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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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AVODAH Mock Program

Friday night was the first time since Pittsburgh where I organized a mock educational AVODAH program. Thank you Meredith and Ben for hosting! Meredith is an AVODAH alum from DC and worked at Green Door, no longer an AVODAH placement. This night was exceptional for a few different reasons. The conversation was insightful and everyone left feeling enlightened and grateful for the meal.  The groups was diverse in that a few of my college friends and their parents came as well as some of Meredith’s friends; the group was about half Jewish and ages ranged from young 20s to folks in their 60s.

On a more personal note, this dinner was one of the first moments where I was taken aback and surprised at what I had helped create; I allowed myself to relax and realize people were really enjoying themselves and each other. During the program, at the point where I hand out my fellow Corps member’s stories from the year and encourage people to read in small groups and discuss any thoughts or stories that arise, I grabbed another plate of food and sat down to watch the magic happen. Our ears can be choosey and, from the head of the table, I directed my ears towards one pair, where I heard ideas of the importance of allowing the receiver of social services to dictate what they needed. I turned my head and eyes and listened about how the health care system is not benefitting those that need most. And I sat back and used my eyes to observe faces and hand gestures and smiles and frowns. This group of wonderful people, some who I knew, some who I had just met, were engaging with one another, sharing ideas and experiences and questioning each other’s beliefs about how we can ensure that everyone in our society is surviving. They were talking about the importance of community in our lives.

We came back as a group and let ideas flow onto the table from all the mini-discussions. Anya, a close friend from college, shared about her experience at a summer camp. At this particular camp, they were focused on global awareness and in order to convey a message about hunger and consumption, they were served only a bowl of rice for lunch. The camp directors taught about how many people in our world eat only a bowl of rice the entire day. Around the afternoon, all the kids began complaining of hunger and this seemed to defeat the purpose of becoming more globally conscious, rather than admitting hunger and realizing the larger lesson. In this same situation, we question what the role of the educator is and how can we as providers determine what is the correct way to teach and to treat one another.

Laurie, Anya’s father, told a story about when he was in church years ago. A woman thought that no one was looking and Laurie was pretty sure he was the only one who saw what this woman did. As the offering dish went around the church, she took a wad of $20 dollar bills out of her purse. Before it reached her row, she took a $1 dollar bill and wrapped it around the wad of $20s. Why did she do that, we discussed? And what does it mean about the act of giving? Is there a path that we walk down towards giving, is there a ladder (12 steps of Maimonides…)?  Is anonymous giving more selfless, are we ashamed to give a little, or a lot? What are we capable of giving? Once we give a little, are we on a path towards more and more giving because it makes us feel good? Do we want to see the results of our giving? What is the difference between giving a dollar on the street to giving a dollar to an organization?

AVODAH helped me draw a spectrum between the band aid and larger systemic change. To give a dollar on the street, or a meal one day for lunch provides a temporary band aid, a much needed one that could enable the individual to survive until the following day. Systemic change is committing yourself to a cause, volunteerism, or focusing on ideas like changing policies and the way we relate to one another.  Sometimes, in order to change one small thing, many other things need to change first. We talked about how the act of supplying the band aid can also lead to greater things, such as realizing it feels good to give and continue through that now opened door.

Finishing up the evening, we reflected on what we had learned, filled out the obligatory AVODAH Reflections: What did you enjoy, what did you learn and what could be improved. We recognized the communal feeling that we had worked through some difficult thoughts and ideas and all had an opportunity to reflect on our own past and share.

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