By Chana Sternberg, 2022–2023 Avodah Chicago Service Corps Member By the end...
Your place in social justice movements and Jewish community
The Jewish Service Corps is an immersive service year program for individuals ages 21-26 who are passionate about social justice and ready to engage in deep Jewish community.
Corps Members are matched with leading nonprofits in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, or Washington D.C. While serving on the ground at organizations tackling crucial social issues, Corps members deepen their social justice framework through Avodah’s innovative curriculum and pluralistic communal living.
Corps Members graduate with a year of real-world job experience, joining our active 1,400+ alumni network of Jewish social justice professionals that will continue to support their future careers and serve as their Jewish community for life.
Gain a year of hands-on experience
After matching with an organization in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, or Washington, D.C., you’ll contribute meaningfully to on-the-ground efforts on crucial justice issues such as immigration, LGBTQ advocacy, education, healthcare, criminal justice, and more.
Develop skills as a social justice advocate
Avodah’s curriculum will help you critically examine the causes and effects of structural poverty, develop practical skills to make meaningful change, and gain Jewish social justice insights. It is designed to deepen and contextualize your day-to-day work while supporting you in finding your place in the broader justice movement after the Service Corps.
Create lasting Jewish community
Home-cooked Shabbat dinners, late-night conversations, and holiday celebrations make living in the bayit (communal home) memorable and meaningful. Corps Members co-create intentional, pluralistic communities across the country, including in our Jews of Color Bayit in NYC.
Have your basic needs met
Avodah takes care of the most important things. Corps Members receive housing, a monthly living stipend, health insurance, and a travel allowance. Corps Members can also tap into the economic access fund to support unmet financial needs.
Access Jewish justice opportunities for life
Over 1,400 social justice leaders across the country serve are “Avodahniks” — active, engaged members of your future community. From apartment hunts to job references to holiday meal invitations, our alumni will have your back.
— Chicago Service Corps alum
We help young Jewish leaders create lasting impacts on their communities. 55%* of Service Corps alumni chose to live in their program city after completing their service year and 80%* of alumni felt better equipped to help strengthen their Jewish community’s involvement in the fight for social justice.
*of alumni polled in the 2021 Avodah Alumni Survey
Corps Members turn their passion into action by serving in cities across the country at leading non-profit organizations doing critical work on the community level. At Avodah, we believe in the power and importance of being in deep relationship with those most impacted by poverty. We know that our work is strongest when rooted in coalition and proximity. Our Corps Members take on meaningful roles that address economic injustice and critical social justice issues such as immigration, healthcare, housing, food insecurity, gender-based violence, education, criminal justice reform, and more in four cities: Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, and Washington, D.C..
Corps Members add significant capacity to organizations on-the-ground and in turn, gain key work experience that will deepen their analysis of poverty and grow leadership skills that will help springboard their careers in the justice field. And while our focus has always been on setting Corps Members up for a lifetime of meaningful, sustainable, and effective social justice work – not on saving the world in one service year – it’s undeniable that the contributions of our Corps Members to their placements and the impact on the clients they serve can be invaluable.
ORGANIZATIONS WE SERVE
During the final round of the selection process, you’ll be strategically matched with placement organizations based on both your own preferences and skillsets and the input of our placement organizations. Corps Members then support our placement organizations in a range of crucial ways. Most of our Corps Members engage in direct service, working directly with clients to meet their immediate needs. Others might engage in community organizing or legislative advocacy.
At the end of the workday, you’ll return to the communal home where you’re able to learn and live in deep community with your fellow Corps Members, all of whom are working on different justice issues in different ways. Whatever work you end up doing with Avodah, you’ll gain a holistic perspective of how different issue areas interact in your city, and what type of social justice work resonates with you.
We are proud to support The First 72+, a re-entry program for formerly incarcerated individuals in New Orleans.
Below are a few examples of the kinds of positions we offer through our placement organizations.
We believe that relationships that allow for real vulnerability and support are one of the most important resources that we can draw on to help us build a more just world. In the Service Corps, Corps Members create the foundations for powerful lasting friendships and collaborations by co-creating intentional, pluralistic communities across our program cities. In each city, Avodah provides a fully-furnished communal home known as the Bayit. Corps Members don’t have to worry about paying rent or utility bills, or even the challenges that come from trying to do chores, cook meals, and run errands alone. Instead, Corps Members work collectively to form communities where everyone can have their needs met, their authentic selves seen, and their growth pushed in loving ways.
Life within the Bayit is both joyous and challenging, meaningful and complicated. The communal home is where you’ll wrestle together with the hard questions of social justice work, learn from a diverse set of perspectives and backgrounds, negotiate to create a community that can contain a diverse set of Jewish practices and observance levels, and move through the inherent conflict that can arise from creating authentic community. It’s also where you’ll share yummy meals, make plans to explore the city together, plug into local activism, celebrate Jewish holidays and life, invest deeply in community care, and prioritize joy, relationships, and nourishment. To make it all work, you’ll spend time in orientation and ongoing programming digging deep into community building, conflict resolution, anti-oppression training, and pluralism.
Communal living can sometimes be seen as one of the more intimidating components of the program—and yet we hear every year from Corps Members that it turned out to be the most meaningful. 50% of our Corps Members continue to live together after the conclusion of the service year, and our alumni continue to be in deep community for years to come.
Self-identified JOCs (Jews of Colors) also have the opportunity to choose to live in the JOC Bayit in NYC. The JOC Bayit is a communal living option that is specifically designed to nurture the leadership of Jews of Color. For Jews of Color, living communally with predominantly white Jews can be challenging and overwhelming. The JOC Bayit was designed to offer a celebratory JOC-only space within the Jewish Service Corps where JOC Corps Members can instead focus their energy on building community, fostering a deeper connection to Jewishness, practicing self- and community-care, engaging in leadership development and identity formation, and celebrating what it means to be a Jew of Color.
Learn more about the cities our Service Corps members serve in.
Social justice is hard. This work can be exhausting, personal, and complicated, and can lead to great social justice leaders burning out early. That’s why an essential component of the Jewish Service Corps is transformative, innovative programming. Our programming is designed to contextualize, deepen, and nourish your placement work while strengthening your ability to stay in social justice work for the long haul. Our Corps Members engage in deep learning through a varied set of programs that include learning sessions, anti-oppression trainings, issue salons, community care nights, immersive retreats, professional development opportunities, affinity and praxis groups, panels, holiday programs, community Shabbats, and more.
Learning with Avodah falls into four big buckets (Analysis and Tools for Working Towards Racial, Economic, and Social Justice; Building Community; Intersections between Judaism and Social Justice; Leadership development) and are anchored around guiding questions:
• What is my vision of a more just world?
• What is my role now and throughout my life in building a more just world?
• How is community-building a part of working towards a more just world?
• How does my Jewish identity inform and sustain my avodah (service – spiritual, communal, and work-related)?
• What tools are communities using to disrupt and respond to systemic injustice?
• What is the role of a Jewish movement for social justice?
Some programs will help you develop a structural analysis around poverty. You’ll locate your placement’s work in a broader landscape, examine the connections to different issue areas in your city, interrogate different methods of social change, explore questions of power and positionality, and dive deep into the intersecting root causes of oppression. And your skill building won’t be siloed to whatever work you’re doing in your placement – through programming, you’ll gain critical skills such as fundraising, organizing, program development and facilitation, self-advocacy, conflict resolution, practices for personal and communal reflection, and much more. These skills will also give you the expertise you need to make the most of your communal living experience and build a community that is generous, pluralistic, and accessible.
Other programs will help you develop a relationship to your Jewishness that can be empowering, authentic, and sustaining. You’ll engage with your Jewish identity as it relates to your activism, and with the ways that your political beliefs can inform your Jewish practice. You and your fellow Corps Members will meet with rabbis (including our on-staff Ruach Avodah, who are available to provide deep Jewish learning and personal pastoral care), educators, community leaders, and activists throughout the year to explore Jewish texts, history, and justice-oriented approaches to Jewish holidays and ritual. Our Corps Members create lasting, pluralistic Jewish community that is deeply and inextricably intertwined with justice values.
Examples of programs might include:
• Intersections Between Poverty and Gender
• Anti-racism Training
• Shabbat as a Radical Practice
• The Jewish Institutional Landscape and Social Justice Community
• City-specific Issues (i.e. DC Statehood/Voting Rights)
• Financial Literacy
• Jews in the Labor Movement
• Issue Salon on Immigration and Refugee Resettlement
— DC Service Corps alum
When you serve with Avodah, you join a network of more than 1,400+ Jewish social justice leaders committed to giving back and working toward change. You’ll have opportunities throughout your service year to learn from alumni in programs, to connect one-on-one on mentorship opportunities, and be in community at local gatherings and holiday celebrations. Our alumni go on to work in education, social services, public policy, healthcare, law, non-profit management, community organizing, the Jewish communal sphere, and so much more. Some of them — nearly 30%–even stay on at their placement organization after the service year is over. Our network of peers, friends, professional colleagues, and mentors will be there to support you through all phases of your life and career. Learn more about our incredible alumni.
A GROWING COMMUNITY
Our alumni shared their insights into how to make the most of your year serving with Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps.
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Our Recruitment team is here to help you through the application process and will be available every step of the way, from start to finish. We know that everyone’s background and needs are different, and we’re here to answer any questions you may have. The next deadline is February 23rd.