17 Ways You Might Be An AVODAHnik

1. World cuisines regularly appear on your Shabbat menu.

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2. Every time there are leftovers at an event the organizer tries to give them to you because they think you need the food.

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3. You’ve had a house meeting just to plan another house meeting (scheduling is difficult as we keep ourselves quite busy!)

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4. NYC: When you know of at least five Shabbat minyans every Friday (and at least three are in Brooklyn).

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5. Kale is the only vegetable/food product consistently stocked in your fridge.

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6. NYC: In a city of 8 million people, you still manage to wind up on the same train as a fellow AVODAHnik.

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7. A free membership to the JCC means equal parts exercising and schmoozing.

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8. “Who’s going to tweet that?” is a legitimate concern.

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9. Chicago: The only time you’ve left the house in months is to go to work because you’re too scared of freezing.

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10. DC/NOLA: When you have a snow day and there is only 1 inch of snow on the ground.

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11. Chicago: You have deep dish pizza for program dinners.

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12. NOLA: You regularly overhear observant Jews discussing oysters and crawfish boils.

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13. NOLA: You spend your Mardi Gras parading with dancing Rabbis (yes, he really is a Rabbi, and yes this really did happen).

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14. DC: When the federal government closes but you still have work.

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15. When you have a discussion about how many avocados to buy weekly.

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16. You’ve been truly concerned about alarming the neighbors with uproarious Shabbat singing.

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17. You want to slow down time because you love these people!

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Life in the New Orleans Bayit: A Photo Essay

Over the last few months, our New Orleans Corps members collected photos from their house in order to tell the story of their communal life. 

Mia Bruner practicing some guitar chords in her room. The bayit is full of music at all times and the corps members have diverse and eclectic taste.

Mia Bruner practicing some guitar chords in her room. The bayit is full of music at all times and the corps members have diverse and eclectic taste.

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What I’ve Learned

As our 2013-2014 program year draws to a close, we reached out to some of our corps members and Fellows and asked them to share what they’re taking away from the experience. 

Although the world is a big place, all people have the same needs. Each and every human being deserves to be treated with care and respect. Everyone you meet has something to teach; it is a gift to be able to share your knowledge with them. and in return have them trust you enough to share their stories with you. Social justice has become a foundation to my Judaism and to my Jewish practice. We are called on to care for our neighbors and I have been able to find spirituality in connecting with and helping clients from all over the world.
-Elana Gordon

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Begging the Question

By Julia Spiegel

Julia Speigel“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.

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Praying Our Dues

By Ben Bennett and Kelley Kidd

10075034955_8920110c93_mkelleykiddOnce, 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. ”

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Brushing with Feminist Toothpaste

By Casey Tova Markenson

TOVA_01Inside 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.

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Leveraging Power for Social Change

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.

michalMy 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.

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