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.
I’ve learned that the causes and outcomes of poverty are interrelated and cannot be addressed in isolation, and in order for a community to be sustainable, it must be based on honesty and open communication.
I’ve learned that there is a strong history of social justice advocacy within Judaism, and that there are lots of inspiring Jews who care about social justice in New York City. AVODAH has been a wonderful experience that has enhanced my connection to Judaism and Jewish community.
In a metaphorical world of infinitely multifaceted shapes, a system composed of Euclidean parameters is prone to exclude the most eclectic outliers. The Jewish faith offers a foundation for alleviating this systematic disconnect, but guiding principles require motivation and means to move mountains. AVODAH provides the venue to bring opportunity, education, and community together in concert and begin a lifelong pursuit to welcome all shapes.
AVODAH has given me the opportunity to connect my social justice passions with my Jewish values. Through my work at Food & Friends and learning from the community, I have been introduced to the diversity of poverty and discovered what critical role I want to play in fighting it.
Systems of oppression are not only deep, but intersecting; educational disparities are not distinct from the impact of incarceration on communities, which is not distinct from mental illness, etc…My year with AVODAH taught me that as a Jew, I have a responsibility to address the problems that exist within my own Jewish community, but I must also rally that community to acknowledge and fight against the most pervasive problems of the world we live in, even if we are disproportionally exempt from their effects.
AVODAH provided me with an incredible community, which has gave me the skills to make strong friendships, create space for open dialogue, make communal decisions, negotiate group conflicts, and cook Kosher, vegetarian, nut-free meals for 13 people in an hour and a half. Furthermore, AVODAH gave me the space to interact with incredibly bright, passionate, and caring peers, people with whom I have conversations about a wide range of social justice issues, learn an enormous amount about Jewish history, culture, and tradition, and gain an infinite amount of wisdom and support.
One thing I’ve learned through my time with AVODAH about my understanding of poverty is that in order to even begin to become an ally, it is a necessity to step outside my own experience, and to allow myself to struggle with the opinions and the perspective I’ve had for a lifetime.
My year in AVODAH has provided me with the tools and knowledge to change the landscape of poverty in DC. This year has established a foundation of understanding which I can spend many more years building upon. I now know how to foster relationships built on trust and how to create a community among people that seemingly do not have much in common. I feel that AVODAH has deeply influenced my life and for that, I am grateful.
There is power in living with people who work in different issue areas; it sheds light on the interconnectedness of systems (health, education, criminal justice, etc.) contributing to poverty.
I’ve learned that my thoughts are not always unique. When we’re in the middle of a debate, I don’t have to break in right away with my opinion. I can wait for someone else to express a similar one, see where the discussion is leading, and wait until I’m ready to contribute something constructive.
I went through an intense process of discovering and grappling with the dynamics of race and oppression in America. I relate to the way class, race, and poverty interact in America in an entirely new way and care deeply about changing the systems that have institutionalized these dynamics in America.