When Aaron Fenster finished college with a Master’s of Public Administration, but limited work experience, he wasn’t sure how to break into the field. When he learned about Avodah, he knew it would be the perfect fit.
In the fall of 2011, Aaron came to DC to be an Avodah Corps Member and work as a Case Manager at Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization committed to ending chronic homelessness.
Aaron jumped right into the work. Beginning on day one, he met with clients, listened to their stories, asked the necessary questions to determine how best to support them, and helped them decide what to do next. Over the next year, Aaron worked hard to help his clients navigate the complexities of DC, from identifying available services to filling out and submitting the right forms.
Working with his clients exposed Aaron to some painful realities, but every night, he came home to an Avodah bayit (house) filled with a community of Corps Members who understood the challenges. After the tougher days, grappling with his clients’ struggles, Aaron found comfort and connection in talking to his housemates. “We all made it through the year together, supporting each other in this work.”
Aaron’s eyes were also opened by weekly Avodah programming. Hearing from leaders in the field reshaped his approach to his work. “The learning exposed me to a whole new experience of social justice. There was so much that I didn’t really understand before and I learned everything from organizing and how to be an ally, to how to bring communities into the decision making process.”
At the end of his year in the Service Corps, Aaron applied for a position with Housing Unlimited, a long-time Avodah partner that provides housing to people in mental health recovery in Montgomery County, Maryland. Within an hour of applying, he got a call from one of his fellow Corps Members – he had the perfect reference sitting right there in the office!
Today, Aaron is the Chief Operating Officer at Housing Unlimited, overseeing a team that manages dozens of properties while supporting the clients who live in them. One of the best parts of the work is that Aaron always has at least two Avodahniks on his staff team, both an alum and a current Corps Member. He finds that colleagues with an Avodah background always bring a valuable social justice perspective to the office.
Only a few years after his Service Corps year, Aaron is leading the work of one of our partners and a team of Avodahniks, and he still has Shabbat dinner with his former housemates on a monthly basis.
“Jewish life in Avodah created a space for togetherness that has helped my sense of community thrive, and it continues to thrive to this day.”