AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

October 7, 2013

In Uptown New Orleans, you’ll find a house unlike any other in the city.  Here, young Jewish adults live and learn together, cultivating a lifetime commitment to fighting poverty and injustice. They are corps members of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

AVODAH is a small organization making a big impact in New Orleans. Each year, ten new corps members arrive in the city, ready to work on some of the most pressing problems facing Southeast Louisiana. Corps members are placed at direct-service nonprofits in the city, working full-time and immersing themselves in the complexities of homelessness, education, healthcare, and other issues.  Since 2008, 58 AVODAH corps members have served more than 20,000 New Orleanians in need and added over $1 million in staffing capacity to local agencies.

The work continues long past normal business hours. In the evenings and on weekends, AVODAH corps members learn from local activists, educators, and community leaders.  Topics include theories of social change, the nuts and bolts of community organizing, and the realities of poverty in Louisiana. By living communally, corps members gain deep understandings of each other’s work, and find natural opportunities for collaboration that benefit the clients they serve.  AVODAH alumna Yaeli Bronstein explained, “I worked at a transitional homeless shelter. Housemates who worked at a fair housing center and the public defender’s office referred clients to my organization. Another housemate worked at a community health center and assisted me in securing a doctor’s appointment for one of my clients.”

Corps members are ultimately transformed by the experience of living and working in New Orleans, and the vast majority of AVODAH corps members remain in the city following their year of service. Laura Taishoff, an alumna of the 2009-2010 program currently working as a classroom teacher in New Orleans says, “I know that, at this point, New Orleans is the greatest love of my life. It is a complex and challenging love, like all the great ones. But it is the greatest nonetheless and this city, this community, has loved me back in ways I never could have dreamed.”

Please help us support the ongoing work of AVODAH in New Orleans.  Thanks to a generous matching grant by the Clayton Royer Family Fund all new and increased gifts to AVODAH will be matched up to $15,000.  To learn more about AVODAH or to support their work, please visit avodah.net or contact Dani Levine at 504-861-1068.