This summer I am interning in AVODAH’s New York City office. As explained on their website, AVODAH is a Hebrew word which encompasses spiritual, communal and work related “service”. Upon it’s foundation in 1998, AVODAH became the first Jewish service corps. AVODAH corps members spend a year working at a placement site, building community, and learning about Judaism and social justice. AVODAH’s mission, reflected in corps members’ placement sites, is to strengthen the Jewish community’s fight against the causes and effects of poverty. AVODAH’s initial program took place in New York, and programs have now been launched in D.C., Chicago and New Orleans.
I am working with Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, Director for Alumni and Community Engagement. After a meaningful year in service, corps members are part of a life-long alumni network. Rabbi Ruskay facilitates this network and continues to provide alumni with opportunities to engage in the social justice community. One of my favorite parts about my internship thus far is that I have a wide variety of jobs and responsibilities. I develop lesson plans for events and projects that provide alumni with the opportunity to network with each other and continue to address current issues regarding social injustices. I am also working with Rabbi Ruskay to improve the current resources available to alumni.
My first week at AVODAH was a great learning experience. The day I started working was a huge day for the New York office. It was the day of our annual Partners in Justice event, an evening where corps members, alumni, friends and supporters come together to celebrate successes and honor some of AVODAH’s extraordinary leaders and alumni. I was very impressed—my first time meeting everyone at the organization was on one of their busiest days of the year, yet everyone went above and beyond their specific roles and the event came together beautifully. They were especially welcoming to a new and nervous intern.
On my second day, I met with Rabbi Ruskay and we had a great discussion about the current state of the alumni program and the future program goals. I was immediately excited about learning from someone who had so much experience and expertise. Throughout my first week, I especially appreciated the networking opportunities I had. On Tuesday, Rabbi Ruskay and I met with two staff members from the American Jewish World Service: a Senior Organizer and the Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement to discuss program successes and lessons learned with PresenTense, an organization that inspires young social entrepreneurs to invest in ideas that lead to a better future while strengthening their Jewish community. We also met with the coordinator for the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, to plan the next steps for engaging AVODAH alumni in the campaign for Immigration legislation reform (a very current issue), which I have now taken on as a project with Rabbi Ruskay.
As I continue my work at AVODAH, I know I will continue learning exponentially about non-profit organizations and how to best engage social justice leaders with the larger community. When corps members finish their year in service, many of them want to stay involved in the world of social justice. Through working with Rabbi Ruskay on the alumni program, I hope to continue learning about many ways we can be a force for change and prevent social injustice. Regardless of where we are at in life, whether it is grad school, the work force, or already engaged in community service, each one of us can help fight poverty. I am so excited to continue learning at AVODAH.
– Sophie Brickman ’16