AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

Justice Justice You Shall Pursue

 Chicago Corps members in front of the public sculpture Cloud Gate, more affectionately known as "The Bean." 

"This year AVODAH has allowed me to engage with a passionate and enriching community of people. The work we do is not easy and not glamorous, but AVODAH has set up a framework through which I can appreciate and explore the complexities of social justice work with others." - Liz London, Chicago Corps member 

 August 2011

Dear AVODAH Friends and Supporters:


This is an exciting time for AVODAH. This week another wonderful group of AVODAH Corps members has completed their year of service and moved out of the AVODAH batim (houses). They take their experiences working at front-line anti-poverty organizations into the larger world, becoming ambassadors and catalysts for the values they lived out this year: service, community building, and a commitment to Jewish life. We're thrilled to share with you just a taste of what some of our Corps members will be tackling next. Read below to learn about the amazing plans of DC Corps member Jenna Brofsky, New York Corps member Jenny Katzman, Chicago Corps member Jill Bratt, and New Orleans Corps member Leah Varsano. 


We have also seen social change in action at a Community Leaders Briefing Day at the White House. AVODAH is proud to have been among 21 Jewish social justice organizations attending the White House briefing and demonstrating our commitment to fair, just, and Jewish approaches to healthcare, housing, education, and food justice in the United States. We are excited to be part of the growing number of organized Jews committed to solving some of America's most pressing concerns. 


Pursue: Action for a Just World continues to support our alumni community and thousands of other justice-seeking young adults around the country. Recently, Pursue announced the recipients of the Pursue scholarship to the Hazon Food Conference, taking place August 18-21. 


If you were unable to attend one of AVODAH's recent events in Washington, Chicago, New York, or New Orleans, read here about these fantastic evenings.


We thank you for your incredible support, which continues to sustain and grow AVODAH.


Marilyn Sneiderman

Wishing you and your family a wonderful rest of the summer!

Marilyn Sneiderman Signature  

Marilyn Sneiderman

Executive Director 

AVODAH at the White House!  WhiteHouse

AVODAH at the White HouseOn Friday, July 29th, 170 Jewish social justice leaders went to the White House for a Community Leaders Briefing Day. AVODAH is thrilled to be a member of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, a group of 21 Jewish social justice organizations bringing a Jewish approach to important issues such as healthcare, housing, food justice, and education. AVODAH was represented by alumni Jessie Posilkin, Elana Baurer, Zoe Fried, Diana Levy, Miriam Savad and Jennifer Smolin; Corps members Sam Waxman and Alyza Weinberg; Board members Debbie Goldman and Rebecca Shaloff; DC Advisory Council member Elissa Oshinsky; Executive Director Marilyn Sneidermanand DC Program Director Rachel Davidson. Thank you all for your excitement, optimism, and tenacity as we tackle some the nation's toughest challenges. To read CNBC's coverage of the trip to the White House, click here. To hear a first person account from Pursue's Jocelyn Berger of her expectations for the event, click here.

New York:  Jenny Katzman  Jenny  


New York Corps member Jenny Katzman spent her year in AVODAH working as a Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families. She has accepted a position at New York Legal Assistant Group (NYLAG), another AVODAH placement organization, assisting families who are survivors of domestic violence with their family law cases. Jenny said that AVODAH motivated her career choice:


Jenny Katzman

"AVODAH inspired me to continue working in a field related to my AVODAH placement... In our programs we discussed issues of social justice and unequal access... we were also able to analyze the successes and inefficiencies of organizations, similar to the ones we work for, which strive to create social change. My experience through AVODAH both at work and through programming was very supportive and inspired me to continue working to help survivors of domestic violence."


Read all of Jenny's comments here.

Washington, DC: Jenna Brofsky  Jacob


Jenna BrofskyDC Corps member Jenna Brofsky spent this past year as a Legal Assistant at Capital Area Immigrants' Rights (CAIR) Coalition, a non-profit that provides legal services to noncitizens facing deportation. This month, she will begin studies at George Washington University Law School. Looking back on her year in AVODAH, Jenna remarked:


"This experience has shown me the importance of a support network to come home to at the end of a long day. There were certainly days when I would return home from a visit to jail frustrated and unsure how to proceed. It was thanks to my supportive housemates that I was able to pick myself up and feel inspired once again."


Read Jenna's full reflections here.

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Jill BrattChicago: Jill Bratt   Jill  

Chicago Corps member
Jill Bratt has been hired on at her AVODAH placement, the Chicago Women's Health Center (CWHC). She will be the Billing Specialist and serve on the Outreach and Education Committee. Aside from furthering her career path, AVODAH also connected Jill to a network of social justice organizations in Chicago that she is eager to get involved with:

"In terms of what I hope to be doing outside of the 9-5 work week, I feel overwhelmed with possibility! AVODAH has introduced me to a vast variety of people, organizations, and institutions working for peace and social justice in Chicago."

To read more from Jill, click here

New Orleans:  Leah Varsano   Leah


Leah Varsano

New Orleans Corps member Leah Varsano served as the Assistant Neighborhood Coordinator at Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative. Next year, Leah will be working at the Freret Neighborhood Center in New Orleans as an AmeriCorps VISTA Resource Center Coordinator. Leah said that AVODAH influenced her next steps:


"My placement through AVODAH introduced me to the world of neighborhood revitalization - a topic that is especially potent in New Orleans as the city continues to rebuild. I seem to have become obsessed with this idea of 'neighborhood'... I can't imagine having landed on this path that I am now so passionate about had it not been for AVODAH and New Orleans."


To read more about Leah's plans, click here.

Pursue:  Food Justice Cohort Pursue  


Pursue recently announced the members of its Food Justice Cohort, a group of young activists from across North America eager to contribute to food justice work. The food justice movement strives to alleviate injustices throughout our food system, including issues pertaining to where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed, and eaten. 


Because of Pursue's support, each member will receive a partial scholarship to Hazon's Food Conference, a conference for thinkers and doers of the New Jewish Food Movement. The cohort of twenty amazingly talented individuals includes six AVODAH alumni.


Pursue Logo To read the full biographies of the Pursue Food Justice Cohort click here. We look forward to hearing more from each of these members as they continue to work toward food justice with Pursue.

AVODAH's Events: A Smashing Success! Events  


DC Partners in JusticeWashington, DC 

During this year's Washington DC's Partners in Justice event, honoree Gene Sofer, long-term AVODAH supporter, DC Advisory Council member, and recent addition to the AVODAH national Board, summarized what everyone had gathered to celebrate: "Everyday in Washington, 18 young people, joined by another 44 in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, do full-time service working with the poor and disenfranchised. Their work is informed by their Jewishness and commitment to equal opportunity and social justice. They do the hard work of repairing the world. I like to think that they represent all of us in that struggle and they need and deserve our moral and financial support." To see pictures from the event, click here.



newsletter pic

Chicago's Partners in Justice event garnered great praise. One attendee wrote a beautiful note to staff and Advisory Council members who worked hard to plan the event: "We were so happy and touched to be included in this event. The spirit with which you and your group approach your mission is humbling. We were particularly inspired by the wonderful young people who comprise the current group of AVODAH Corps members." To see pictures from the event, click here


NYC Leadership Event

New York 

During the New York Leadership Event, Corps member Ryan Gerber spoke, saying, "AVODAH has recognized that being Jewish is prevalent in everything we do. Even in the name AVODAH, meaning both 'work' and 'worship,' it is recognizing that the two concepts are so intertwined that they can only truly be expressed by using the same word." To read Ryan's full speech, click here. To see pictures from the event, click here.



New Orleans   New Orleans Photo

In celebration of AVODAH New Orleans and outgoing Program Director Josh Lichtman, Rabbi Myran Matsa praised AVODAH for its ability to create a modern, relevant Jewish identity: "It is endeavors such as AVODAH that are at the forefront of forging an emerging Jewish identity for the 21st century.... AVODAH has Jews working 'in' the world, not separated from it. These young people are serving in the vulnerable places in society and bring Jewish sensibilities to their work.


Thank you to all our wonderful supporters across the country and the world! 


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