Introducing the Nachshon Fund

The Nachshon Fund is a new program that we’ve launched to support innovative local initiatives led by AVODAH through the awarding of small grants. Our inaugural round of Nachshon grantees represent many approaches to social justice spread across the country, from launching a Jewish community-organizing group to building local alumni communities.

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Meet AVODAH’s New Board Chair: Benetta Mansfield

Benetta Mansfield has served on AVODAH’s national board for three years and will assume the Chair on April 1.  We sat down with Benetta to learn a bit more about her.

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Intersection: Passover

By Rebecca Mather

Passover has always been my favorite holiday, because it combines three of my favorite aspects of Judaism: community, food, and social justice. While there are connections towards progressive ideologies in just about every Jewish holiday, Passover is one of the easiest outlets for conversations that address oppression through a Jewish lens. The Seder lends itself to facilitating conversations about inequality, whether through social justice-oriented Haggadot such as the Freedom Seder or a feminist dialogue around the inclusion of an orange on the Seder plate.

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An AVODAH Story Told in Selfies

By Avery Drongowski

I don’t necessarily consider myself a photographer, but I love taking pictures for the same reason most people do – to remember and reflect on a particular moment in my life story that made me feel a certain way. I don’t remember the first time I took a “selfie” in the particular fashion for I have become known among my friends, but it’s been a way to capture a moment without stopping and posing, which can change what that moment actually felt like to me. Our Chicago bayit and the community we have built has been a significant part of my AVODAH experience. Capturing the moments I have had with my housemates has been a meaningful way for me to reflect on the the things we’ve done together, program-related or not. The following “selfies” have been taken in our bayit and in and around Chicago. Some are candid, some you can catch all 16 of us smiling, and all of them remind me of the incredible friendships I’ve made and the experiences we’ve shared, whether they are challenging or entertaining.

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Exploring the Divides in DC

By Allison Bolgiano

Looking down North Capitol Street at 1:00 am on a Thursday, I get a clear view of the Capitol Building glowing butter yellow. On this blustery January night, I am traversing the streets’ of D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood looking for anyone without a place to stay for the night as part of the annual Point in Time Count of homeless individuals. Seeing the Capitol, I am reminded of the deep divisions between the Democrats and Republicans who work there, three of whom I was able to shake hands with a week earlier during AVODAH D.C.’s advocacy day.

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Purim 2015: As Esther Fades to Black

By Yavilah McCoy

As an African-American Jewish woman, I review the Purim story and am immediately drawn to the actions of Esther, an innocent victim turned heroine, and her ability to utilize the privilege and position of power granted to her to save the Jewish people from annihilation. From the perspective of my African-American-Jewish history, there are many lessons and similarities. As I read the megillah (purim scroll), I recall 1853 and celebrate the actions of Sojourner Truth who spoke out against an unwilling White male congress and compared them to King Achashverosh and herself to Esther, a Jewish woman passing for a gentile, who was able to not only out herself as a Jew, but also summon up the courage to stand before the king as a messenger of truth and a representative of an oppressed people. As I read the megillah, I think of our majority White, Male and Republican Congress in 2015, and wonder who Sojourner Truth would name as the King Achashverosh and Queen Esthers of our time.

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#weareavodah: Rebecca Mather

In another installment in our ongoing series of profiles about our participants, we’re pleased to introduce you to Rebecca Mather, one of our New Orleans corps members: 

How did you get to AVODAH?
I’ve always had a passion for social justice, although I didn’t really start developing a complex understanding of social change movements until college. Growing up, I had a well-meaning but misdirected interest in changing things that felt unfair, and I think a lot of this stemmed from my involvement with the Jewish community. I was involved with my synagogue’s youth group and religious school, and both placed a huge emphasis on critical thinking and social action. Judaism was definitely my first outlet for creating positive change and that has really stuck with me.

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