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    To raise support and visibility for AVODAH, the Jewish Service Corps, while becoming an agent for social change over 3,100 miles of biking.

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    AVODAH is an organization that provides an opportunity for young people to engage in social justice work while fostering Jewish values. We Corps member live in an intentional Jewish community while engaging in work for social change.

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Getting to Chicago

As we rushed through the middle of Illinois last Friday, the 27th of August, we realized that we were not going to make it by Shabbat. I was expected at the JRC (the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston) to speak at Dempster Beach. Services were during sundown and we were still more than 50 miles away. The three of us were sitting at a diner on the side of road, completely bonked.

Bonking is a term that refers to when you are engaged in some sort of physical endurance and the level of glycogen in your body is depleted. This is observable in humans in extreme fatigue and exhaustion and can usually be remedied with carbohydrates. However, the three of us did not pay attention. We had eaten a small dinner (wrong move #1), had eaten a small breakfast with the intention of stopping soon after (wrong move #2) and did not fill up our water in the morning since we thought we would find another town soon after waking (wrong thought #3).

The three of us, lying down on the seats in a diner (with the approval of our server), slept and drank water and tried to engage with the local truckers who were talking about transporting cucumbers to the Atlantic to load onto ships heading toward Europe. They wondered why we were doing this trip—it obviously had depleted us in the last few hours. I spoke to him through half-shut eyes about urban poverty and asked him if he had experienced poverty in his town. He thought for a moment and then replied no, there weren’t many people he had met that did not have their needs fulfilled. In small towns, with populations of 375, there is less potential to let individuals fall through the cracks. He had lived there his entire life and only left on few occasions if he needed something for his farm—which was rare.

In order to expose yourself to struggles people are facing, it takes some effort to remove yourself from the comfort of your own small town, your own small community and see how other people live. We did witness small town poverty in the Appalachians; we saw “white poverty,” almost unspoken of in the media, where health care (especially dental care) in practically obsolete and families live together in broken down homes, where 4 generations inhabit a 5 bedroom house.

That was quite tangential, back to our story. Alli has a fabulous mother, who drove through Chicago rush hour to pick us up and make sure we made it to the speaking engagement on time. Sitting on the lawn by Lake Michigan, where Lauren and David, enthusiastic supporters of AVODAH in Chicago, had a Whole Foods picnic spread waiting for us, I gave my speech, talking about Rafael and the importance of working together in community.

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