The Avodah Blog

An Update on Avodah’s Racial Justice Work

graphic image of people with different color hands (teal, red, yellow) all lighting a candle together.

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, both internally and externally. The Task Force had several recommendations that were enacted over the past three years through a group of staff and board advisors to make Avodah more equitable, inclusive, and accessible. This group no longer actively meets, since the work has transitioned into Avodah’s organizational departmental goals. Our commitment to and work on racial justice is continuing. Here are the concrete steps we’ve taken so far and the commitments we’ve set this year to create a collective vision of racial justice in our Avodah community:

  • Staff and board training: Our board has participated in a racial justice training and we are ensuring that all new staff attend a training, and current staff, who have not recently been trained attend one as well. We also recently received funding from the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable to support training for our managers on how to supervise through a lens of equity and inclusion.

  • Communications: We are including language around diversity in all job descriptions. We are also analyzing our marketing and communications materials as to not misuse photos of people, and children of color in particular, in messaging. We are also taking steps to ensure that Corps Members are positioned outside of subconscious tropes of power and white-saviorism. Efforts have been made to not tokenize POC participants or those in our programming when we have photographers or videographers. We are also actively working to uplift the work and achievements of our JOCSM participants and alumni to bring more visibility to the leadership of our JOCSM in the Jewish and social justice fields. If you would like to spotlight your own work, or nominate another Avodah participant or alum, please email Avodah’s Director of Communications, Amanda Lindner, at [email protected].

  • Curriculum changes and program support:  Avodah is bringing on a consultant to work to make our curriculum less Ashkenazi-centric and more inclusive of the diversity within the Jewish experience. We also started affinity and praxis groups for Service Corps in our 2018-2019 cohort, including providing them with alumni mentors.

  • Participant Recruitment: We have captured racial demographics in applications and have created goals for our applicants and participants to be 15-20 percent Jews of Color, Sephardi, and Mizrahi (JOCSM). We have also been working to expand our outreach significantly outside of white-majority/Asknormative spaces like Hillel to alternate spaces (including alternate Jewish spaces on campuses, student activist groups, multi-cultural centers, public service centers, HBCUs, targeted connectors, and more). Additionally, we have invested significantly more money into advertisements and other ventures to help reach people outside of our own networks. Previously, our recruitment operated largely on word of mouth, which limited our outreach to JOCSM communities.

  • Board Recruitment: Our board is prioritizing bring on JOC board members and has started identifying potential candidates.

  • New Staff Role – JOC Recruiter: Nate Looney came into this role in December 2019 and has been working to audit our current practices, including through conversations with JOCSM alumni and participants. He is developing recommendations to strengthen both our recruitment practices and program and will be executing those priorities over the next several months. Meet Nate here.

  • Jews of Color Sephardi and Mizrahi Alumni Advisory Council: Avodah has received funding to support the creation of this council and to convene its members in person during a retreat over the next year. This group will provide input on Avodah’s recruitment processes, and give feedback about their experiences as participants and alumni in Avodah. The group will also have the opportunity to design and implement, in collaboration with Avodah staff, new initiatives to support JOCSM Avodah Alumni. We envision this as a space for JOCSM alumni to grow their leadership skills for future board service within Avodah and beyond. This council is currently in formation and is will be planning its retreat soon. You can read more and express an interest in joining here.

  • Hiring: We are making an effort to post our jobs to organizations and boards that are connected to Jews of Color, and keep our positions open for a longer time, when possible, so that we can bring in candidates outside of our network.

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 [email protected]

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