Our mission at Avodah is to develop lifelong social justice leaders who inspire and strengthen the Jewish community’s work toward a more just and equitable world. While 2020 was filled with incredible challenges that required us all to make major adjustments, we still managed to continue to create the positive change we need.
Why does that matter? This past year has highlighted and exacerbated the very real and deep systemic inequalities that exist – and have always existed. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, people of color are three times more likely to become infected by COVID-19 than their white neighbors and are between two and three times more likely to die from the virus than white people. And while 26 million Americans now say they don’t have enough to eat, Black Americans report going hungry at nearly twice the rate faced by the national average. These statistics are not random. They are the result of centuries of systemic economic, health, and social policies that do not and have not treated all people equally. Now is the time to act. That is what Judaism and our morality call us to do.
In 2021, Avodah will roll out three new programs to address these very issues that speak to both the immediate needs of this moment and the long-term commitment to building the kind of leadership we need to create stronger and more inclusive Jewish communities for a more just future. Here’s what we have planned…
Avodah is proud to open its first-ever Jews of Color (JOC) Bayit in New York City for the 2021-2022 program year this summer. We know that all too often, the Jewish community does not provide enough opportunities designed to specifically develop the leadership of Jews of Color and create a pipeline of JOC leaders. We are excited to create an environment in our Service Corps that is targeted to nurture the leadership of Jews of Color and pave the way for JOCs to lead our community in movements for social justice. This space will enable JOCs to devote their energy to personal development, self-care, and community building that will only enhance and sustain their work for justice. For some of the JOC Service Corps members, this will be their first opportunity to exist in a Jewish space as a part of a majority as they take on a year of service. Learn more.
Opening our San Diego Cohort
When Avodah journeyed to the U.S./Mexico border in 2018 with a delegation of 17 Jewish organizations, we witnessed the devastation of our broken immigration system firsthand. We visited detention centers with barbed wires and prison cells, severe lack of due-process, children separated from their families, denial of basic necessities, and people, who were desperately trying to seek legal asylum in the U.S. met with the most inhumane conditions. This experience was incredibly moving and activating. We returned with a sense of urgency to create a more just system and we knew Avodah could play a role.
After years of planning and a one-year delay due to pandemic restrictions, we are very excited to be opening our San Diego site, this summer! Avodah San Diego will be Avodah’s first location on the West Coast and we’re thrilled to partner with Jewish Family Service (JFS), one of San Diego’s oldest and most impactful human service agencies.
The Avodah Jewish Justice Institute for Jewish Professional Leaders
Leadership matters – and developing leaders driven by Jewish values of justice has been the core of Avodah’s work for more than 22 years. As our country reaches a tipping point in confronting the long-held economic and social inequalities it was built on, we have been proud to see larger swaths of the Jewish community open to learning and contributing to meaningful change. In a time when attention to learning, thoughtful conversations, and making changes has never been more needed, Avodah is prepared to seize this moment with a new initiative, and we want you to be the first to know about our newest program coming soon: The Avodah Jewish Justice Institute (AJJI).
Through AJJI, Avodah will provide workshops, education, resources, and relationship-building opportunities to Jewish professionals and lay leaders across organizations, including day schools, Hebrew schools, camps, JCCs, synagogues, youth groups, and more, who are looking for training on justice issues, and guidance to help them assess their own biases and learning curves. Through this new program, Avodah will be able to respond to a dual urgent need: the desire across Jewish communities to be in community with one another amidst an isolating pandemic, while also using this time to build ourselves up to emerge as stronger, more just institutions when the pandemic subsides. We’re excited to embark on this next chapter of Avodah’s work and share more with you over the coming weeks and months.