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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

AVODAH The Jewish Service Corps Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community Service Clubs, Judaism, Philanthropy, Public & Societal Benefit, Religion, Voluntarism Promotion

Mission: AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps engages young people in direct work on the causes and effects of poverty in the United States. Participants in our service Corps program live out and deepen their commitments to social change and Jewish life through a year of full-time work at anti-poverty organizations in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, DC.  This work partners Corps members with service providers and residents in low income communities and equips our Corps members and alumni to emerge as lifelong agents for social change, whose work for justice is rooted in and nourished by Jewish values. After participants complete this intensive one-year program, AVODAH’s partnership with American Jewish World Service provides a broad platform for long-term leadership in social change and Jewish life.

Geographic areas served: United States

Programs: See schedule ofounded in new york city in 1998, avodah is training the next generation of jewish leaders through its service corps, which places post-college young adults (ages 2126) in a year of full-time service at antipoverty organizations. During the year, corps members live together in an intentional community and participate in weekly educational programs designed to give them the skills and networks to prepare them to become leaders. Over the past sixteen years, avodah corps members across four cities (new york, chicago, new orleans and washington, dc) have directly improved the lives of 533,000 individuals and added an estimated $13 million in staffing capacity to 150 local antipoverty organizations. "avodah" in hebrew means "work" or "service", and the combined meaning can be understood as one's "life's work". Avodah's service corps program has led participants to a sustained commitment to working for justice. A recent survey, facilitated by outside evaluators, about how the program influenced the trajectory of participants' lives found that: - 75% (3 out of 4) say that their current job involves antipoverty or social justice work; - 92% say avodah set them on their current professional path; and - 85% say that avodah helped them find their place in the jewish community. There are close to 700 alumni living across the united states and other parts of the world and they have assumed leadership roles across the jewish and nonprofit communities - as professionals, lay leaders, clergy, organizers, activists and volunteers. Avodah alumni receive advanced leadership training, networking opportunities, and support to foster their development as jewish leaders. In addition to the program's transformative impact on participants, avodah also makes significant contributions to its nonprofit placement agencies and to the low-income communities it serves. As local antipoverty organizations face increased demand for services coupled with declining funding, avodah's high-quality, cost-effective staffing model offers agencies a real solution. In their placements, avodah corps members build the capacity of avodah's partner agencies to directly address many of the issues faced by poor communities, including limited access to healthcare, housing, food security, and educational opportunities. Avodah's partner agencies consistently report being able to offer their clients new and expanded services as a direct result of having an avodah corps member on staff. In 2012, approaching its 15th year and 500th service corps member, avodah began to ask how it could extend its impact and scale even further, and longer term, create organizational and financial efficiencies. To this end, in january 2014 avodah launched the avodah fellowship (the "fellowship"), a new leadership development program for professionals early in their careers working to address the causes and effects of poverty. Based on a curriculum grounded in jewish thought and learning, the fellowship provides mentorship, training, community, and networking opportunities to support emerging jewish professionals engaged in the antipoverty field, while integrating participants into avodah's extensive alumni network of social justice leaders throughout the country. To date, the fellowship has engaged over 35 individuals in 2 cohorts and has exceeded avodah's expectations. Evaluations completed by the first cohort include: - 100% reported a deepened understanding of how social activism and jewish life intersect. - 95% reported that the fellowship strengthened their connection to jewish values. - 95% reported that the fellowship strengthened their connection to jewish identity. - 82% reported better understanding the causes and effects of poverty. - 94% reported sustained/strengthened commitment to do work on economic and social justice.

Community Stories

36 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Avodah for over 10 years and have been profoundly impacted by the organization. As a participant in Avodah's service corps, I had the opportunity to learn all about Judaism and social justice. I did the service corps in Chicago and my year in Avodah gave me authentic insight in the social justice community and work happening in Chicago. After completing my service corps year in Chicago, I continued to stay involved with the Alumni community and network in Chicago. Through this network, I am regularly invited to engage in learning and actions related to both local and national social justice issues. Additionally, Avodah has given me a Jewish home. The Avodah Alumni network has provided me with a Jewish community who I can spend holidays with and celebrate life milestones with. When I joined Avodah in 2006, I had no idea that the organization and program would so profoundly shape my adult life. I am so grateful for the ways Avodah built me as a Jewish leader of social justice-- and the ways in which Avodah does this for so many others.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 1

Avodah is structured so that only individuals with privileged backgrounds can succeed in their position. It is basically set up as a year for recent college grads to feel good about themselves while they continue to take money from their parents. For those who participate for different reasons and don't have a safety net, they cannot live off the stipend and keep up with the house social scene leading to burn out due to the onerous work, high demands, poor social support, and no financial pay off. Worse it's represented as something it's not. I'm three years out and still look back at the experience as a waste of time and a poor use of my skills.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 1

AVODAH is by far the most ableist and financial inaccessible "volunteer" experience I've ever had. I had to resign from my position early fpr health related reasons, and the organization promptly kicked me out of my house with two weeks until my next lease started, one day notice (against DC tenant law) and nowhere to go. This was against the expressed wishes of my fellow corps members (whose needs, I think, should be the organization's top priority) and while still mandating that I pay rent for the next three months (after working for a year under the minimum wage and while struggling to cover medical expenses). I am both shocked and disappointed that AVODAH-- as an organization that prizes itself being equitable and social justice oriented -- has no clause in its contract acknowledging mental/ physical disabilities as potential barriers to completion of serve. Throughout my departure process, I was made to feel like my situation was in some way my fault, and was made to compensate AVODAH financially for making a decision that my doctor recommended. I find it hard to fathom that I am now in debt to an organization which I was working for in a stipended position, after leaving for a health issue that I already hold much shame in. As one of the few corp members without the buffer of family support to fall back on, I was constantly made to feel like I was asking for special privileges for not being able to manage the 60+ hours of commitment per week that AVODAH expects from it's corp members (with site placements, programming, house meetings, mandatory community activities, etc), while balancing outside responsibilities that none of the other corps members had. No wonder the organization primarily attracts volunteers from certain socio-economic and familial backgrounds! I loved my corps members and respect my program director and her intentions, but feel strongly that the structure of the program is completely inaccessible to folks who don't identify with certain brands of Judaism and/ or have needs that fall outside the "norm". I therefore couldn't in good faith recommend it to anyone strongly committed to grassroots social justice work.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a AVODAH corps member, I spent a year living in a communal house and working in a local nonprofit. The AVODAH program and staff were very supportive around the communal living stuff and work stuff, did not push me Jewishly as much as I had hoped.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Through AVODAH I had an incredible year working with low-income seniors in New York City. I was part social worker, part pharmacist, and part advocate on behalf of hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries, and my work during AVODAH led me to attend law school. In addition to being the spark that I hope will develop into a rewarding public interest legal career, I made some incredible friends throughout the year - people who have supported me through tough times and celebrated with me in the good times.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH is amazing! It provides young Jews with an opportunity to expand their Jewish sense of identity at time when we are unstable with who we are and where we stand in the world. An instant community of Jews and like minded individuals are basically served to us on a golden platter, as well as real world experience serving people and communities that are important to us.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As an AVODAH Corps Member, I had the opportunity to live together with other Jewish young adults, exploring together the connection between Judaism and Social Justice, and working full time at a non-profit. We had very meaningful workshops weekly covering topics from housing, to racism, to mental health. It also gave me the opportunity to explore my Jewish traditions and learn about others'. AVODAH was a positive step to get into the world of non-profit. After my year in AVODAH my organization offered me a full time position and I am still employed there. I still actively engage with AVODAH, interacting with new corps members as well as alumni.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH provided exposure, experience, and support in the social service world, all within a Jewish, social justice framework. My positive experience was a major factor in my decision to pursue an MSW/MPH degree.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH is a year long service program, similar to Americorps. The experience that I gained in this program strengthened my knowledge of the field I currently work in and strengthened my commitment and passion to social justice. The friends I made while in AVODAH, have been a source of support and encouragement to me.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH is an amazing program (!) which provides Jewish individuals an experience to learn about social justice within the context of a Jewish framework. For me it was a year of meeting passionate individuals, who work towards the issues they believe in. AVODAH provides young college graduates with an experience of working with various marginalized populations. It is a year of growth and learning. It was a very important year in my life and in my growth of learning and understanding what I value and what is important for me to work towards.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found my year with Avodah privoded an invaluable job experience, fabulous educational experience. and I found friend for life who share my values and interests.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH provides young Jewish adults with a phenomenal opportunity to engage their Judaism and pursue meaningful vocation. I am truly grateful for the support and challenge that the program provides!

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am currently a Corp Member serving my year for AVODAH in Washington DC. I have been in AVODAH for about a month and a half now and am loving my work and the communal living aspect.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Avodah is an amazing program for young Jewish people just out of college. A group of 18, we live together and work on building an intentional community of people commited to social action. Each of us works in a different non-profit organization or agency around New York city (though there are other groups just like us in Chicago, New Orleans, and DC). We spend a lot of time talking about social justice and trying to connect the work we do to a broader vision of social change and tikkun olam. The program is SO well designed and comprehensive, which allows us to get right down to the important business. It's an amazing year so far!

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Avodah helps young Jewish adults to do social justice work while engaging in Jewish programming. It places Jewish Corps members in non-profit placements and supports them through th progression of their work. It has a broad network, that brings speakers from all over to engage members.I have enjoyed my placement in Chicago, working with people with mental illness. Avodah has shown me how Judaism relates to my work and reinforces the importance of it. Living with 6 other girls all working at non-profits has provided opportunities for story telling and experience relating which teaches me new things every day.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I learned how to be a better "me," while helping those I served learn how to be better "them." It was truly one of the most enriching and life-changing experiences I have been blessed to have.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

avodah provided me with the opportunity to live in community, explore my faith, and gain valuable experience doing hands-on social justice work. it was one of the most challenging and most rewarding years of my life.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I worked as a case manager at a homeless shelter for women with severe mental illness for a year through AVODAH.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

being a participant in AVODAH transformed my life and changed the way that I look at the world. AVODAH taught me the value of social change work across the spectrum.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had a phenomenal experience as an AVODAH corps member in New Orleans. AVODAH is training the next generation of Jewish Leaders.