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 intentional community, and you’ll have the chance to interview with Avodah staff and alumni.

The application for the ’22-’23 program year is now open – apply here. Our deadlines have passed and we are now accepting applications on a rolling basis until all spots are filled for an August start. We strongly recommend applying ASAP!

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 receive 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 video, but if you live near or can visit one of our program sites, please contact our Recruitment Director Emily Becker at [email protected] to potentially 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 throughout the interview process 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, video, or in-person interview?

Applicants interview over video.

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

Placement agencies conduct all interviews by video. You do not need to travel, but you do need to be available  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: Avodah basics, Jewish Life, Working, Living, and Learning.

Avodah Basics

Why serve with Avodah?

So many reasons! As a Jewish Corps Member, you’ll:

  • Gain real-world expertise through critical, hands-on work experience. You’ll be placed with one of Avodah’s partner organizations in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Washington, DC, or our newest city, San Diego.  Through on-the-ground direct service work, you’ll contribute meaningfully to our partners’ work on crucial justice issues such as immigration, climate change, education, healthcare, criminal justice, and more. 
  • Develop activist chops and Jewish social justice insights. Avodah’s innovative curriculum examines the root causes and effects of systemic oppression, develops practical skills, and looks at justice work with a Jewish lens. Programming deepens, contextualizes, and nourishes your day-to-day work while preparing you to sustainably stay in social and economic justice movements for the long haul.
  • Live and learn in the dynamic Avodah community. Home-cooked meals, late night conversations, and holiday celebrations make living communally in the bayit (house) memorable and meaningful. Corps Members co-create intentional, pluralistic communities across the country, including in our new Jews of Color Bayit in NYC.
  • Access activism, professional development, and Jewish opportunities for life. Over 1,400 social justice leaders across the country serve as active, engaged members of our alumni community.  They’ll help you with everything from apartments hunts to job references to holiday meals invites.
  • Have your basic needs met while you serve for justice.  In addition to a year of professional and personal growth, Corps Members receive a modest monthly living stipend, health insurance, travel allowance, and housing.   

What does a year of service mean?

We believe in the importance of being proximate, of working on the ground level to serve with the people in our nation most affected by systemic social and economic injustice. For some Corps Members, this is a continuation of experiences they have already had on the ground, both experiencing and fighting against poverty. For many other Corps Members, participating in a year of service is an opportunity to put different types of privileges, especially economic privilege, into action by contributing to the powerful work of our placement organizations. A year of service is an opportunity to have your basic needs covered while volunteering your time to invest deeply in community work and your own personal and professional growth as an advocate for social justice.

What makes Avodah stand out as a service year?

At Avodah, a service year is not just a gap year squeezed in between college and your next steps – it’s an entry point to lifelong engagement in movements for social and economic justice. Our curriculum is designed to not only support your day-to-day work at your placement, but to help you locate it in a wider systemic analysis, connecting your placement’s work to other issues of poverty in your city and to root causes of oppression. You’ll interrogate different methods of social change and build a diverse set of skills in order to help you locate how you can contribute to the fight against poverty for the long haul. Over 80% of our alumni stay directly in social justice work after the year is over and many stay involved in the active Avodah alumni community, continuing to access opportunities for activism and professional development that further their work in the field. Our mission at Avodah is not to parachute Corps Members into marginalized communities for a year – it’s to ground our Corps Members’ work for social justice in relationship and community, while setting them up to engage in social justice work critically, effectively, and sustainably.

How challenging is a year in Avodah?

At Avodah, we believe that there is value in the growth that comes from productive discomfort. In many ways, your Avodah year is meant to challenge you! Through your placement, you’ll be providing direct service to members of marginalized communities experiencing poverty and/or trauma. These positions are inherently challenging – as all social justice work is. But by serving with Avodah, you enter into this work with a dedicated support system (including your Program Director,  other members of your cohort, and alumni) as well as programming that will help you understand your work and keep it sustainable. We’re committed to providing the analysis, tools, Jewish social justice insights, and communal networks that can help keep emerging social justice leaders in this work for the long haul. This programming can also be a place of productive discomfort, asking you to confront essential and complicated questions of power, privilege, positionality, identity, oppression, spirituality and liberation.  Your Avodah staff, outside facilitators and educators, and fellow Corps Members will be there to hold the space and foster powerful conversation across difference.

Finally,  Corps Members live together in an intentional, pluralistic community, which requires negotiation and conflict resolution. Corps Members engage with a group of folks who hold a number of different views around politics, observance levels, and a range of perspectives on Jewish identity.  Like the program itself, pluralistic living can be challenging – and also immensely rewarding and sustaining. If you’re ready to engage in meaningful work and learning, and are excited about productive discomfort that will ignite your growth, then Avodah is the place for you!

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? 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 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 – that’s what makes it so powerful.  Our Corps Members are Secular, “Just Jewish,” Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox,  and everything in between.  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.

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 year, we are proud to share that 15% of our Corps Members identity as Jews of Color, 22% identity as Jews of Color, Sephardi Jews, or Mizrahi Jews, 46% of Corps Members are a part of the LGTBQ+ community, and 14% of Corps Members are non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-confirming. 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 Becker at [email protected], or our Manager of Racial Justice Initiatives Nate Looney at [email protected] 

 

Working

What are job placements like?

Corps Members serve at leading nonprofits working on crucial economic and social justice issues such as immigration, healthcare, climate change, food insecurity, housing, criminal justice reform, gender-based violence, education, and more. Most of our placements offer roles in direct service, where applicants work directly with clients to provide services (i.e. case management, teaching, staffing medical clinics). Some placements may also offer roles in direct advocacy (i.e. legal services) or community organizing (for workers’ rights, tenants’ rights, etc). Wherever you match, your job placement will provide on-the-ground experience that will be transferable to many roles post-service year, and that will help you refine your next steps. You can view our current placement organizations here, and view sample job descriptions here.

How does Avodah’s work support placement organizations?

Avodah provides on-the-ground anti-poverty organizations with vetted Corps Members who fill much needed entry-level roles at a highly subsidized cost to the placement. By volunteering their time and labor in a role the organization normally could not afford to support, Corps Members add valuable capacity that allows our placement organizations to expand the scope of their work and enhance their impact on the community they are serving. 

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 kinds 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 educators, organizers, social workers, lawyers, health care professionals, activists, campaign managers, clergy, non-profit staffers, Jewish professionals, artists, and much more. Some even stay on at their placements! Read about some of our alumni stories here.

 

Living

When does the program start?

The 2022-2023 Service Corps year will begin in late August 2022.

What are the differences between cities?

Each of our program cities has it’s own unique culture, history, and feel. New York City and Washington, DC are our larger program cities, with bigger Jewish communities as well as cohort sizes. Program cities often have different placements available depending on some of the justice issues that are particularly present in those cities – for example, we work with many criminal justice organizations in New Orleans and many housing organizations in DC. New York City features a new communal living option with our Jews of Color Bayit. If you need help deciding between cities, or want to learn more about the types of applicants these cities normally attract, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] It’s also very much okay to preference multiple cities, or to not have a preference!

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. Before your year begins, you will receive a packing list and advice that will help your planning.

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 during a facilitated rooming conversation where Corps Members are able to advocate for their needs. If you have questions, please reach out to us at [email protected]

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 support structures are in place for Corps Members?

Because a year in Avodah is challenging, it’s also designed with many structures to support your wellbeing. Our Ruach Avodah, or Rabbis-in-residence, not only support your Jewish learning through programming and ritual, but also provide pastoral care as you explore your Jewish identity and pluralistic community. Corps Members have access to our National Mental Health Advisor, who provides programming and can serve as a resource for Corps Members as they take care of their mental health. From the time you match with a placement, the National Mental Health advisor is available to help you access and set up mental healthcare resources in your Avodah city.  To learn more about our mental health support, you can read our statement on neurodiversity in the Service Corps below.

Corps Members also have the support of their Program Director, who is there to provide individual and communal support as you progress through your year, whether it’s advising on a challenging situation in the home or helping you advocate for yourself at work. Corps Members also have a built-in support system through the communities they create with their fellow Corps Members. Corps Members can opt in to national affinity groups around shared marginalized identities (i.e. for queer or trans folks, Jews of Color, Sephardim, and Mizrahim, participants from poor or working class backgrounds, etc) or praxis groups (for participants who want to work across cohorts on issues or identities where they hold privilege, such as whiteness, class privilege, gentrification, etc). Finally, while all of our Corps Members have access to our vast alumni network, the members of our Jews of Color Bayit are specifically paired with JOC leaders in the field to serve as mentors. 

 

Learning

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?

Our financial supports are designed to cover your basic needs during your year of service. We cover your housing and public transportation costs, 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 help you save, or to cover large expenses (like air travel, school application fees, or out-of-pocket prescription medication costs that exceed $500 per year). For most applicants though, it is enough to cover your basic needs like groceries, toiletries, and other essentials. 

Can I support myself on the allowance?

Most Corps Members are able to support themselves on the allowance. It may be a more modest lifestyle than some are used to, but living in a community helps to keep the cost of living down and we provide subsidies for certain areas of life in the program. You’ll need to make  decisions about budgeting and collaborate with your housemates to decide priorities 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 available for our Corps Members to provide a safety net to Corps Members who don’t have access to other financial safety nets. The Economic Access Fund can be requested for expenses such as medication copays, winter clothes, transportation for a visit home, etc. We also recognize that for applicants with large additional expenses, or who come from poor or working class backgrounds, that the Service Corps may not yet be a feasible option. If you’d like honest support in thinking through whether the Service Corps is possible for you economically, please reach out to our Recruitment Director Emily Becker at [email protected]

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. This year’s stipends are bigger than ever before at:

Chicago

$590/month allowance

New Orleans

$590/month allowance

New York City

$650/month allowance

Washington, DC

$610/month allowance

San Diego

$650/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.

Am I eligible to receive public benefits while in Avodah?

If public benefits haven’t been part of your financial support systems prior to Avodah, we don’t recommend utilizing public benefits during the service year,  as your living stipend/housing/transport should cover basic needs. If you have significant expenses beyond those, or have utilized public benefits in the past, you might be eligible during your service year, in which case you’ll work with your Program Director to navigate the application process.

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 $1,200.

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.

How Is Covid-19 Affecting the Jewish Service Corps?

How is Covid-19 affecting the Jewish Service Corps?

Throughout the pandemic, we have been able to continue to run the Jewish Service Corps by working with a team of medical consultants who help us figure out ways to best mitigate risk of exposure to, and transmission of, COVID-19. In consultation with our medical advisors, as the Covid-19 Vaccine is now widely available to all Americans ages 12 and up, and all members of the 2022-2023 Cohort have been fully vaccinated, we have significantly revised our risk mitigation protocols to transition from a proactive restrictive protocol to a protocol where the majority of decisions are Bayit decisions.

This year, many of our Corps Members are going into work, while some continue to work virtually from home. This is dependent on the placement organization’s needs, as well as the Corps Member’s preference. Our programming model continues to be a hybrid model that combines in-person programs as well as national programming over Zoom.

We are requiring:

  1. All Corps Members must be up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations.* Whenever additional boosters are recommended by the CDC, all Corps Members must receive the additional booster within one month of becoming eligible (assuming boosted doses are available in their city);
  2. All Corps Members must follow city, state, federal and CDC guidelines for the general public. Corps Members will decide as a community if there are areas where they would like to be more strict than CDC guidelines;
  3. In the event of a need to quarantine or isolate (due to symptoms, close contact with someone who has tested positive, or testing positive) all quarantines or isolations will be bedroom quarantines/isolations in the Avodah Bayit. Avodah staff will provide guidance and support for navigating this. Please note that the majority of Corps Members share bedrooms, and you will need to occasionally rearrange bedrooms to allow quarantining/isolating housemates to have a single for the duration of their quarantine/isolation. Avodah is not able to provide financial support for quarantine and isolations out of Bayit;

During any communicable disease outbreak, like the ongoing Covid pandemic, communal living is a higher-risk environment for disease transmission compared to an individual living alone or with one or two housemates. We recommend that prospective applicants discuss with their medical provider if this higher risk environment will meet their medical needs. Specifically, we strongly recommend all applicants consider if living in a house with 10+ housemates who are all following the CDC’s guidance for the general public is the right decision for them medically. Avodah cannot guarantee that cohorts will agree to abide by COVID protocols that are stricter than the CDC’s guidelines for the general public.

Avodah consults with a team of medical advisors when CDC guidelines are unclear and in instances where CDC guidelines are unclear Avodah will define the required measure. Avodah staff provide guidance to our Corps Members about best practices, as well as resources to support them in making collective decisions about COVID with housemates. 

Avodah’s COVID protocol is a living protocol. It is subject to change as circumstances and best practices change.

*Avodah is committed to the full inclusion of all qualified individuals in the Service Corps. While Corps Members are required to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, program participants who are unable to be vaccinated because of a disability, relevant medical condition, or sincerely-held religious beliefs may request, and Avodah will provide, reasonable accommodations. (edited)

What if someone in the bayit is potentially sick or has a close contact with someone who tests positive for covid-19?

In the event of a need to quarantine or isolate (due to symptoms, close contact with someone who has tested positive, or testing positive) all quarantines or isolations will be bedroom quarantines/isolations in the Avodah bayit. Avodah staff will provide guidance and support for navigating this. Please note that the majority of Corps Members share bedrooms, and you will need to occasionally rearrange bedrooms to allow quarantining/isolating housemates to have a single for the duration of their quarantine/isolation. Avodah is not able to provide financial support for quarantine and isolations out of bayit. Avodah consults with a team of medical advisors when CDC guidelines are unclear and in instances where CDC guidelines are unclear Avodah will define the required measure. Avodah staff provide guidance to our Corps Members about best practices, as well as resources to support them in making collective decisions about COVID with housemates.

What additional support is in place for Corps Members?

Avodah has an Economic Access Fund to provide a safety net to Corps Members who don’t have access to one. Corps Members can apply to the Economic Access Fund for a variety of unexpected expenses such medication, copays, transportation for a visit home, work clothes, winter supplies, etc. In addition, we are aware of the increased strain on mental health that many individuals are feeling right now. We have contracted with a mental health professional to fill the role of National Mentor Health Advisor to provide support and programming for Corps Members on a regular basis.

What will the Jewish Service Corps look like for the 2022-2023 program year?

We are regularly reviewing our COVID-19 protocol and adapting to changing circumstances. We are also requiring all Incoming Corps Members to be up-to-date with vaccines. Communal living is a core part of the Service Corps program, and we expect that it will be mandatory next year. As long as rates remain constant or continue to drop and vaccines continue to provide protection, we will continue to offer guidance and support to help Corps Members make the best decisions for their households as a community, rather than having strict protocol on daily life in the Bayit. Given the changing nature of work from home flexibility in the non-profit field, some Corps Members may continue to work from home at least part of the time, but we expect the majority of Corps Members to work in person. The majority of programming will be in person, with occasional virtual programming (after all, it allows us to bring in national facilitators and connect cohorts from different cities!) We know it can still be difficult to plan for the future and apply to a program right now. Please be in touch with our Recruitment Director at [email protected] if we can support you in thinking through if the Jewish Service Corps is right for you.

Does Covid-19 change the application process at all?

Nope!  Our alumni interviews, program director interviews, and placement organization interviews already take place over phone or video, so the application process will run as usual. Interviews are a great opportunity to learn more about what the current year looks like, and to learn which positions for next year we anticipate will require in-person work.  

Help! I still have questions and concerns.

That’s totally understandable – things are still confusing and stressful right now! We are here to support you every step of the way during your application process. Please reach out to our Recruitment Director Emily Becker with any questions or to set up some time to chat: [email protected].

What is the Jews of Color (JOC) Bayit?

What is the Jews of Color (JOC) Bayit?

The Avodah Service Corps New York JOC Bayit is an intentional communal living home specifically for self-identified Jews of Color.

Who qualifies as a JOC?

JOC is an acronym for Jews of color. Jews of color may include individuals who are African, African American, Black, Asian, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Native American, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and/or Multi-Racial. Note: Some Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews do not identify as Jews of Color. If you’re not sure whether you qualify or not, or just want to talk through this piece, feel free to reach out to our Manager of Racial Justice Initiatives Nate Looney at [email protected].

Why do JOCs need a separate Bayit?

We know that participation in the Avodah Service Corps is a life-changing experience. A JOC Bayit will provide the opportunity for JOC Corps Members to live as a majority, to foster a deeper connection with Judaism and grow as aspiring Jewish leaders in a culturally competent space, and to engage in deep learning with non-JOC Corps Members, while maintaining a space to disconnect when necessary. For Jews of Color, living communally with predominantly white Jews can be challenging and draining, and this space will enable JOCs to devote their energy to personal development, self-care, and community building that will only enhance and sustain their work for justice. Now more than ever, considering the pandemic and increased attention to racial injustice, we want to provide a space for JOC participants to be in community with one another.

If I’m a JOC and I’m accepted to the Service Corps, do I have to live in the JOC Bayit?

JOCs are encouraged to rank the JOC Bayit, but are welcome to apply to any city (including the NYC non-JOC Bayit)!

I identify as Sephardi or Mizrahi, but I don’t identify as a JOC, can I live in the JOC Bayit? 

The JOC Bayit is intended for Corps Members who identify as Jews of Color; if you do not identify as a JOC, please rank other options.

What if I’m an LGBTQ JOC, will this be a space for me?

We sure hope so! Across our Service Corps, approximately 50% of our participants identify as being a part of the LGBTQ community year to year. Sometimes, that number can be as high as 75% in particular cohorts. We strongly encourage queer Jews of Color to apply!

I come from a poor or working class background, can I afford to participate?

We recognize that each applicant comes to the table with unique financial needs, so the honest answer is: it depends. Avodah provides housing, transportation, and a monthly living stipend that are all meant to cover most applicants’ basic needs during the service year. Still, the financial implications of taking a year away from the mainstream workforce comes with sacrificess in terms of earning potential and the ability to save. Avodah recognizes that finances may create a barrier for some participants and has made available both an Economic Access Fund available to all Service Corps participants and a JOC Economic Access Fund specifically for self-identified Jews of Color. If you would like to discuss your individual situation and help honestly assess whether Avodah is feasible for you, please reach out to our Recruitment Director Emily Becker at [email protected], or our Manager of Racial Justice Initiatives Nate Looney at [email protected] 

Can you be a POC but not a JOC to be a part of the JOC Bayit? Can you be a POC and participate in the not-JOC Bayit?

Applicants do not have to be Jewish to participate in the Service Corps, but the JOC Bayit will be geared towards supporting the unique needs of Jews of Color. We welcome all to apply, however, priority will be given to self-identified Jews of Color.

Doesn’t having a separate Bayit for JOCs feed into segregation and white supremacy?

Absolutely not! For too long, Jews of Color have been forced to develop their leadership capacity while navigating the complexities of being in majority-white Jewish spaces. Often, this requires the individual to hide cultural aspects of their character if they want to be taken seriously. This is called code-switching. The task of code-switching can be extremely exhausting. In a majority-white communal living environment like the Avodah Service Corps, JOCs have to code-switch constantly. A JOC Bayit enables JOCs to devote their code-switching energy towards developing their individual leadership capacities instead. Additionally, using Historically Black Colleges and Universities as a model, the JOC Bayit will give Jews of Color an opportunity to foster kinship, build a stronger JOC professional network, and reclaim identities of excellence outside of the stereotypical mainstream narratives.

Is the JOC Bayit tokenizing?

The JOC Bayit is an initiative that was developed by Jews of Color with a specific goal of creating leadership development opportunities for young social justice oriented Jews of Color. All aspects of the JOC Bayit, including programming, marketing, curriculum and fundraising include direct input from JOC experts in the field. We recognize that for many Jews of Color, there is an extra layer of sensitivity around being tokenized within the Jewish community, and make a concerted effort to  not tokenize our JOC Service Corps participants, including both in  the JOC Bayit or any other Jews of Color in the Avodah ecosystem. This is ongoing work, and we welcome feedback from our participants and other stakeholders as we work to ensure JOC spaces in the Service Corps are safe, supportive, and impactful. If you have further questions about Avodah’s racial justice work, please reach out to our Manager of Racial Justice Initiatives Nate Looney at [email protected].   

Will the programming in the JOC Bayit be the same as the rest of the Service Corps cohort?

Yes and no! The JOC Bayit will follow the same curriculum as the rest of the cohort. However, there will be JOC specific programming for JOCs. This may include programming around: navigating the leadership challenges of being a JOC in a majority white organization, self-care, and personal ecology, developing an authentic JOC Jewish identity, and community building events in collaboration with regional JOC led organizations. Additionally, there will be programming throughout the cohorts around topics of intentional integration and allyship.

Is there a separate application process for the JOC Bayit?

The application process is mostly the same; the main difference is that the applicant will need to choose the NYC JOC Bayit when ranking their city preferences. During the interview process, we will talk with the applicant about their interest in living in the JOC Bayit.

Help! I still have questions and concerns.

That’s totally understandable! We are here to support you every step of the way during your application process. Please reach out to our Manager of Racial Justice Initiatives with any questions or to set up some time to chat: [email protected].

Given the inherent challenges of the Service Corps, is it the right fit for neurodiverse applicants?

Given the inherent challenges of the Service Corps, is it the right fit for neurodiverse applicants?

At Avodah, we are firmly committed to the value of Kehillah/Community. We believe that no one of us can make social change on our own and that every member of the Jewish community has a role to play in advancing social justice in the United States. Therefore, we strive to ensure that any member of the Jewish community who is qualified to participate in the Avodah Jewish Service Corps — whether neurotypical, neurodiverse, as well as those with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or ADHD — is able to do so. At the same time, it is important that every candidate for the program understand the unique challenges the program presents and decide whether the experience is right for them. 

Every year, Avodah Corps Members who identify as neurodiverse participate in our year of service and thrive. For some, past experiences of marginalization uniquely prepare them to demonstrate empathy to clients. For others, communication skills developed through a lifetime of self-advocacy allow them to thrive in community living. Every participant has a different experience, but Avodah is committed to supporting you in having a positive and fulfilling year of service, learning and community building. 

Avodah is a very rigorous program

The candid feedback, intense communal living, and challenging service work are not for everyone. When determining whether the Avodah Service Corps is a good fit for you, consider these questions with a friend, family member or trusted mental health professional:

  • How comfortable am I participating in frequent large group activities, learning sessions, and programming? Will I feel restored if the majority of my time (including sleep) is spent with or in close proximity to other people?
  • How well do I respond to challenging feedback? What tools do I have to help myself respond productively to challenging feedback?
  • What tools do I have to create an environment that makes me feel safe?
  • What steps could I take to build trusting relationships with housemates? 
  • What tools will support me in listening and sharing in the responsibilities of intentional living and participating in house meetings?
  • What triggers may exist for me in a communal living environment? How will I prepare myself for those triggers?
  • What triggers may exist for me in the placement (i.e., the organization for which I will serve)? How will I prepare myself for those triggers? 

Avodah is not a therapeutic program, and we are not equipped to meet all needs

In order to ensure a successful transition into and year with Avodah, we recommend taking the following steps (as applicable):

  • If you have a mental health provider, work with your provider to create a safety plan.
  • Before arriving in your Avodah city for the program orientation, research and create a plan that will allow you to continue your existing self-care practices (e.g. gyms, bodywork, support groups, acupuncturists, etc.).
  • Find a mental health provider in your Avodah city prior to your arrival.
  • Schedule a transition meeting with your current mental health provider and new mental health provider.
  • Schedule a time to speak with Leah Krandel, LCSW, Avodah’s National Mental Health Advisor, to plan for this transition.

Check your knowledge! Here are some facts about Service Corps life.

Become an Avodah Partner Placement Organization

Avodah Corps Members add more than $2 million in capacity to local grassroots nonprofit organizations every year. Click here to apply to be an Avodah Partner Placement Organization. If you have been a partner placement organization in the past, please reach out to the Program Director in your Avodah Program City for information on updating your previous applications: