Pursuing social justice was always a natural part of Benetta Mansfield’s life.
Having grown up in a secular Jewish family that valued activism, Benetta joined the fight for civil rights, protested the war in Vietnam, and ultimately dedicated her career to advocating for justice, fair wages and safe conditions for all workers. When she had her own family, she joined a synagogue. Her children became b’nai mitzvah and later, Benetta became an adult b’nai mitzvah. Outside of the synagogue, she served as chair of the board of Operation Understanding, a DC-based organization that works with Black and Jewish high school students to promote respect, understanding, and cooperation while working to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism, and all forms of discrimination.
In her professional career as an attorney, she worked for the National Labor Relations Board and as in-house counsel and later Chief of Staff of the Amalgamated Transit Union. She was later appointed by a federal judge to run the election of officers of the Teamsters Union and served as Chief of Staff of the National Mediation Board.
After a 30-year career in Washington, DC fighting for workers’ rights, Benetta retired, returned to her hometown of Chicago to live with her husband, Kalman Resnick, and sought out volunteer opportunities to continue her social justice work.
Our then-Executive Director introduced Benetta to Avodah over coffee, and it turned out to be the perfect match. Benetta joined our Chicago Advisory Council as a local lay leader, joined our national board shortly after, and today she’s leading the charge as our board chair. “Avodah unites my interest in seeking justice with my growing awareness of the importance of doing this within a Jewish framework. I believe deeply in creating this national movement of Jewish leaders who care about poverty and justice.” Benetta also serves as vice president of Arise Chicago, a interfaith worker justice organization.
Even as she brings her wealth of experience and knowledge to leading our work, Benetta has reconnected with her Judaism by being a part of the Avodah community: “Avodah has enabled me to deepen my own Jewish identity in a powerful way. I’ve learned so much from the Corps Members, Fellows, and alumni. I’m inspired by the way they bring their Judaism to their work for change.”