The Avodah Blog

8 Ways Avodah Grew Its Light in 2019

It’s hard to believe 2019 is nearly over. This year has been one of incredible growth for Avodah. From welcoming our largest cohorts ever, to expanding our program offerings, and reaching nearly 1,200 alumni, we owe so many of our milestones to you. While there is so much work to be done in the new year, we wanted to take a moment to pause and share just how much has been accomplished this year to help make our country a more equitable and just place. Thank you for making it all possible.

As we celebrate the festival of lights, here are eight moments from 2019 that brightened our year:

Growing to New Heights 

This year, Avodah has seen unprecedented growth, from our largest Service Corps and Justice Fellowship cohorts ever, to our growing staff, and new program offerings, such as our Alumni Justice Ambassador (AJA) workshops, B’nai Mitzvah Cirriculum, and Speak Torah to Power talks and accompanying discussion guides — all of which extend deep Jewish wisdom on today’s social justice issues to synagogues, Hillels, and Jewish institutions across the country. Our participants are now in five cities and our Community Engagement programs reached 10,000 people this year! In 2020, we’re taking our reach even further, branching out to new parts of the country and impacting thousands more. We can’t wait to share all of the details with you in the new year! 

A More Inclusive Avodah

Thanks to the work of our Economic Accessibility and Racial Justice Task Forces, Avodah implemented our new Economic Access Fund. The fund makes it possible for those who might otherwise lack the financial resources  to participate in a year of service to to participate in Avodah, thus gaining valuable skills, tools, and networks for professional growth. We have also taken on several efforts within Avodah and beyond to ensure we are doing the best job we can to change the Jewish and justice fields for the better. Learn more here.

Standing with Immigrants and Refugees

On Tisha B’Av and throughout the year, our participants, staff, and supporters rallied to stand for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers across the country to say #NeverAgain to the separation of families at our border, imprisonment of refugees, inhumane conditions, and terror in immigrant communities. Our participants have led organizing efforts across the country and help to support refugees and asylum seekers on a daily basis. Learn more about our efforts here and read Avodah CEO Cheryl Cook’s own family refugee story here. We have exciting news coming soon about our work on these issues and we can’t wait to tell you more in 2020!

Building Relationships to Fight Antisemitism

Since witnessing the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history last year, we have seen an unprecedented number of violent attacks against our Jewish communities, including the recent tragedies in Jersey City. There is no singular response to these incidents, but we know that there is safety through solidarity. It is through our work with other marginalized groups and movements that we become stronger than antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, and violence. Our Speak Torah to Power curriculum, introduced this year, as well as, our Alumni Justice Ambassador workshop, “Understanding Antisemitism,” offer deep learning around the histories of antisemitism, the ways in which antisemitism plays out today, and its intersections with other forms of oppression. Learn more here.

Served Over 150,000 hours
Our Service Corps Members worked to support more than 50 nonprofits across the nation, directly impacting the lives of more than 50,000 people. In addition, our Justice Fellows took on more than 55 social justice projects on issues, including the #MeToo movement, LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare access, education, and much more. Click here to learn more about our 2019-2020 Corps Members.

600 Attend Partners in Justice Galas

Wow! More than 600 of you joined us at our Partners in Justice events this year, honoring incredible social justice leaders from around the country, including former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod in Chicago. “The mission of Avodah to me captures what is best about the Jewish faith – a commitment to social justice. It is endemic to who we are as Jews. This puts it into action and involves young people in such a meaningful way at a time we desperately need it,” Axelrod said. Click here to view photos from the event.

Rallied for Climate Justice

We’re proud to work with placement organizations and partners actively pursuing climate justice, including Interfaith Power and Light in DC, a new placement for Avodah, Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Coalition, and others. Avodah opened in New Orleans after the most devastating hurricane in U.S. history devastated the city. We went for the long haul – not just to repair the damage from Hurricane Katrina, but to repair the systems of injustice that made entire communities so vulnerable to natural disasters in the first place. Today, we continue to fight for climate justice, ‘Striking for Climate,’ and partnering with organizations working to protect our communities, water, and air.

Spoke Torah To Power

Drawing on the success of our first-ever speaker series, Speak Torah to Power, Avodah presented the series a second time, with some of the most prolific voices in the Jewish social justice world. Speakers Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Dr. Koach Frazier, and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum offered Jewish thought and wisdom on today’s most pressing issues. Now, synagogues, camps, Hillels, and other groups can use these videos in conjunction with Avodah’s discussion guides with their own communities. And stay tuned…in 2020, we’re bringing this incredible series to college campuses!

As we begin the new year, Avodah is excited to grow to new heights! We have some very exciting news coming soon in 2020 regarding our growth and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Thank you for supporting our work. There’s still time to make a tax-deductible year-end gift before January 1st. Please support Avodah and help us grow our light even further this year.

With deep appreciation and wishes for a changemaking 2020,

Cheryl Cook,
CEO, Avodah

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