Frequently asked questions about the Jewish Service Corps

You probably have a TON of questions. Please read this page closely for the answers you need.

What's the application like?

What’s the application like?

There are a number of steps to the process – we like to think of it as an opportunity for you to get to know Avodah while we’re getting to know you. We’ll ask you to think about some of your goals and thinking about social justice, and you’ll have the chance to interview with Avodah staff and alumni.There are a number of steps to the process – we like to think of it as an opportunity for you to get to know Avodah while we’re getting to know you. We’ll ask you to think about some of your goals and about social justice, and you’ll have the chance to interview with Avodah staff and alumni.

The application for the 2020-2021 program year is open now. We are now accepting applications on a rolling basis until all spots are filled – we recommend applying ASAP to have the best chance of matching with a placement organization. We are committed to running the Jewish Service Corps for the coming year. If you have any Coronavirus-related questions or concerns, you can reach out to Emily Becker at [email protected]

1. Apply Online

  • Start by filling out your personal information on page one of the application and make sure to save your progress.
  • You’ll be asked to share: your preferred placement city (if you have one); how you heard about us; your educational background; your religious background; your skills and interests, and a few other details about you.
  • Complete several essays about your relationship to social justice and communal living.
  • Upload resume.
  • Send your three references the reference form link you recieve via email.

2.  Interview

  • We will contact qualified applicants to set up an interview after each deadline. Each candidate will be interviewed for only one program city.
  • There are two rounds of interviews included in the process. First, qualified candidates will interview with an Avodah alum. If the alum assesses the candidate as a good match, the candidate moves on to an interview with an Avodah staff member. A candidate may be put on an Alternate List before or after to each round of interviews. This means the candidate will not be considered during that round, but may be considered in the future.
  • Most interviews are by phone or Skype, but if you live near or can visit one of our program sites, please contact our Recruitment Director Emily Becker at [email protected] to schedule an in-person interview.

3.  Learn Your Status

After interviews, you will be notified of your status. Possible statuses include:

  • Invited into a matching round with potential work placements.
  • Placed on the Alternate List.
  • Not accepted to the program.

4.  Match with Your Work Placement

If you are invited to participate in the matching round, the process will occur as follows. You will:

  • You will receive descriptions of all available positions in your city.
  • You will rank your top three choices.
  • You will interview with any of the placement agencies you ranked who are also interested in you as a candidate. You must be available by telephone to speak with potential placements throughout the matching process.
  • Next, placement agencies rank their top choices of candidates.
  • Avodah will hopefully offer you a match with a placement agency based on the rankings submitted by both you and the placement agency. If we are unable to make a match for you, you will usually have the opportunity to rank/interview again in the next matching round.

See the next FAQ question “How does matching work?” for a more detailed overview.

5.  Congratulations, You’ve Been Accepted!

  • You will finalize your match by signing a three-way contract between yourself, Avodah, and your placement agency. This contract lists expectations and commitments, and by signing, you commit to participate in the full one-year program.
  • Once all three parties have signed the contract, you’re officially accepted into our Jewish Service Corps!
  • Please note: Once you have signed an Avodah contract, you are committed to the program for the year and will be required to pay a cancellation fee if you decide not to do the program.

Who can be a reference?

  • Someone who supervised you when you held either a paid or volunteer position, such as any type of full-time or part-time job, a summer internship or internship during the school year, teaching assistant position, etc.
  • Someone who served in a leadership role such as short-term service trip leader or a professional who served as a student group advisor.

Additionally, one of your three references MAY fit the following criteria, either:

  • A professor or academic advisor, OR
  • A peer from work, volunteer roles or a big project.

What if I need to change one of my references, but I’ve already submitted my application?

It’s not too late! Get in touch with our Recruitment Director Emily Becker at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help you out with this.

Do all applicants get interviewed?

After reviewing all applications submitted by the deadline, we contact qualified applicants for an interview. This is a very competitive process not all applicants will be interviewed.

Will I be interviewing for all cities?

If you move to the interview stage, you’ll be considered for a place in only one of our program cities. Usually, this city is one of the cities you expressed preference for in your application. If you don’t have a preferred city, we’ll place you in the city we believe is a strong fit for you. You can change your city at anytime by contacting the Emily at[email protected].

When will interviews take place?

Interviews for priority deadline applicants will take place in mid-February. Applicants who submit their application after the deadline will be interviewed in waves – reach out to Emily at [email protected] for an updated timeline if needed. If you submit your application prior to the priority deadline, you may be contacted earlier for an interview.

How long will my interview last?

A typical interview lasts 30-60 minutes.

Will I have a phone or in-person interview?

The vast majority of our applicants interview over the phone. If you are able to come to one of our offices in Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, or Washington, DC, please contact Emily at [email protected] to schedule an in-person interview. We may also be able to offer in-person interviews with alumni in several other cities around the country.

Will I have an in-person interview with a prospective placement agency?

Placement agencies conduct all interviews exclusively by phone. You do not need to travel, but you do need to be available by telephone throughout the interview week. If you are going to be away all or part of that week, please let us know right away.

When will I hear if I’ve been invited into a matching round?

If you applied by the priority deadline, you can expect us to be in touch with you in early to mid-March. After that, timing may varry.

What are my chances of getting into the program if I am on the Alternate List?

The chances that you will be invited into a subsequent matching round changes from round to round, depending on how many matches were already completed. We will be in contact with you periodically to update you on your status.

Can I defer acceptance?

We do not defer acceptance into the program for the following year. If you’re not sure about what you want to do next year, and think Avodah is a serious option, please do apply. However, if don’t want to do the program this coming year, please wait to apply until you are ready to participate. We’ll be happy to interview you then!

I have special circumstances Avodah should know about. Who do I tell?

Let your interviewer know about any special circumstances that will affect your potential participation. These might include things such as being out of the country during the matching round, anything that would limit full participation during the year, specific needs or preferences that may pose challenges. If there’s something you’re concerned about as you apply, you can always contact Emily at [email protected] to discuss your circumstances.



How does matching work?

How does matching work?

Here’s a short summary of the process:

  1. We provide you with descriptions of all available positions.
  2. You’ll rank your top three choices.
  3. Interview with the placement agencies you ranked highly who are also interested in you. You must be available to speak with potential placements by telephone throughout the matching process.
  4. The agencies rank their top choices of candidates, and you rerank your top choices.
  5. We match you with a placement agency based on your and the placement agency’s rankings.

While we can’t guarantee a particular placement, we work hard to find you the right match. You are not accepted into the program until you have been selected by a placement site.

Do I need to commit to the program before I join a matching round?

We invite candidates into the matching round if we believe they would be assets to the program. While no contracts are signed until after you match with a placement, we expect you to enter a matching round prepared to accept if offered a match. Interviewing is a time-consuming and thoughtful process, and we want to make sure our placement partners only interview applicants who are viable candidates. In addition, we’re only able to accommodate a limited number of candidates in each matching round, so we want to make sure that each spot is filled by someone who is fully committed to the process.

What if I have several options for next year?

We strive to make our matching process transparent so that you can make your choice with as much information as possible. If you have any specific timing issues, please let us know during the interview process. However, if you do match with a placement organization and sign a contract, we expect you to discontinue any other job searches or applications.

What information will I have to help me rank placement organizations?

We’ll provide access to placement position descriptions and links to organizations’ websites. You may also have an opportunity to speak with the Corps Member currently placed at organizations that you are considering, if applicable.

How long does a matching round take?

Each round takes about a week and a half.

How long will I have to decide if I want to accept a position?

You’ll have 24 hours to decide if you want to accept a position, so please be prepared to make a decision soon after you get an offer. We expect our applicants to use the time during the matching round to consider working at the various placements and participating in the program. If one candidate turns down a match, it is likely that another applicant will match with that placement, so it’s important to be able to make decisions quickly. We do understand that this is a big decision, and you may be weighing multiple factors as you decide. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to discuss them with us.

How many rounds does it usually take to match all applicants?

While it varies from year to year and city to city, there are usually 3-4 matching rounds.

Does anyone get invited into a matching round but not accepted into the program?

We do our best to match our applicants with their top choices. Still, there are times when applicants are unable to match with a placement agency. You are not accepted until you match with a placement agency and sign a contract.

When will I receive notification of my status?

If you applied by the application deadline, you can expect us to be in touch with you in mid-March.

If I am accepted into a matching round, do I need to commit to Avodah?

If you’re selected into a matching round, it means we believe that you are an excellent fit for the program. We accept applicants into matching rounds with the expectation that they will participate in the program if they make a match. We expect you to enter the matching round with a good faith commitment that if you are matched with a placement, you will join the program.

What is Life in Avodah like?

What is Life in Avodah like?

There are a lot of different pieces to this, so we’ve broken it up into a few different categories: Jewish Life, Working, Living, and Learning.

Jewish Life

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.

Will I be able to 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.

What is Shabbat like in the program?

You and your fellow Corps Members will create a pluralistic “Community Shabbat” at least once a month. In many houses, Corps Members choose to celebrate together more frequently.

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

Being Jewish is not required, but it’s important to know that a large part of the experience is based on the interplay between Judaism and social justice, and creating a 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 Jewish Service Corps?

Definitely! Our pluralistic community is made up of people all different backgrounds and identities.  Our Corps Members are Secular, “Just Jewish,” Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox,  and everything in between.  We strongly encourage Sephardic 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.


Can I take on other work while I am a Corps Member?

In order to ensure your ability to focus on Avodah-related activities and still find time for downtime and other personal activities, you may not take classes, hold a part-time job, or do extensive volunteer work for the first four months of the program year. After that, we ask that you limit extra commitments to five hours per week so that you can participate fully in the Avodah community.

What kind of work do Avodah alumni do after the year ends?

All kinds! In addition to having a fantastic position on their resume, alumni receive support in finding jobs through informational interviews and networking in our community, assistance with resumes and application materials, reference letters, career advice, and more. Our alumni are organizers, lawyers, health care professionals, activists, clergy, educators, non-profit staffers, and much more. Some even stay on at their placements! Read about some of our alumni stories here.


When does the program start?

The 2019-2020 Service Corps year will begin in late August 2019.

Are Avodah houses furnished?

They sure are! And they have all the dishes, pots, pans, and everything else you’ll need to run a household, including a kosher kitchen.

Will my house be in a safe neighborhood?

We work to provide the safest living situations possible. You’ll be living in an urban environment where—like most city neighborhoods—crime can be an issue and levels of safety are unpredictable. Our staff will provide resources for dealing with crime prevention and safety, and you’ll be living in a concerned community where you and your housemates will help each other use caution and safety.

Will I have to share a room?

You should be prepared to share a room for all or part of the program year. Our houses may have some singles, but most rooms are doubles. We don’t assign rooms – each household decides together how to divide up the living space.

What kinds of commitments to the community are required?

Living in community requires a commitment of time and spirit. Since you are working full-time and attending evening and weekend programs, you must make sure you are also able to commit time to living in community by participating in communal meals, celebrations of Shabbat, and house meetings. That might sound like a lot of effort (it is!), but you’ll find that putting in that time for community is one of the most meaningful parts of your Avodah experience. Many of our Corps Members choose to continue living together after the service year ends!


What does the programming component of Avodah entail?

Our programs are a space for the kind of skill-building, leadership training, and consistent reflective practice that strengthen all effective activists and provide the foundation for a future in social change work. You’ll meet with local social change leaders, engage in personal and communal reflection on the year’s unfolding challenges and accomplishments, create space to debate ideas and methods of social change, and participate in trainings on the skills you need to successfully pursue justice work and sustain yourself in the long-term.

The programs are also a setting to engage with your Jewish identity as it relates to your activism, and with the ways that your political and social beliefs and struggles can inform your Jewish practice. You and your fellow Corps Members will meet with rabbis, teachers, and Jewish activists throughout the year to explore Jewish texts, history, and justice-oriented approaches to Jewish holidays and ritual.

What program commitments are required?

There are anywhere from 4-6 evening programs in any given month. You’ll also participate in three weekend retreats and three day-long seminars, and visit other Corps Members’ work sites at least once a month. These opportunities will help you explore different approaches to social change and expose you to issues that you may not see in your own work.

Who plans the programming?

Good question. Our staff team is composed of leaders with backgrounds in both social justice and Jewish education, and they’re guided by a curriculum that we’ve been perfecting for almost 20 years. But we believe deeply in participant leadership, so every Corps Member steps up throughout the year to help plan everything from site visits to Shabbat celebrations to leadership development programs.

What financial support does the program provide?

What financial support does the program provide?

Your housing and public transportation costs are covered during your service year, and health insurance will be provided by your placement organization. In addition, you will receive a modest monthly stipend based on the costs for basic necessities in the city you live in. The allowance is not designed to cover large expenses like air travel, school application fees, or out-of-pocket prescription medication costs that exceed $500 per year.

Can I support myself on the allowance?

Most applicants are able to support themselves on the allowance. It may be a modest lifestyle, but living in a community helps to keep cost of living down and we provide subsidies for certain areas of life in the program. You’ll need to make smart decisions about budgeting and collaborate with your housemates to make good decisions for the needs of the house, like how to buy food together. It sounds like a challenge (and it is), but it’s the best way to gain real-life budgeting skills that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget: you’ll be living in a city that offers tons of free and cheap ways to have fun!

What if I have additional financial needs?

We are continuously striving to make the Jewish Service Corps more economically accessible to a wider variety of participants. We have an Economic Access Fund for our Corps Members to provide a safety net to Corps Members who don’t already have one. The Economic Access Fund can be requested for expenses such as medication copays, winter clothes, transportation for a visit home, etc.

How much are the stipends?

The numbers are based on costs for basic necessities, which are a bit different depending on the city you live in:


$360/month allowance

New Orleans

$325/month allowance

New York City

$460/month allowance

Washington, DC

$425/month allowance

What about my student loans?

Many loans can be deferred during a year in Avodah, though you should check with their specific loan provider to confirm. You’ll have to initiate this process yourself, and we’re happy to provide instructions and help you sort things out.

What about health insurance and transportation?

Your placement organization will provide you with health insurance during the year, as well as a travel subsidy to pay for local public transportation costs.

I heard something about fundraising?

I heard something about fundraising?

It’s true! During the summer before the program starts, you’ll join us in increasing awareness of Avodah and raising money to support our work together. You’ll run your own campaign, setting a goal with a minimum expectation of $1,500.

Why do you ask us to do this?

We believe that this skill is invaluable for people who want to create change. Fundraising is essential to every nonprofit organization and knowing how to galvanize people behind a cause you believe in is a vital skill. This is a chance to increase awareness about Avodah among your friends and family who might not know about our work, while playing an active role in growing our organization. From the very start, you’re more than just a participant in a program – you’re a key to Avodah’s success.

Do I have to meet my fundraising goal to get into the program?

We’ve learned that everyone reaches different fundraising goals, and we’ll support you in your efforts so the whole process is a rich learning experience. The bottom line is that we won’t exclude anyone from the program for not meeting the fundraising goal. And we’re grateful for every minute of work you put in to fundraise before the program starts (high five!).

Why do this over the summer?

You’re going to be super busy during the year between working full-time and participating in the Avodah community. We like to be realistic and avoid asking you to try to fundraise on top of your other responsibilities. We have found that incoming Corps Members do a great job of expressing their enthusiasm even before the official start of the year.

But I’ve never fundraising before. How can I do this?

You can totally do this, and you won’t be doing it on your own. Our all-star development team will provide you with fundraising training, tips, and work closely with you throughout the process.