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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

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Client Served

Rating: 4

I have been receiving AVODAH volunteers to help run our legal clinic for seven years. They have been outstanding workers and friends. The quality of people AVODAH gets each year to donate their time to helping the poor with our and other organizations is incredible. AVODAH not only instills a strong sense of Jewish tradition and values in its members, it provides crucial services to this country's poor.


Client Served

Rating: 5

AVODAH is a one of a kind organization really making a different in the lives of young Jews and the communities we are working in. We are learning, growing, and reaching out! One step at a time AVODAH is helping us to do our part and repair the world.


Client Served

Rating: 5

I was in AVODAH in DC from 2005-2006. AVODAH offered me a tremendous opportunity to do anti-poverty work in the community. While we worked in jobs and lived simply just as we might have in typical Americorps positions, AVODAH offered us incredible "extra" support that was invaluable to us and our placements. AVODAH supported us socially - because we lived with people having similar ideals and going through experiences. AVODAH supported us financially - because it ensured that we had affordable housing, and it worked with our sites to make sure medical costs would not exceed our ability to pay them. AVODAH works with corps members and site placements to make sure jobs will be good opportunities and can be a mediator if any difficulties arise with the placement. Beyond the benefits to the participants, AVODAH is in a family of service corps that provided tremendous benefits to non-profits in the DC area. Site placements know that they're getting great employees for low cost, and they're likely to continue as AVODAH site placements year after year. AVODAH is wonderful!


Client Served

Rating: 5

My year with Avodah was a transformative experience. It was one of the most challenging, most beautiful years of my life. However, it sure as hell wasn't easy. I came to the program most excited about the placement (I was at a wonderful organization called i.c.stars) and was most trepidatious about the communal living aspect. it turned out I learned the most from living with 6 other young Jews learning how to change the world. I learned about the conscientiousness necessary when dealing with people living in community. This connected directly to working with communities outside my own and the importance if inclusion and considering as many different points of view as possible. My understanding of the world and myself was expanded tremendously.