The Jewish Service Corps

Frequently Asked Questions

Jewish Life

At Avodah, we see justice as a deep-rooted and powerful part of Jewish life, and Jewish life as a valuable source of sustainability, community, and meaning in our justice work. Throughout your Jewish Service Corps experience, you’ll develop a deep relationship between your justice and Jewishness, and explore all of the powerful connections between the two.

Do I have to be Jewish to be a Corps Member?

While being Jewish is not required to be a Service Corps member, it’s important to know that a large part of the experience, particularly in the programming and communal living components, is based on the interplay between Judaism and social justice, and creating a pluralistic, values-led Jewish community. We do ask that you have the ability and interest to live and learn in an environment that is structured around a Jewish lifestyle, regardless of individual faith.

I am Jewish, but am I “Jewish enough” for the Service Corps?

Definitely! Our pluralistic community is made up of people of all different backgrounds and identities – that’s what makes it so powerful. Our Corps Members are Secular, “Just Jewish,” Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox, and everything in between. We also have candidates every year who are still in the middle of the conversion process or are strongly considering it. We strongly encourage Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, Jews of Color, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming Jews, and Jews who come from poor or working-class backgrounds to apply as well.

How diverse is the Jewish Service Corps?

We are committed to building Service Corps cohorts that are inclusive of the diversity of the Jewish community, including Jews of Color, Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, queer, trans, and non-binary Jews, Jews from poor or working-class backgrounds, and more. We still have a ways to go — and are working hard through initiatives like our Jews of Color Bayit in NYC and our economic access fund to create programmatic structures that will support Corps Members from marginalized identities. This program year,  10% of our Corps Members identify as Jews of Color, 17% identify as Jews of Color, Sephardi Jews, or Mizrahi Jews, 43% of Corps Members are a part of the LGTBQ+ community, and 8% of Corps Members are transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming.

If you’d like to learn about other demographics, or about the experience of marginalized Corps Members in the program, please reach out to our Recruitment Director, Emily, at apply@avodah.net. We’re always happy to connect you to an alum or Corps Member who shares an identity with you, or to get you the best and most transparent information about what your experience may be like!

Will I be housed within walking distance of a synagogue?

We try to put at least one house in each city within walking distance (1.5 miles) of a synagogue. Please be sure to discuss questions or concerns about access to a synagogue during your interview so we can make sure you end up in a Bayit that meets your religious needs.

What is Shabbat like in the program?

Shabbat is a huge site where our program’s pluralism plays out. You and your fellow Corps Members will create a pluralistic “Community Shabbat” at least once a month. Some Shabbats will likely have practices that are familiar to you, and others will likely introduce practices that may be new or out of your comfort zone. In many houses, Corps Members choose to celebrate together more frequently. Programs like “Shabbat as a Radical Practice” also help Corps Members think deeply, creatively, and politically about the connections between Shabbat, activism, and their own observance as both individuals and a community.

Will I be able to keep kosher? Or, what if I don’t keep kosher?

All kitchens in our houses are kosher at the time of move-in. As the year progresses, each household negotiates the standards of kashrut (Jewish dietary law) that the members of the community wish to maintain based on the practices of the Corps Members in your home. If your housemates decide to maintain a kosher kitchen, you will be required to maintain kosher practices while cooking in the Bayit. However, you are not obligated to keep kosher yourself if you do not already.

What is Avodah's Kashrut practice?

Avodah is committed to providing a kosher kitchen to incoming Corps Members when they arrive in their new home. We recognize that there are many ways to practice kashrut (the Jewish laws and customs over food consumption and preparation), and that one’s kashrut practices may be informed by one’s own study, denominational affiliation, ethnic Jewish identification (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, etc.), and more. Our practice is to kasher (make kosher) the kitchen each off-season to our organizational standard, as long as the survey responses from the incoming Corps Members indicate that this standard meets their practices. We have determined our standards through consultation with our Ruach Avodah advisors and aimed to develop standards that would align with a rigorous practice of kashrut, grounded in well-supported, non-outlier, opinions in Jewish law. As a pluralistic and diverse Jewish organization, Avodah embraces different legal opinions and practices, not privileging one or the other as custom. Incoming Corps Members will have a chance to review the full document and alert us to any changes that need to happen before orientation. All food that Avodah provides to Corps Members will meet the Kashrut and other dietary needs of the cohort. Then, during orientation, Corps Members will determine with their housemates their household’s kashrut practice moving forward.

Are any of the houses within an eruv?

Yes! The new Brooklyn Eruv encompasses the majority of Brooklyn, including our New York City batim (houses). You can view the boundaries of the eruv here.

Still have questions?

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 they’re here to answer any questions you may have.