The Avodah Blog

Setting The Groundwork: Bringing Lessons From Hanukkah Into The New Year

elisegoldinBy Emily Nash

During Hanukkah we celebrate that a small quantity can achieve something larger than expected – the oil that lasted eight nights instead of one, and the small Maccabee army that defeated the Greeks. Like Hanukkah, the new secular year is full of possibility and the chance to exceed our wildest expectations. As social activists, and specifically as corps members, we have an incredible opportunity to achieve something larger than what we often expect, what others may expect, or something larger than what we see as the immediate impact. Like the oil that brought light and hope to the Jewish people, we bring light to our clients, organizations, and larger communities. Hanukkah reminds us of our potential to effect larger change.

I observe this impact every day at my placement. As a Client Services Associate at the Medicare Rights Center, I provide information to Medicare beneficiaries to help them resolve complex Medicare issues. As Medicare experts, my fellow associates and I often provide information while forgetting the significance. When I help my client compare drug plans, I help my client access medication. When I assist a client with an application for a low income benefit to help pay for their Medicare, I increase their access to care. Simple tasks can effect significant change. Important information coupled with a message of empathy can allow seniors and people with disabilities to access the health care they need.

I also observe this impact every day at the bayit. By living in an intentional community this year, as well as being a part of the wider AVODAH community, corps members achieve a larger-than-expected impact. Coming home to housemates who understand the challenges of helping clients to navigate complex bureaucracies and systems creates a crucial support network that helps us sustain efforts for the long run. From listening to a client’s success story, to sharing a common feeling of exhaustion and encouragement, the AVODAH community gives me strength to move forward with my work.

We are enabled to impact change by drawing strength from housemates’ support and the common challenges we face with our clients. We also draw strength, however, by growing from the challenges we face in our own community. This year, New York City AVODAHniks are challenged to create a community with more physically separate living spaces than years past. How do we maintain unity without physical proximity? How do we maintain unity with different backgrounds, preferences, comforts, and priorities? How do we create a pluralistic Jewish environment with different levels of knowledge and observance? Through programming, house meetings, and informal conversations, corps members explore solutions to these questions.

By beginning these conversations now, we lay a foundation for continuing these conversations throughout our lives and careers. Challenges now help us become strong leaders later. In this way, our AVODAH community is a light that sets the groundwork for long lasting change. As we begin the New Year, I hope for more questions, different perspectives, and stimulating discussions with corps members, coworkers, and community members. Let us bring in 2013 with the renewed energy to expand our networks and deepen our insights.

Emily Nash is currently serving as the AVODAH corps member and Client Services Associate at the Medicare Rights Center.  She is passionate about helping individuals access affordable health care and seeks to pursue a life-long commitment to social justice through a career in medicine.  She is excited to have the opportunity to share insights, experiences, and challenges of her AVODAH year of service with a broader community.

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