Dana Keren originally applied to be an Avodah Corps Member in New York City, but she switched to New Orleans at the last minute. For some reason, she says, it felt like New Orleans was where she was supposed to be.
She arrived in 2010 and knew she made the right decision almost immediately: “I had never been to New Orleans before Avodah, but it was a love affair from the moment I arrived. I knew I was staying for good.”
We placed Dana at the Ruth U. Fertel Tulane Community Health Center, where she coordinated outreach to a diverse group of New Orleanians with a wide range of medical needs. When Dana started her work at the Center, she was a one-woman outreach department. By the time she left three years later, she was managing a staff of four, including an Avodah Corps Member.
The work at the clinic connected Dana to an amazing network of health and community leaders, and she became inspired to work towards bettering birth outcomes in New Orleans. In 2011, Dana cofounded Birthmark Doula Collective, which supports pregnant and parenting women, and advocates for stronger health outcomes for women in New Orleans.
Dana says that “Avodah helped me understand how to be in New Orleans, and that’s why I succeeded here.” The way our community is interwoven with the city provided her with a sense of instant connection – she remembers how she met the mayor of New Orleans on the first day of orientation. It’s such a small town that Dana remains connected with many of the leaders who spoke to her cohort during programs, and she feels that the connectedness to both the Jewish community and the broader social justice community has deeply benefitted her work.
That sense of community is central to Dana’s relationship to Avodah. When she came to New Orleans, she was searching for likeminded people to explore the city, to celebrate Jewish life. She found exactly that in her housemates, who became her roommates at the end of her Service Corps year. She continues to see Avodah as her Jewish community in New Orleans.
But here’s the funny thing, according to Dana: “For some reason, my housemates voted me most likely to move out early when we started in Avodah, but I became a total believer. By the end of the year, Avodah totally shifted the course of my life in a way that I was searching for, and I’m still following that path today.”