Avodah alumni Absera Melaku and Cydney Wallace were named today to Oy Chicago’s prestigious “36 Under 36” list. The pair, both alumni of the Chicago Justice Fellowship (2017-2018) were noted for making a difference through their work, giving back in their free time, and earning distinction in the Jewish community and beyond.
Melaku, 33, currently serves on Avodah’s National Board. She is a public health practitioner and Program Manager for the University of Chicago’s Center for Global Health.
“As a public health practitioner, I often consider how poverty and ill-health are inextricably linked – how socioeconomic status is one of the most powerful predictors of disease. I am so honored and thrilled to serve Avodah, an organization whose very core is rooted in anti-poverty action in service to the most vulnerable in our community, and to develop leaders and activists committed to equity and justice,” Melaku said.
Wallace, 35, is the co-founder of Kol Or, the Jews of Color Caucus of Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), an Avodah partner organization. She also serves as a JCUA board member and volunteer on the organization’s Police Accountability and Grassroots Alliance Police Accountability campaigns. In her community organizing efforts, Wallace works to dismantle antisemitism and pre-conceived ideas non-Jews have about who Jews are. She has helped build important and lasting partnerships with non-Jewish allies to strengthen solidarity efforts and create safer, stronger communities across Chicago. In her day job, Wallace is a site manager for a financial institution and has been continuing her work during the COVID-19 pandemic as an essential worker. Wallace has been a leading voice in Chicago over the past several weeks, as people come together to demand a long-overdue end to police brutality and systemic racism across our nation.
“People we stand today on the empty pages of a history book. Each step we take together will inscribe in the pages righteousness, justice, peace, and humanity. It will no longer tell a story of every man for himself, but of community and respect,” she said at a recent Jews for Black Lives rally in Chicago. You can read her speech in full here.
Mazel tov to our alumni – we’re incredibly proud! You can learn more about Avodah’s Justice Fellowship here.