have fun together (we’re anxiously awaiting the release of the schedule of movies in Millennium Park!) and get to be a part of a community unlike any other. (We hope you’ll join us for a session this summer! 2016 marks our 10th summer of Or Tzedek programming and we have big celebrations on the horizon!)
This weekend, we celebrate the last of the winter holidays–Valentine’s Day. Normally, I look forward to the day AFTER Valentine’s Day for the half-priced candy and being one day closer to less frigid temperatures. This year, though, I’m thinking about the number of teens this past year, and the past ten years, who have made a commitment to social justice, to making Chicago a more just city for us all.