We Are Hiring: Seasonal Project Assistant

Seasonal Project Assistant, Independent Contractor

Each year, we have a short window in between when our outgoing cohort of Jewish Service Corps Members leaves their communal living space and our new cohort begins in which to prepare our houses. In some cities, this may involve moving to a new house. The Seasonal Project Assistant will provide temporary support for our turnover process. They will work in partnership with local Avodah program staff and serve a key role in preparing our bayit (house) for the next cohort.

Rate & Hours: $22/hour. The exact hours will be determined based on the scope of the project, but we are looking for 1 person for 60-80 hours total in each of the cities listed below. You will be guaranteed a minimum number of hours, and will be paid for each additional hour worked up to the maximum number of hours. If you are interested but are not able to work the full hours, please apply anyway. We are able to hire for full-hours or part-time.

Duration of the project: This position will be from August 7-30, 2024. If you are available for the majority of the time, but not the entire time, please apply anyway. 

Location: We are hiring for this role in multiple cities: Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, D.C.

Scope of Services:

  • ● Coordinating the disposal and/or donation of furniture that is no longer needed.
  • ● Unpacking new household items, setting up, and organizing the bayit.
  • ● Building and setting up new furniture (with another person).
  • ● Kashering kitchen items (making items kosher- directions will be provided and no prior experience needed).
  • ● Light cleaning as needed.
  • ● Overseeing outside vendors (e.g. professional cleaners, pest inspectors, task rabbits) as they visit the house.
  • ● Additional tasks as needed (e.g. hanging shower curtains, removing art from walls).
  • ● Using a computer to read and edit our project plan in Google Sheets.
  • View access descriptions for our current houses. If we are moving, we likely won’t know what the new house will look like until June or July.

About You

  • ● You are detail-oriented and are a good communicator.
  • ● You can handle a large volume of work, prioritize and multitask.
  • ● You take initiative, are proactive, and can work independently.
  • ● You are comfortable with physical labor. You will be on your feet most of the day, helping to build and move furniture, and picking up and unboxing home goods. It may require lifting approximately 30 lbs at a time. For moving heavier items, you will have a partner to help.
  • ● You have a laptop.
  • ● You are comfortable working with kitchen cleaning products and occasionally in the summer heat with air conditioned breaks.

Accessibility

Avodah is committed to the full inclusion of all qualified individuals. As part of this commitment, Avodah will ensure that persons with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations. If reasonable accommodation is needed to participate in the application or interview process, to perform essential role functions, please email jstiftel@avodah.net.

Creating a more just world is a core part of our mission, and Avodah is working to continually strengthen our efforts towards equity and inclusion in the workplace. We strive to build a diverse team that brings with them a variety of identities, backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, people of color, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, and people who come from poor or working-class backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. Avodah is an equal opportunity employer.

Apply

Please email Justine Stiftel (jstiftel@avodah.net) with a brief paragraph sharing your interest in and availability for the role, and what skills and experience you’d bring to the position. The interview process will be conducted entirely remotely via phone and video conferencing.

We Are Hiring: Chicago Service Corps Program Director

Chicago Service Corps Program Director, full-time position

Avodah is seeking a Program Director to oversee and implement our Jewish Service Corps in Chicago. The ideal Program Director is a skilled educator and program facilitator who is passionate about building strong communities who can support young adults in their work for social justice, Jewish identity development, personal growth, and the meaningful intersections between those. They are able to comfortably hold a range of logistical, emotional and educational responsibilities in order to ensure that the overall program runs smoothly and successfully.  This is an excellent position for someone who excels in roles that include especially varied responsibilities and variable flow of work.

The Chicago Program Director is an integral member of the Chicago Avodah local team. They will work as part of a dynamic team with the Midwest Development Officer, who oversees local development and community engagement in the region, with the Chicago Justice Fellowship Director and with the broader service corps team of program directors. The Chicago Program Director will also work with the Service Corps Program Operations staff and other national program staff to support the Chicago Service Corps members. The Chicago Program Director reports to the National Service Corps Director (located in Chicago).

Salary: $57,000–$62,000

Start date: July/August 2024 (dates flexible)

Location: This position is based out of Chicago, Illinois and is expected to regularly work in person in Chicago. In person work includes facilitating Corps Member programs, visiting placement sites, and meeting with Corps Members.

This position is included in a union-represented collective bargaining unit, and specific terms and conditions of employment may be subject to a future Collective Bargaining Agreement.

About Avodah

Avodah believes that Jewish leaders have the power to help change our country for the better. Since 1998 Avodah has built a vast network of Jewish leaders who have come through our programs and now lead communities across the country, created a robust educational curriculum with which we have reached tens of thousands in the broader community, and developed an unparalleled analysis of social justice issues through a Jewish lens.

We train and support emerging and current leaders with the tools, knowledge, and networks they need to contribute their skills and passion to advancing social justice across the country and deepen the fabric of our diverse Jewish communities. Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps, Justice Fellowship, Alumni Network, and Institute for Social Change have sparked thousands of Jewish leaders to do justice work, added millions of dollars in critical capacity to anti-poverty organizations, and helped strengthen Jewish life in the United States.

The Chicago Service Corps Program Director’s core responsibilities are:

  • ● Implement and serve as lead staff person on all aspects of educational programs including orientation, weekly sessions, retreats, and special programs, including the logistical planning and administration of the programs
  • ● Coordinate and facilitate leadership development activities with Corps Members;
  • ● Coordinate and facilitate community-building activities among Corps Members;
  • ● Facilitate exploration by Corps Members of social justice and Jewish life;
  • ● Provide resources and mentorship to Corps Members related to their work, community, and Jewish lives;
  • ● Maintain ongoing relationships with placement sites including recruiting and selecting new placement organizations;
  • ● Support Corps Members and placement organizations in navigating work-related challenges;
  • ● Interviewing and selecting new Corps Members, with support from the Recruitment department;
  • ● Work with the National Program Operations team to actively oversee Avodah’s residential properties, including: managing the house search when necessary, aiding in the move-in and move-out process, and resolving maintenance problems with residents and landlords;
  • ● Collaborate with local and national staff to create a strong partnership between programming and fundraising; this may include: attending local fundraisers, identifying and preparing Corps Members to speak at external engagements, finding opportunities for community members to get to know the Avodah program and participants, and creating opportunities for the fundraising staff to support and work with Corps Members;
  • ● Participate in the Service Corps staff team, including weekly supervision with the National Service Corps Director, attending and playing rotating roles in Service Corps staff team meetings, collaboratively updating curricula, informally serving team members with creative problem-solving, and taking on occasional small national projects; and
  • ● Participate in the cross-program team and the Avodah staff as a whole, monthly program team meetings, bi-monthly Avodah all-staff meetings, an annual all-staff retreat and an annual program team retreat; and
  • ● Other duties as assigned.

About You

We are looking for candidates who have at least 3 years of relevant experience, as well the skills and competencies listed below. We know that systemic inequities in hiring have caused people from historically marginalized groups to only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the qualifications. We encourage you to break this statistic and apply, as no one ever meets 100% of the qualifications. We look forward to your application.

  • ● You are an experienced educator and facilitator who can translate our curriculum into an excellent program on the ground. As the work may include virtual programming, the ideal candidate will have experience and comfort with virtual and in-person facilitation and program implementation.
  • ● You build strong relationships and support the creation of strong communities. You can mentor and guide young adults in developing their own leadership and building relationships.
  • ● You have a deep knowledge of our key content areas including: anti-racism and anti-oppression frameworks; domestic poverty and social justice issues; the range and diversity of Jewish identity and practice; and leadership development for young adults.
  • ● You are familiar with the history of Chicago and the current dynamics impacting social justice work and anti-poverty work there, or are committed to learning about these dynamics.
  • ● You are committed to integrating social justice activism and Jewish life.
  • ● You are accountable for your own work and are a strong project manager. You juggle competing demands, prioritize with ease, and are efficient with your time. You are comfortable with deadlines.
  • ● You are able to work occasional evenings and weekends.

What we offer

  • ● Healthcare: 100% employer-paid medical, dental, and disability insurance
  • ● Time off: Vacation days (starting at 15 per year and increasing with paid employment) and sick time (12 per year), plus paid time off for Jewish and secular holidays
  • ● Generous paid parental leave policy
  • ● Flexible spending account options
  • ● Retirement savings plan with an employer contribution after 90 days of employment, as funding allows
  • ● A flexible work schedule
  • ● Professional development funds and opportunities to learn and grow
  • ● A strong organizational culture and supportive team with employee well-being prioritized
  • ● Commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that enables everyone to bring their full self to work and make a positive impact on the world
  • ● Being part of a passionate team of people who are devoted to Avodah’s mission

Accessibility

The role involves occasional evening and semi-regular weekend programming, as well as a few high-volume periods, particularly during the move-in and move-out portions of the program year. During these times the Chicago Program Director may be asked to assist with minor physical labor, as physical ability allows. The flow of the work is variable; there are times when the work is fast-paced and there are slower periods depending on the time of the program year. This position entails working with deadlines and prioritizing different responsibilities. The abilities to handle stressful situations with multiple projects underway at the same time, and to work both independently and collaboratively, are essential.

The interview process will be conducted entirely remotely via phone and video conferencing. The applicant may be asked to complete a compensated skills assessment as well, which will be done via video conferencing.

Avodah is committed to the full inclusion of all qualified individuals. As part of this commitment, Avodah will ensure that persons with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations. If reasonable accommodation is needed to participate in the job application or interview process, to perform essential job functions, and/or to receive other benefits and privileges of employment, please contact jobs@avodah.net.

Creating a more just world is a core part of our mission, and Avodah is working to continually strengthen our efforts towards equity and inclusion in the workplace. We strive to build a diverse team that brings with them a variety of identities, backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, people of color, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, and people who come from poor or working-class backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. Avodah is an equal opportunity employer.

Apply

Due to the anticipated volume of applications, we are only able to respond to those applicants granted an interview. Applications will be accepted until a hire is made and interviews will be set up on a rolling basis.

Please direct any questions to jobs@avodah.net.

We Are Hiring: Director of Finance and Administration

Director of Finance and Administration, full-time position

Avodah’s Director of Finance and Administration stewards the financial health and strategy of the organization. They are responsible for the financial, investment, and risk management operations at Avodah. The Director of Finance and Administration will develop, drive, and embed an effective and innovative financial strategy with control systems, processes, and metrics that allow the organization to operate, govern, and grow in sustainable ways. They will play a critical leadership role in ensuring and maintaining strong administrative processes to support our work. As a member of Avodah’s Senior Staff, the Director of Finance and Administration reports to Avodah’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and works directly with the Finance Committee of the Board. The Director of Finance and Administration supervises Avodah’s Staff Accountant and Finance Associate. At present, Avodah is a mid-size organization with a budget that ranges between $4-$5M.

Salary: $120,000–$120,000

Start date: Spring 2024 (dates flexible)

Location: Remote, United States

This position is not included in Avodah’s staff union-represented collective bargaining unit.

About Avodah

Avodah believes that Jewish leaders have the power to help change our country for the better. Since 1998 Avodah has built a vast network of Jewish leaders who have come through our programs and now lead communities across the country, created a robust educational curriculum with which we have reached tens of thousands in the broader community, and developed an unparalleled analysis of social justice issues through a Jewish lens.

We train and support emerging and current leaders with the tools, knowledge, and networks they need to contribute their skills and passion to advancing social justice across the country and deepen the fabric of our diverse Jewish communities. Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps, Justice Fellowship, Alumni Network, and Institute for Social Change have sparked thousands of Jewish leaders to do justice work, added millions of dollars in critical capacity to anti-poverty organizations, and helped strengthen Jewish life in the United States.

The Director of Finance and Administration’s core responsibilities are:

 

Finance
 Strategic & Financial Planning
  • ● Serve as a Senior Staff member and strategic partner to Avodah’s CEO with regard to all finance-related matters;
  • ● Partner with and support the CEO, Senior Staff, the Board Treasurer, and the Finance Committee in formulating current and future financial strategies, and long-term financial forecasting to strengthen and evolve the organization;
  • ● Work on a monthly basis with the board Treasurer to oversee and communicate with the Finance Committee, work on strategy, including planning and facilitating meetings of the Finance Committee and/or finance-related board meeting sessions; and
  • ● Develop and communicate regular financial forecasts to the CEO, identify organizational financial trends, and recommend adjustments to organizational work based on financial forecasts and cash flow.
 
Financial Management & Oversight
  • ● Oversee all fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities for the organization, in collaboration with the Board of Directors and relevant Board committees focused on finance, audit, investment, facilities leases and vendors;
  • ● Ensure that CEO and Board leaders, including the Finance and Executive Committees, have consistent access to accurate, timely and critical financial information;
  • ● Lead Avodah’s Finance department, including setting departmental goals, convening regular team meetings, supervising the Staff Accountant and Finance Associate, and ensuring the timely completion of all departmental responsibilities;
  • ● Lead annual budgeting process and collaborate with Operations staff and budget managers on fiscal year planning;
  • ● Oversee the annual audit process including scheduling the audit, preparing all documents requested and responding to all questions asked by the auditors, preparing additional schedules as needed, drafting audited financial statements and presenting the audit results to the board Finance Committee and full board;
  • ● Execute the monthly financial closing processes, including completing bank, investment and other reconciliations, preparing and posting journal entries, addressing grant and restricted fund accounting, completing financial forecasting and planning/managing cash flow;
  • ● Prepare budgets to support grant requests and progress reports, and track all grant revenue;
  • ● Lead annual year-end tax compliance work, including W2/W3 and 1099/1096 reconciliation and disbursement;
  • ● Develop or update financial policies, procedures and internal controls, as needed; and provide oversight and approval of:
    • – Accounts payable work, by reviewing and approving outgoing payments and related coding;
    • – Accounts receivable work and deposits, by reviewing grant coding and restricted vs. unrestricted funds designations on a monthly basis and ensuring the timely collection of outstanding invoices; and
    • – Payroll administration, by reviewing and authorizing payroll submissions, journalizing payroll into Avodah’s accounting software, addressing tax-related questions, and preparing 403b and benefits calculations and submissions.
 
Administration
  • ● Create strategies and processes to manage organizational compliance, including:
    • – Ensure that Avodah is registered in all appropriate states and localities for fundraising and employment purposes;
    • – Ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, taking into account the many different jurisdictions in which the organization operates;
  • ● Create strategies and processes to managing organizational risk, including:
    • – Manage vendors and contracts for organizational business insurance (e.g., Workers Comp, Liability, etc.);
    • – Create and execute policies and procedures to ensure efficient negotiation, execution and monitoring of contracts and procurement ensuring timeliness and effective risk management;
    • – As needed, consult with outside counsel on legal and risk related matters; and
    • – Collaborate with the Director of People and Culture on legal and labor-management matters related to Avodah’s Staff Union; and
  • ● Other duties as assigned.

About You

We are looking for candidates who have at least 7 years of relevant experience, as well the skills and competencies listed below. We know that systemic inequities in hiring have caused people from historically marginalized groups to only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the qualifications. We encourage you to break this statistic and apply, as no one ever meets 100% of the qualifications. We look forward to your application.

  • ● You are a strategic and analytical thinker with an ability to leverage financial information to drive organizational decision-making;
  • ● You have deep knowledge of and experience in nonprofit finance, financial procedures and processes, including: accounts payable, accounts receivable, GAAP, budgeting, forecasting, cash management, adjusting journal entries, and audits;
  • ● You have experience in and an understanding of nonprofit administration including working with a board and risk management;
  • ● You are a skilled manager and coach who inspires and motivates others to take action and meet their goals. You delegate skillfully and support your staff in decision-making;
  • ● You develop a feedback-rich culture for your team. You help push others to their growing edges, see mistakes as learning opportunities, receive feedback as a gift, and acknowledge your own areas of growth;
  • ● You are accountable for your own work and the work of your team and create and maintain systems to track progress and report results. You juggle competing demands, prioritize with ease and are efficient with your time. You are comfortable with deadlines;
  • ● You are a flexible thinker and an entrepreneurial and resourceful problem solver who consistently overcomes challenges and leverages resources to creatively solve issues. You proactively ask for help, anticipate problems and course-correct where needed;
  • ● You are a collaborative team player who can work with staff across the country; and
  • ● You are committed to social justice and anti-oppression work.

What we offer

  • ● Healthcare: 100% employer-paid medical, dental, and disability insurance
  • ● Time off: Vacation days (starting at 15 per year for full-time staff) and sick time (12 per year for full-time staff), plus paid time off for Jewish and secular holidays
  • ● Generous paid parental leave policy
  • ● Flexible spending account options
  • ● Retirement savings plan with an employer contribution after 90 days of employment, when funding permits
  • ● A flexible work schedule
  • ● Professional development funds and opportunities to learn and grow ● A strong organizational culture and supportive team with employee well-being prioritized, and significant flexibility
  • ● Commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that enables everyone to bring their full selves to work and make a positive impact on the world
  • ● Being part of a passionate team of people who are devoted to Avodah’s mission

Accessibility

The interview process will be conducted entirely remotely via phone and video conferencing. The applicant may be asked to complete a compensated skills assessment as well, which will be done via video conferencing.

Avodah is committed to the full inclusion of all qualified individuals. As part of this commitment, Avodah will ensure that persons with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations. If reasonable accommodation is needed to participate in the job application or interview process, to perform essential job functions, and/or to receive other benefits and privileges of employment, please contact jobs@avodah.net.

Creating a more just world is a core part of our mission, and Avodah is working to continually strengthen our efforts towards equity and inclusion in the workplace. We strive to build a diverse team that brings with them a variety of identities, backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, people of color, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, and people who come from poor or working-class backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. Avodah is an equal opportunity employer.

Apply

Due to the anticipated volume of applications, we are only able to respond to those applicants granted an interview. Applications will be accepted until a hire is made and interviews will be set up on a rolling basis.

Please direct any questions to jobs@avodah.net.

Announcing the Regional Educators Program

The Avodah Institute for Social Change is thrilled to announce the launch of the Regional Educators Cohort!
­­

This new initiative is a year-long professional development opportunity for Jewish education leaders in or near Cleveland, Detroit, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.

Educators will learn tools to ensure that justice is centrally woven into their educational ethos, from regular study and conversation about moral responsibility, to visionary structures that reflect the genuinely diverse needs and identities within our communities, to opportunities for action on essential local issues. The program launches June 2024 with a summer intensive and continues with coaching and learning opportunities through the 2024-2025 school year.

This cohort is geared towards mid- to senior-level leaders in Jewish youth educational settings who operate on a school-year schedule. This includes roles such as school department heads, youth group directors, synagogue or JCC education directors, and others.z

This is an incredible opportunity to make an impact in our Jewish educational spaces. To learn more or nominate an educator go to Avodah.net/institute-regional-educators/

Heartbroken: A Statement from our CEO

 

Our community is hurting and horrified following the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas. To say we are heartbroken, would not be saying enough.

Our hearts break for the civilians massacred, abducted, and injured in Israel, in the largest massacre of Jews in recent memory. There is no justification for the unspeakable crimes perpetrated last Shabbat.

Our hearts break for the Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza under continued bombardment and the many now forced to leave their homes.

Our heartbreak goes on and on, and we fear what will come next.

For 25 years Avodah has focused on justice issues within the United States. We build pluralistic communities that put Jewish teachings into action locally, and have not made statements about Israel/Palestine in the past.

But we know that the grief for those killed is not bound by borders. We know that the fear for the safety of loved ones crosses the globe. We know that Jews everywhere, informed by our history of persecution, are hurting right now. And we know that violence afflicts the conscience of all those who value justice and human rights.

This sorrow is unbearable to hold alone. So instead, we hold each other, wrapped in the warmth of our communities, traditions, and history. We return to our teachings that have guided Jews for generations, like “b’tselem elohim”, that every person is made in the image of G-d, and that the highest mitzvah is “pikuach nefesh”, to save a life. 

So what can we offer? Each other. We are here. You can reach out to our staff who have brilliance in Jewish text and values that sustains and nourishes us. We can be there for each other, even now — we have the tools to do that so well.

We return to the words of our liturgy: “We pray that we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, and nation does not lift sword against nation”.

Until then, we hold you, our community, in grief. 

Cheryl Cook
Avodah CEO

Life after college can be isolating. I found my community through Avodah.

By Chessy S., 2022–2023 Avodah New York Service Corps Member

Ever since I can remember, interpersonal connection has been both important and natural to me. I have always loved connecting with peers in school, with family, and with peers or mentors I came in contact with in various extracurricular or community activities. 

Before serving with Avodah, I worked as an Assistant Teacher in a preschool classroom at Wellspring Family Services in Seattle, WA. Wellspring’s Early Learning Center is committed to serving the needs of children experiencing the traumatic effects of homelessness in Seattle. In this role, I was markedly aware of the impact of race, education, health, housing, and immigration on young children. I learned to employ trauma-informed practices and to develop individualized learning goals for each child. Working at Wellspring emboldened me to utilize the advantages my positionality affords me to support individuals who suffer from socioeconomic inequality and disadvantage, as they are most in need of support and amongst those in our society who are least likely to receive it. 

While I was living in Seattle and working at this nonprofit job I had a few major qualms. Firstly, none of my friends nearby were working in nonprofits or in direct-service roles. This made it difficult for me to work through the experiences I was having on a daily basis with others I was in community with. Relatedly, I had no Jewish friends in Seattle. I tried to root myself in Jewish community. One way I tried was by becoming involved in the Jewish Coalition for Immigrant Justice. I participated in events ranging from legislative session priority planning to a monthly book club. Although these experiences were exciting and engaging in the moment, they were once a month and over Zoom. I found myself craving continued learning with others and was invigorated by the prospect of living in an intentional Jewish community through Avodah. These experiences I had in Seattle motivated me to pursue the service corps program.

As a member of the Avodah Service Corps, I am working at Sanctuary for Families, where I am a Project Assistant in their Matrimonial/Economic Justice project. SFF is New York’s leading service provider and advocacy organization for survivors of DV, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence. On the Mat/EJP team, I (and three other Project Assistants) work alongside lawyers who specialize in culturally sensitive and trauma-informed lawyering. 

In my role as a PA, I am able to triage client issues, prepare documents (for the lawyers, for the clients, for the Courts, etc.) and guide clients through the traumatic experiences of both sharing their stories of abuse and through the legal system at large. One of the most impactful recurring experiences I have had this year is of clients sharing that I have made this process easier, less scary, or less confusing. I have seen firsthand the pain and confusion that the legal system has had on clients at SFF.

In college, I received consistent messaging that working in a policy-related field would stretch my brain in ways I would find satisfying and important. Although that may be true, after the past two years working in direct service, I believe that is how I feel most fulfilled (at least for now!). 

I have found myself routinely taking stock of what this year has meant to me. Avodah places emphasis on self-reflection and intentionality in what we do––a continuous growing edge for me. For example, we have had the opportunity to learn in havruta (pairs) which has been meaningful and often challenging; I have been granted the opportunity this year to find my voice more and more in the safe haven of our intentional Jewish community. Throughout our various programming days, we ask questions and delve into Jewish texts together. A main goal of ours is often reframing these ancient texts contemporarily. This practice has allowed me to reflect in many ways on how I have come to be and what feels important to me moving forward.

My placement at SFF has been full of the ups and downs that come with interacting with the layered red tape from organizations (internal and otherwise) as well as government officials. The friendships I’ve made with my fellow NYC cohort members are indescribably powerful. There is such strength in coming home each day to seventeen other humans engaged in similar work with similar ups and downs. After rant-filled dinners, we often devolve into giggles and singing the random songs that have been stuck in everyone’s heads.

This year has been informative for me on both a personal and professional level. I have enjoyed being able to help clients understand the legal system while I, myself, have been learning alongside them about systems of sexism, economic injustice, and racism (just to name a few) that they (we!) are all a part of. 

I have spent many hours this year comparing and contrasting my work experiences at Sanctuary and Wellspring. I have learned so much from my colleagues and clients this year but have realized that the most authentic version of myself shares space and experience with children. I am most inspired by working alongside humans whose growing comprehension of the world changes drastically each day, and whose insights are brave and raw. Perhaps I’ll find myself back in the classroom next year or in the years to come! Wherever my path takes me, I am deeply grateful for Avodah’s role in helping me solidify my desire to work to support other humans in communities I am a part of and adjacent to with intentionality and care.


Applications for the 2023-2024 Service Corps program are still open! Learn more at avodah.net/serve.

Avodah Transforms Apathy into Energy

By Chana Sternberg, 2022–2023 Avodah Chicago Service Corps Member

By the end of my senior year of college, I was in a rut of apathy. After four years of studying international development, I had become thoroughly aware of the ramifications of capitalistic greed on society, but I could not find answers to the problem; good faith “solutions” seemed to only create other massive imbalances. I was sad and tired of hearing about band-aids that were applied to systems that begged to be rebuilt. I wondered about where to put my energy and what, if anything, I could do to make a difference.

Fortunately, my year as an Avodah Corps Member in Chicago has empowered me to embody the significance of my place in the world while providing an incredibly supportive intentional community that has shown me a different, more nurturing way of living. 

Avodah has equipped me with the skill-building tools, a community of peers, and opportunities for reflection that have helped me enter and navigate both justice work and a new stage of adulthood. As a Corps Member, I have gained work experience that has taught me how to strategize for long-term success in the intense world of nonprofits, where second-hand trauma can take its toll; enjoyed an incredible living situation with 11 strangers-turned-family; and benefitted from curated learning and reflection opportunities – thank you Avodah staff! –  that have taught me how to merge Jewish values with tangible action steps for social change, thus bringing the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) to life.

When I first arrived at my job placement with the LGBT Asylum Project at the National Immigrant Justice Center, I was somewhat nervous. My job consists of answering a hotline that recent immigrants call seeking legal representation and protections from deportation. I grew up speaking Spanglish, so I had some Spanish language skills, but I worried that I was not proficient enough. During my first few days, my performance anxiety was at an all time high as I answered the phone, trying to help detained people from Colombia and Venezuela navigate the asylum application process. I answered call after call, hoping the tone of my voice would be both professional and empathetic, knowing that my delivery might include hints of uncertainty and imperfect grammar. 

Since that first day, things have improved, thanks to so many wonderful, caring colleagues and supervisors. My colleagues helped me perfect my Spanish, enabling me to become more self-assured when working the hotline. Today, I answer calls with the conviction and confidence of knowing which measures to take to find the resources that each caller may need. And when I don’t have the answer, I know that I am just one message away from a colleague who will happily guide me.

This feeling of support extends from my workplace to the bayit. Whether I’m answering hotline calls from migrants in crisis at my cubicle or developing a chore system that meets the needs of my housemates, I find myself supported at every turn. I look forward to returning home from a long day at work to share a homemade meal with my housemates. With the smell of freshly baked focaccia hanging in the air, we might engage in a friendly venting session about the intricacies of the systemic limitations of social services work followed by a prayer to a G-d who means something unique to each of us.

This year-long experience has brought the concept of radical Jewish living down to earth for me, illustrating how accessible communal living and living Jewishly can be. Thus far, my greatest takeaway from Avodah has been the sheer impact of imagining the world as it could be. In August, as a newly initiated Corps Member, I was a bit skeptical of such idyllic-sounding rhetoric, as it seemed out of touch in the landscape of Chicago, where too many of our neighbors live unhoused, unfed, unseen. Six months into my Avodah year, I am proud to feel empowered by the Jewish mysticism that feeds the ideas and actions of the progressive space we occupy. I’ve realized that my cohort and I are not only envisioning the world as it could be, but are building that world, one hotline call and communal meal at a time.

Celebrating 20 Years of Avodah in Washington, D.C

Shula, a current Avodah DC Service Corps Member, and Emily, a 2018-2019 Jewish Service Corps alum together at CASA.

During her senior year at Union College, Emily Sullivan spent time on the Mexican-American border, where she met individuals and families who shared stories about their difficult journeys to America and the anxiety caused by not having official immigration status.

After witnessing the system in action, Emily decided she wanted to work in the immigration field to support people in attaining a more permanent, secure life in America. So, when she saw a listing to join Avodah’s class of 2018-2019 and work in the immigration field in Washington, D.C., she jumped.

“It sounded like a great opportunity to do the type of work I wanted to do in the immigration and social justice sphere,” says Emily, who spent the year with CASA, an immigration organization that serves the mid-Atlantic region.

Emily is one of 387 Avodah Service Corps Members who have found meaningful work through Avodah’s site in Washington, D.C., which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Corp Members annually provide thousands of hours of assistance a year to non-profits around Washington that greatly need additional people-power to meet the demand of their clients.

At CASA, the Avodah Corps Member typically works with people who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which protects people who immigrated to the United States as children from deportation and allows them to work. Over the course of the year, the Avodah Corps Members will typically assist 500 applicants to renew their status. 

“The Avodah corps members are a very integral part of our legal department,” says Lucia Curiel, the supervising immigration attorney at CASA. “They are straight out of college, but they really hit the ground running and it has real life implications for people.” 

After Emily, now 27, finished her Avodah year, she stayed on at CASA. In 2020, she was promoted to legal services coordinator. Today, she is a Department of Justice-accredited representative, which allows her to legally represent a wide array of immigration cases. Now she helps people apply for green cards and works with immigrants who have been victims of a crime to secure visas. 

“I feel good about my job,” Emily says.

Another highlight of her job is co-supervising the Avodah fellows along with Lucia. This year’s Corps Member, Shula Bronner, said she chose Avodah because she was looking for a post-college opportunity that would allow her to do social justice work in a supportive environment, which is exactly what she found at CASA.

“Everyone is really supportive, and I’m respected as someone who has something to add,” Shula says. “I am given a lot of independence to manage the workflow.”

For Shula, 22, working with DACA applicants has been both fulfilling and eye-opening. She says that she has seen how important the DACA status is, particularly in families where not everyone has work status. 

“My DACA clients are often supporting their families because they have work status,” she explains.

Although she does not know what she wants to do when her year with Avodah comes to an end, Shula says that the Service Corps has helped her to learn what she wants.

“Avodah taught me what a supportive working environment looks like and I do know that I want to be in client-facing direct services or policy change,” Shula says. “I’ve just learned so much.”

What steps can Jewish camps take to advance social justice?

Leadership for Social Change Cohort members with cohort faculty and Avodah and Foundation for Jewish Camp staff at Ramah Darom; the group is gathered together, facing the camera and smiling

Last week, senior staff and directors from Jewish day and overnight camps from around the country gathered in Georgia to begin exploring this question. The retreat kicked off an 18-month training program through a partnership between Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Avodah Institute for Social Change. 

Over the course of four days, the 18 participants in the Leadership for Social Change cohort discussed their own social justice journeys and delved into topics such as the foundations of social justice in Jewish thought and anti-Black racism. 

The interactive programs and lectures were led by expert faculty members, including Catherine Bell, a non-profit consultant and coach; Caroline Rothstein, a poet, writer, and educator; Yoshi Silverstein, founder and executive director of Mitsui Collective, a non-profit that builds resilient community through embodied Jewish practice and somatic anti-racism; and Yehudah Webster, program director at the Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project, which provides social justice leaders with the tools of Jewish spirituality. Sarra Alpert, the Director of Avodah Institute for Social Change, served as an educator, along with guest teacher Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Atlanta, Georgia.

Left: Avodah Institute Director Sarra Alpert leads a session on Avodah's framework of social justice; participants are seated as Sarra stands next to an easel with chart paper Right: Cohort members and faculty engage in a session on somatic antiracism led by Yoshi Silverstein; people are spread out on a basketball court in pairs

“I feel like I got more from the program than I know how to express,” one participant said. “I will be sitting with and exploring these thoughts and feelings for a long time.” 

The program was based on several of the Institute’s core principles. One such principle is that racism, and anti-Blackness specifically, are at the roots of all injustice in America. Therefore, leaders who wish to practice social justice must learn about the roots of systemic biases while embarking on their own personal journeys.

Also core to the Avodah Institute’s vision is the understanding that transformational, liberatory, visionary work takes time and care, and that it is necessary to practice accountability while giving people room to learn and grow. In order to guide and support participants in a practice of self-reflection and deep growth, the program offers peer and individual coaching. During the retreat, participants had one-on-one coaching sessions with their faculty coaches, which allowed them to set the stage for the growth to come. They will continue meeting with their faculty coaches throughout the remainder of the cohort experience.

Cohort members also learned about somatic anti-racism and embodied social justice leadership, with the goal of developing new insights into how justice and injustice show up in the body, mind, heart, and actions. Over the course of the program participants will learn to use spiritual and somatic tools as they navigate their social justice journeys, both personally and communally.  

Avodah launched the Avodah Institute for Social Change in response to movements for racial justice and urgent calls for more diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities. The primary goal is to help staff and leadership at Jewish organizations learn how to center tzedek (justice) in their work and programs. Over time, the in-depth learning is expected to ripple out and contribute to the broader movement for social change.

Last year, Avodah partnered with Hillel for a six-month pilot program. Avodah lengthened the program to add more training. The partnership with Federation for Jewish Camp will culminate with participants designing and implementing social justice programs at their camps in the summer of 2024.

“We’re truly inspired by the number of camp leaders who are willing to commit to this long-term, in-depth process of centering social justice both in their own leadership and in their camp environments,” said Sarra Alpert, Director of the Avodah Institute for Social Change.

Avodah Institute for Social Change Partners with Foundation for Jewish Camp

 

Avodah is proud to announce that it has partnered with Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) for the second cohort program of the Avodah Institute for Social Change. The 18-month program trains Jewish community professionals to develop their Jewish justice skills. The program is facilitated by a set of diverse and accomplished Jewish educators from across the social justice sector, including Catherine Bell, Caroline Rothstein, Yoshi Silverstein, and Yehudah Webster.

Avodah established the Institute in response to a growing demand from Jewish organizations for professional development that would help promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion within their communities. Through retreats, workshops, coaching, and peer mentoring, the Institute will provide eighteen Jewish day and overnight camp senior staff with opportunities to learn about social justice, respond to issues that matter to their campers and staff, and develop skills to deepen their camp’s commitment to equity and inclusion. 

Participants of the Leadership for Social Change cohort include JCamp, Westside JCC; URJ Jacobs Camp; URJ Camp Coleman; Camp J, Tucson JCC; Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake; BB Day Camps Portland; Camp Sabra; Urban Adamah; URJ Greene Family Camp; Camp Havaya; URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy; Camp Sabra; Camp Avoda; Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp; and Camp Kinderland.

Read the full press release here.


The Avodah Institute for Social Change is generously funded by Crown Family Philanthropies, Dorot Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, Perlin Family Foundation, The Rakin Family, Sally Gottesman, Alisa and Daniel Doctoroff, Martine and Stanley Fleishman, and Ruth Wolman.