By Claire Schwartz, Or Tzedek alum & co-founder of JCUA Youth Caucus
I was a member of JCUA’s Or Tzedek teen internship program during the summer of 2018, where I learned about organizing and social justice from a Jewish perspective. I wanted to stay involved with JCUA when the program ended. Since I live on the North Shore, I went to the North Suburban Organizing Team (NSOT) meetings where, usually, I saw almost no other teens. Having young people present and engaged at organizing meetings is so important because we are the next generation. We are growing up in this country and will shape the policies of the future, so we need to have a voice in what is happening. Learning how to be organizers helps us strengthen our communities and prepare us for a future as leaders of the nation.
After seeing a lack of teen representation at NSOT meetings, I knew I wanted to make space specifically for teens. Throughout last year, JCUA youth from the North Suburbs hosted a few events to educate about skills that were relevant to the Fair Tax campaign and to organizing in general. This summer, we created an official group: the JCUA Youth Organizing Caucus. We meet monthly to build community and learn organizing skills. If any member of the caucus ever wants to organize an event, we create a sub-group to plan that event. We especially did this during the Fair Tax campaign when small groups of us led phone and text banks and educational events. Additionally, during our powerful Weekend of Action, we mobilized our communities at farmer’s markets across the state and a text bank, collecting more than 700 pledges to vote yes for the Fair Tax amendment. During all of these events, we focused on engaging the larger community by bringing in friends from outside of JCUA and even outside of our Jewish communities. Once the Fair Tax campaign ended, we took the time to learn about building our networks and the importance of community in organizing work.
As a Youth Organizing Caucus, we are at a point of evolution — moving from Fair Tax work to deciding what our next focus will be. Part of that process was playing a huge role in JCUA’s Campaign Selection Process, in which youth members developed and shared proposals to work on the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). Moving forward, we are creating additional subgroups within the caucus, working on writing an official Land Acknowledgement for the wider JCUA community, working with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus on affordable housing issues, and creating a fun and educational space for queer Jewish youth.
I love being a part of the JCUA Youth Organizing Caucus for many reasons, but mostly because of the members. It’s such an incredibly accepting community, and everyone is so passionate about taking action. Not only do they show up wanting to learn, but everyone is willing and ready to put in the work to make impactful changes in our communities. If you want to meet other Jewish youth who are passionate about social justice and work towards equitable change in our cities and state, consider joining the JCUA Youth Organizing Caucus. Reach out to Mara Wolkoff, JCUA Manager of Youth Engagement: email@example.com for more information.