Avodah Alumni Absera Melaku and Cydney Wallace Named to Oy Chicago’s “36 Under 36”

Published Jul 14, 2020
Headshots side-by-side of Absera Melaku (left) and Cydney Wallace (right).
Absera Melaku (left) and Cydney Wallace (right) were named to Oy Chicago’s “36 Under 36” list of notable Jewish young professionals making a difference in Chicago.


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.


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