A More Equitable, Inclusive, and Accessible Avodah

Published Jan 14, 2019
Over the past year, Avodah has put into place several new programmatic and organizational initiatives to help make our work more equitable, inclusive, and accessible. Many of these changes are due to feedback from our alumni, partners, and community about how we can strengthen Avodah, and we’re incredibly grateful. Below are some of the important initiatives Avodah is taking on to make our programs even stronger.
New Service Corps Initiatives:
  • Mental Health Support: As part of regular programming, Corps Members will participate in monthly support groups led by mental health professionals. They will discuss the emotional challenges of doing intensive social justice work and have space to process secondary trauma and other issues that may come up. This idea was developed by a Mental Health Task Force made up of board and staff in consultation with alumni, and the Task Force also generated new ideas for additional staff training and Corps Member resources that are also being incorporated into the current program year.
  • Economic Access: The Economic Accessibility Task Force (a group of alumni, staff, and board members) met last year to look at how to make the Avodah Service Corps more accessible to Corps Members of different income levels. As a result, we created the Economic Access Fund, which aims to provide a financial safety net to Corps Members in need. The Fund is available by application to Corps Members for non-discretionary expenses, including medication co-pays that go above the additional health reimbursements provided through their placements; loans that can’t be put into deferment or forbearance; winter clothes if they don’t already own them; car insurance if a placement situation or city location makes a car necessary, and some limited discretionary expenses that we believe everyone should have access to, including transportation for a visit home and work attire, if needed. The Task Force also developed several other ideas for how to make our Incoming Corps Member fundraising process more accessible and how to better assist Corps Members with their transition out of the program. You can make a donation to the Economic Access Fund here.
  • Affinity and Praxis Groups: With the support of alumni mentors, we created affinity groups, specifically for Corps Members who share a particular marginalized and/or targeted identity or experience, and wish to connect with each other in a supportive space. Some of these affinity groups include: queer, raised poor or working class, and impacted by a mental health condition. We have also created praxis groups for people who want to come together around a specific practice goal that may relate to their identities or experiences. Some of these praxis groups include men who want to improve their impact on their communities and houses, exploring class privilege in the context of anti-poverty work, and issues of Whiteness and solidarity with people of color.
Updates From Our Racial Justice Task Force:
In Fall 2016, Avodah convened a Racial Justice Task Force comprised of staff, alumni, Board and Advisory Council members with the goal of strengthening Avodah’s racial justice work. The Task Force had several recommendations that we have implemented over the past two years. Some of the steps this group has taken include:
  • Required racial justice training for all new staff. In addition, we are setting goals for trainings on Jewish diversity and implementing tools for managers on how to supervise through a lens of equity and inclusion.
  • Articulating a commitment to racial justice widely in written communications including job descriptions, recruitment materials, and public communications.
  • Curriculum changes to create a more inclusive and less Ashkenazi-centric curriculum. This includes four anti-oppression trainings, including a day-long anti-racism workshop across all of our cities during orientation.
  • Recruitment of a participant pool that is more representative of the broad and diverse Jewish community. We are also planning to speak with a group of alumni who are Jews of Color to discuss their experiences being recruited/invited into Jewish spaces, and to brainstorm recruitment-related topics such as campus outreach, collateral, talking honestly with applicants who are Jews of Color, etc.
  • Rethinking the placements Avodah partners with for the Service Corps through a racial justice lens.
  • Working to recruit and retain a more racially diverse board and staff, especially in programmatic and senior leadership positions. 

We are committed to building a more equitable, inclusive, and accessible Avodah. If you have questions or would like to talk more with our staff about any of the changes that we have made or are making to strengthen our work, please don’t hesitate to reach out at info@avodah.net.

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