Tzedek DC hosted the inaugural Eat Well, Do Justice event on September 25, 2017

Tzedek DC held its first community event – and the Kugel was delicious!

September 25, 2017

On Monday, September 25 over 300 people packed the new UDC Student Center for Tzedek DC’s inaugural Eat Well, Do Justice! Celebrity Chef Kugel Cook-off. Through the generosity of the community, Tzedek DC raised over $110,000 to help fund their work advocating for DC residents facing debt-related crises.

The night was successful in raising critical funding oxygen, but also was great fun for all who attended. We ate some great kugel from some of DC’s top culinary talents—thanks to Washington Post Deputy Food Editor Bonnie Benwick’s leadership in putting the roster of chefs together:

Kyle Bailey of The Salt Line 

Mike Friedman of Red Hen and All Purpose

Danny Lee of Mandu and Chiko

Alex Levin of the Schlow Restaurant Group

[Pati Jinich of “Pati’s Mexican Table” who was scheduled to attend needed to be with family in Mexico City dealing with the effects of the earthquakes and had to miss this year’s event]

Alex Levin’s entry - Savta’s kugel, beat out spirited and tasty entries from the other three chefs winning the popular vote and the hearts and stomachs of the judges. Check out the article about the winning kugel on the Washington Post website.

We also thank a terrific set of guest judges:

The witty (and very tall!) David Gregory ,
food writer extraordinaire Joan Nathan
DC Bar leader AnnaMaria Steward, who dove in to her first kugel experience with her trademark gusto and humor
wonderful legal and kugel maven Marna Tucker

The judges are pictured below with the competing chefs.  A fuller set of event photos, courtesy of Jeffrey Baker Photography, can be found here.

Eat Well Do Justice! co-chairs Courtney Weiner, June Kress and Laura Kumin were instrumental in making the night a success from check in to check out. They did a masterful job turning Courtney’s inspired idea into a wonderful gathering for the community and a chance to share how special this first year of work has been for Tzedek DC. Their work was supported by a strong Host Committee and 58 event sponsors including members of the legal, civic, Jewish and corporate communities.  Thank you to all our attendees, sponsors, supporters and volunteers who made the evening memorable. 

Here are some links to stories about the night:

Bisnow DC

DC Bar: Kugels for a Good Cause

Jewish Food Experience Talks Kugels and with Eat Well chefs

UDC David A. Clarke School of Law: School News

DC Bar's write up of the event

Watch out for news in the coming months about the 2018 Eat Well, Do Justice!

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Tzedek DC, the Virginia NAACP, and Coalition Partners File Brief in Opposition to Drivers’ Licenses Being Suspended for Unpaid Debts

Washington, D.C., August 16, 2017– Tzedek DC, the Virginia NAACP, and coalition partners today submitted an amicus brief in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit arising out of the dismissal by the lower court of a class action complaint filed on behalf of over 900,000 Virginians whose drivers’ licenses were suspended.  Virginia, like the District of Columbia – where Tzedek DC’s legal and ongoing policy reform work on behalf of low-income DC residents with debt related issues is focused – currently suspends driver’s licenses when traffic tickets and court debt are unpaid, without any inquiry into the ability of the person with the driver’s license to pay traffic-related debts and the often accompanying late fees and penalties.

The brief details how, for many, the loss of a driver’s license means “a loss of a reliable way of meeting one’s basic needs such as transporting oneself or family members to work, to critical medical appointments, taking children to school and shopping for food.”  It argues that the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses in Virginia for non-payment of debt both has a disparate impact on  African-Americans and violates the Constitution’s due process and equal protection principles.

Tzedek DC in its first seven months of operations has, along with financial literacy work and legal work representing over 70 individuals being sued or threatened in debt cases, filed coalition amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, DC Circuit, and now the Fourth Circuit, related to debt and consumer  issues.  

Ariel Levinson-Waldman, President and Director-Counsel of Tzedek DC, commented: “As the brief notes, our client communities have a substantial interest in ensuring that the rules governing drivers’ licenses comply with constitutional requirements and basic principles of fairness. We believe that suspending drivers’ licenses in debt matters, especially with no inquiry into the individual’s ability to pay, is not only constitutionally dubious but also unfair and counter-productive public policy. In effect, it punishes the poor for being poor.”  

Contact: Sarah Hollender, sh@tzedekdc.org

Tzedek DC and coalition partners send letter to D.C. Council supporting legislation to protect residents against debt collection abuses

Washington, D.C., July 13, 2017 - Tzedek DC and coalition partners have sent a letter to the Council of the District of Columbia urging the Council to move forward with key legislation to protect residents from debt collection lawsuit abuses.  The letter notes that debt collection tactics used against District residents are of particular concern given the civil rights and racial justice aspects of the issues surrounding debt collection lawsuits: as a 2016 report by Pro Publica concluded:Black communities are hit much harder by debt collection lawsuits than white ones, even in places where black households and white households have similar incomes.   The full letter is here: Debt Buying Limitation Amendment Act of 2017 Support Letter

Tzedek DC Receives 2017 Access to Justice Grant from DC Bar Foundation

Washington, D.C., April 25, 2017 – Tzedek DC, a non-profit consumer protection legal aid organization headquartered at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, has been awarded a 2017 Access to Justice Grant from the DC Bar Foundation, the leading funder of civil legal aid in the District of Columbia. This funding, which provides $47,000 of support for the May 1 – December 31, 2017 time period, will help Tzedek DC fund a full-time staff attorney to further its mission of safeguarding the rights low-income DC residents facing debt-related legal problems. The DC Bar Foundation’s announcement noted that “Tzedek DC received new funding to assist low-income DC residents in debt-related legal matters. Tzedek DC will help DC residents avoid the effects of a negative court judgment and bad credit report, such as losing their driver’s license, seizure of their bank account, impossible payment plans, and the inability to obtain employment. Tzedek DC will also conduct community outreach by partnering with the United Planning Organization…” The Foundation’s full announcement can be found here: https://dcbarfoundation.org/grants/our-grantees/

Tzedek DC Launches as First Legal Services Group Organized by Washington Jewish Community

 Tzedek DC, the first non-profit legal services organization sponsored by the Washington Jewish community, is now a full-time public interest center at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, announced Katherine “Shelley” Broderick, Dean of the School of Law, and Tzedek DC’s Board Chair Irvin Nathan.

Tzedek DC Launches as Center at UDC To Serve People Facing Debt-Related Legal Crises

Tzedek DC, a non-profit organization with the mission of safeguarding the rights of low-income DC residents facing often unjust debt collection lawsuits and other predatory consumer crises, is now a full-time public interest center at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, announced Katherine “Shelley” Broderick, Dean of the School of Law, and Tzedek DC’s Board Chair Irvin Nathan.