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Or Tzedek--JCUA's Summer Teen Program


JCUA activates and educates our youth

Or Tzedek is the Jewish Teen Institute for Social Justice of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Or Tzedek provides teens with inspiration and know-how to change their world by exploring the relevance of Jewish tradition to their lives.

At Or Tzedek, you will gain knowledge, insight and inspiration as you meet with prominent Jewish educators, leaders, and activists. Together, we will engage with Jewish text studies rooted in social justice issues, and share our unique Or Tzedek Shabbat through new eyes with your new friends.


JCUA recognizes that there is an increasing need to engage our young Jews and to connect them to meaningful expressions of Jewish identity. Likewise, there is a growing need to imbue the next generation of Jews with a sense of responsibility for those less fortunate and to empower our youth with a passion to make a difference in the world in which they live.

We must do so through actions, workshops and training programs that are engaging, that spark the imagination, that ignite the desire to know, to create and to act.

Only by creating a cross-generational continuum of awareness of inequality and an interest in social activism can a just society can truly be created -- not only in the present, but for years to come.

JCUA is educating and mobilizing Jewish youth and teens in support of today’s most pressing issues, providing invaluable opportunities for learning, awareness, growth and action, increasing a sense of Jewish identity and belonging in the process.

Or Tzedek: Teen Institute for Social Justice

Or Tzedek operates under the philosophy that identity is determined not only by birthright, but by choice.

Summer Program

The program reaches Jewish youth at the point in their development when they are making critical choices about their personal direction and connects them to meaningful and resonant experiences of Jewish life. Or Tzedek seeks to ensure that when our Jewish teens ask the age-old question "Who am I?" that "I am a Jew" resounds loudly somewhere in the answer.

An innovative, experiential service-learning initiative, Or Tzedek works to strengthen the Jewish identity and social consciousness of marginally affiliated Jewish teens by combining hands-on involvement in social action, group text study, arts-oriented projects, and discussion groups. Or Tzedek has grown into a robust, impactful urban immersion program that reaches nearly 100 teens annually. The program is comprised of two ten-day summer immersion sessions – both sessions offer programming for first-time participants and those who have joined us previously.

Each summer session provides the chance to work with a broad range of activist organizations and offers a wide variety of service experiences. Each session also offers workshops and text study sessions that place students’ social justice experiences squarely within a Jewish context.

Or Tzedek goes beyond typical service-learning.

Guided by JCUA’s philosophy of change, Or Tzedek doesn’t simply offer volunteer opportunities, but works in-depth with community organizations to explore and address root causes underlying each social justice issue. JCUA’s long history of working in partnership with low-income communities and communities of color means that it has deep relationships with many of Chicago’s community organizations, ensuring a meaningful experience for both students and the organizations with which they work. The program has a unique, copyrighted curriculum which examines social justice issues through a Jewish lens, utilizing Jewish text and history. Workshops are led by some of Chicago’s most prominent Rabbis, educators and community lay leaders.

For more information about Or Tzedek please contact Deborah Goldberg at deborah@jcua.org or 312.663.0960 ext. 124.

Jewish Urban Poverty Program

For nearly 25 years, JCUA’s Judaism and Urban Poverty has been successfully teaching Chicago-area Jewish middle school students to think about the root causes of poverty, potential responses to poverty, and specifically-Jewish approaches to helping those in need.

As many as 2,000 sixth through tenth grade students annually are exposed to this seven-week curriculum which uses experiential learning, reflection, text study and team building.

The JUP curriculum puts issues of poverty and inequality squarely within a Jewish context. A portion of each of the seven sessions relates directly to Jewish experience, history and text. For example, the biblical story of Exodus is used as a means of studying and discussing what Judaism can teach about addressing poverty, oppression, exploitation and homelessness. Students learn directly from local leaders and community members about the struggles faced by their communities and from local Rabbis about Jewish history and text study.

The program takes Jewish study seriously, engaging in dialogue between Jewish texts and contemporary issues. It tackles big questions, asking in the course of service work “what is the source of this problem and what can we do to solve it at its roots?” The success of JUP is illustrated by the many program alumni who have gone on to become leaders in their communities, whether it be as rabbis who incorporate social justice into their rabbinates, as Jewish lay leaders or even as founders of Jewish social justice organizations.

Or Tzedek / Teen Program – JCUA News
I Never Really Left Or Tzedek
Wednesday, November 02, 2016 1:16:11 PM

Or Tzedek is for You
Wednesday, August 17, 2016 4:03:59 PM

Making an Impact and Having a Blast!
Monday, August 15, 2016 2:49:51 PM

Growing Jewish Social Justice Identities
Monday, July 11, 2016 3:11:56 PM

Or Emet: Advocacy in Action
Thursday, April 28, 2016 12:57:13 PM

Meet the Summer 2016 Or Tzedek Staff
Friday, March 18, 2016 1:27:14 PM

Explore Social Responsibility In Your Own Backyard
Tuesday, February 23, 2016 4:05:07 PM

Make Social Justice Your Valentine
Thursday, February 11, 2016 12:27:13 PM

More Like Moses
Friday, October 09, 2015 11:20:24 AM

Finding A Social Justice Home in Or Tzedek
Wednesday, August 26, 2015 2:36:12 PM

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Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

610 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60605
Phone: 312.663.0960  |  Fax: 312.663.5305

© 2015 Jewish Council on Urban Affairs