By Julia Spiegel
“I don’t care. That’s not the question I asked you. Please answer the question that I asked you,” my client’s attorney aggressively requested. The statement doubled in intensity when the translator repeated it in Spanish. I am a legal advocate at Apna Ghar, Inc., an agency that serves immigrant survivors of domestic violence and I was accompanying my client to a consultation with a family law attorney for an order of protection and representation. Shocked and a little awed by the lawyer’s harsh method of asking questions and obtaining answers, I imprinted this moment in my memory.
By Ben Bennett and Kelley Kidd
Once, before Pesach, a man entered the home of Rabbi Yossi Ber and asked him a question: “Tell me Rabbi, can I fulfill the commandment of the four cups with Milk instead of Wine?” The rabbi asked him, “Are you—God forbid—ill?”
The man answered him, “No, thank God, I am quite healthy, but I cannot afford to buy wine this year.”
Rabbi Yossi turned to his wife and said, “Give this man twenty-five rubles.”
The man said, “Honored Rabbi, I came to you to ask a question, not to beg for Tzedaka. ”
By Casey Tova Markenson
Inside my activist toolkit, there is a toothbrush. The toothbrush is for brushing teeth to end long, tired days. Days where you smack against strangers on your commute with delays, learn that all of your clients have unsolvable problems, and rush to the rescheduled AVODAH program after work. Those are the days that are best ended sharing toothpaste with roommates, foamy mouths cracking delirious jokes. Delirious, feminist jokes, in my case.
By Michal David
Michal spoke about her experience with AVODAH at the Chicago Partners in Justice event honoring Steven H. Cohen, Rabbi Shoshanah Conover, and Julie Chizewer Weill. Her remarks follow below.
My name is Michal David and I am from Sunnyvale, California. My AVODAH placement is at Heartland Human Care Services, where I work as a housing case manager in a permanent supportive housing program for individuals who have previously experienced homelessness and have a disability.
I remember a meeting soon after I arrived in Chicago with my supervisor, my program manager, and one of my participants in one of the large meeting rooms in our office. This participant was fairly new to our program. In the two years prior to entering our program, he had experienced the foreclosure of his home, ended his relationship with his partner of over a decade, and been diagnosed with a highly advanced stage of HIV. This particular meeting stands out for me because my participant was quite upset throughout the course of the meeting—he was visibly agitated, his voice was elevated and he was adamantly expressing his frustration about how his rent for his unit had been calculated. As I observed the exchange between my participant and my program supervisor and manager, two things were particularly striking to me. The first was the level of compassion and understanding with which my supervisors listened and responded to the concerns of my participant. This unwavering commitment to respectfully engaging with participants, no matter their demeanor or concerns, has continuously impressed me about my colleagues at Heartland.
The year was 1966. Lynne Wasserman, as an awkward pre-teen, took a formative trip with her father to the Mississippi Delta. Her father, a traveling salesman, sold shoes to department stores in small towns throughout the South. They walked into a small store and her dad introduced himself, and started his “spiel,” while Lynne did her best to hide, like pre-teens do. It is likely this sleepy town had few, if any, Jews and yet within the first few minutes of their conversation, Lynne overheard her dad tell the merchant he was Jewish. As they left the store she inquired into his behavior. Her father told her something that continues to impact her life: “He will find out anyway. I want him to know up front that I am proud to be a Jew. Never, ever, try to hide your Judaism. Be proud.”
By Kelley Kidd
Recently, my coworker, a Jesuit Volunteer Corps Member, and I went out for drinks after work. We met two people who overheard our angst-ridden assessment of menu prices and asked us what we do. We informed them that we both work as Case Managers at Miriam’s Kitchen, a homeless services organization in DC of which we are both proud to be part. Upon hearing this, one of the two said, “Now, in my mind, what you two do is enabling.” Claire, master of the development pitch, told him about the realities facing the homeless population that make our work less about enabling and more about empowering.
By Amanda Hoffman
Have you ever been punched in the stomach by twenty people in the space of twenty seconds? Simply said, this metaphor sometimes serves to describe my experience of living in New York City.
I love people. This love may contribute to the daily affront I feel, as I try to keep my eyes and awareness open to the teeming throngs, that I might access individuality among the effluvium. When this effort is thwarted, I suffocate in the muteness of averted eye-contact and cannot claw out of the clear film sucked to my skin that separates me utterly from others, hand heart and breath. I take another leap at connection, and do find a groove of air that supports me and, somehow, another. Connection occurs when I speak bravely, when I trust my voice and thoughts to make meaning, to invite care, and carry each other.