Avodah Institute for Social Change

How can Jewish institutions take on deep, sustainable,

accountable and effective work for justice?

After 23 years of building Jewish justice curricula, developing leaders, and creating strong partnerships in the fields of social and economic equity, we’ve established the Avodah Institute for Social Change. The Institute is designed to train countless Jewish leaders from across the Jewish professional sector in social change work and transform the culture of American Jewish life. This work responds both to the timeless Jewish imperative to pursue justice and the current moment when Jewish organizations nationally have expressed a heightened concern with creating an equitable and inclusive society.

The Institute offers cohort-based professional development, special seminars and symposia for Jewish leadership, and enrichment opportunities for the public to engage in justice issues, anti-racism frameworks, and social change tools through a Jewish educational lens. The Institute also serves as the hub for Avodah’s acclaimed educational resources including its Speak Torah to Power talk series, Racial Justice Guide, B’nai Mitzvah curriculum – Tikkun Olam: Our Turn, holiday learning materials, and more. Here, Jewish learners of all kinds can ask big questions about their Jewish values and identities, and gain the skills, tools, and spiritual nourishment needed for translating theory into practice or, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, praying with our feet. See below for our Institute offerings.

Transformative Teshuvah: a High Holiday Resource For a More Just World

This online resource contains a series of text studies, tools for reflection, artistic interpretations, and activities providing different pathways to explore the question: How do we turn towards change?

Workshops

Community-wide conversations about racism, equity, and other justice topics through a uniquely Jewish lens in partnership with local Jewish communal institutions. These will be open and accessible to people of all backgrounds who will build community around a shared interest in bringing justice to the fore as a value and in practice. Program offerings include: organizational and personal coaching on Jewish justice engagement and leadership; workshops and trainings on various intersections of Judaism, justice, community-building and leadership; workshops on key current justice issues.

If you’re interested in hiring us to bring any of these programs to your community, please contact Alison Rollman to set up an intake meeting.

Cohorts

Community-based professional development intensives for senior and mid-career Jewish communal leaders seeking guidance in assessing personal and organizational biases and learning curves, through a Jewish lens and in community with other Jews. Cohort components will include retreats, training and workshops, peer mentoring structures, long-term advising and support from faculty, and various forms of ongoing virtual community.

Personal Leadership Cohorts: These cohorts will be organized by field (i.e. Jewish camp staff), by location (either city or region), and by role (i.e. development professionals). In addition to the core curriculum, cohort participants will work towards an individualized goal to measurably increase their ability to lead justly. Come back to this page in the future to see what cohorts are currently accepting applications, and email Alison Rollman if you’re interested in helping to launch a particular cohort. 

Organizational Change Cohorts: These cohorts will be open to graduates of the Personal Leadership Cohorts as well as graduates of other justice learning experiences. Organizations will apply with a specific justice project in mind and will receive dedicated consulting support, coaching, and training towards enacting sustained and effective justice changes and engagements.

Email Alison at [email protected] for more information.

Digital Resources

At Avodah, we believe that Jewish leaders have the power to help change our country for the better. The following resources are available to individuals, synagogues, Hillels, camps, day schools, and other Jewish institutions to help deepen their approach to social and economic justice. Please see below for our digital resource offerings.

Speak Torah to Power Video Series

“Speak Torah to Power” is a groundbreaking speaker series that connects today’s most pressing social justice issues with Jewish wisdom to guide us in doing transformative work in the world. 

Racial Justice Guide

Avodah’s Racial Justice Guide is intended to be a resource for Jewish nonprofit organizations. It has been written for all stages of leadership, as racial justice and inclusion are everyone’s responsibilities.

Tikkun Olam: Our Turn

Tikkun Olam: Our Turn was born out of a desire to deepen the ‘mitzvah project” experience at b’nai mitzvah time—to provide better context and mentoring for our communities’ young adults as they stood on the threshold of adulthood in our communal institutions.

Institute Staff & Leadership

Sarra Alpert

Director, Avodah Institute for Social Change

Sarra Alpert formerly held the role of National Program Director at Avodah and is an alum of the Avodah Jewish Service Corps (2002-2003). She feels lucky to get to work to build activist communities that can support and challenge each other in anti-oppressive, transformative social justice movement-building in Jewish communal spaces and beyond. She is also on the faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone Seminar and is a Schusterman Fellow. Previously, Sarra served two terms as a board member for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, taught in the NYU Expository Writing Program and in a range of Hebrew schools and other settings. She went to graduate school at NYU and undergraduate at University of California San Diego. She can often be found cooking with and for friends, reading or listening to podcasts on the subway, or enjoying New York City’s parks, events and various surprises.

Alison Rollman

Program Assistant, Avodah Institute for Social Change

Alison Rollman previously worked as an administrator at Third Root Community Health Center and as a food and housing justice fellow with Repair the World Brooklyn. She is passionate about building a more just and loving world and spends her free time mobilizing resources for social change with JFREJ and Resource Generation. Alison has a degree in Sociology from Pitzer College and is originally from Los Angeles. She enjoys teaching yoga, making art, and spending as much time as possible in Prospect Park.

Design Team

Catherine Bell

Catherine Bell is a facilitator, nonprofit consultant, and Certified Professional Coach; she serves as a Senior Consultant at Joyous Justice.

Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein

Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein is Avodah’s Service Corps National Jewish Educator, Chicago Justice Fellowship Director, and a passionate learner and teacher of Torah. 

Gamal Palmer

Gamal Palmer is Senior Vice President of Leadership Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles.

Yoshi Silverstein

Yoshi Silverstein focuses on embodied Jewish practice and somatic antiracism as Founder & Executive Director of Mitsui Collective, and was formerly Director of the JOFEE Fellowship at Hazon.

Advisory Council

Ilana Kaufman

Co-chair, Avodah Institute Advisory Council

Ilana Kaufman is the Executive Director of the Jews of Color Initiative whose work sits at the center of Jewish community, philanthropy, racial equity and justice.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt

Co-chair, Avodah Institute Advisory Council

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt is an Avodah national Board Member and Rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation.

For more information please reach out to our Avodah Institute Program Assistant Alison Rollman at [email protected].