Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the time commitment to the Jewish Service Corps and when does it start?
AVODAH requires a firm year-long time commitment from all its participants. The program year starts in August and ends in August a year later. You must commit to the entire year in order to join the program.
When will I hear if I’ve been invited into a matching round?
If you applied by the deadline, you can expect AVODAH to be in touch with you in early to mid-March.
What are my chances of getting into the program if I am on the Alternate List?
The chances that you will be invited into a subsequent matching round changes from round to round, depending on how many matches were already completed. AVODAH will be in contact with you periodically to update you on the process and your status.
Can I defer acceptance?
We do not defer acceptance into the program for the following year. If you are uncertain about what you want to do next year, and think AVODAH is a serious option, please do apply. However, if do not want to do the program this coming year, please wait to apply until you are ready to participate. We’ll be happy to interview you then!
I have special circumstances AVODAH should know about. Who do I tell?
Please alert your interviewer to any special circumstances that will affect your potential participation. These might include things such as being out of the country during the matching round, anything that would limit full participation during the year, specific needs or preferences that may pose challenges.
Who is eligible as a reference?
- Someone who supervised you when you held either a paid or volunteer position, such as any type of full-time or part-time job, a summer internship or internship during the school year, teaching assistant position, etc.
- Someone who served in a leadership role such as short-term service trip leader or a professional who served as a student group advisor.
- Family members or close family friends
- Professors, academic advisors, or teachers unless they know you in a supervisory capacity
What if I need to change one of my references, but I’ve already submitted my application?
Contact Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Russ Agdern at [email protected] and he will contact your reference for you.
Do all applicants get interviewed?
After reviewing all applications submitted by the deadline, AVODAH will contact qualified applicants for an interview. Not all applicants will be interviewed.
Will I be interviewing for all cities?
Candidates who proceed to the interview stage are initially considered for a place in only one of our program cities. Usually, this city is one of the cities they expressed preference for in their application.
When will interviews take place?
Interviews will take place in mid-February. Applicants who submit their application after the deadline will be interviewed on an as needed basis. If you submit your application prior to the deadline, you may be contacted earlier for an interview.
How long will my interview last?
A typical interview lasts 30-60 minutes.
Will I have a phone or in-person interview?
The vast majority of our applicants interview over the phone. If you are able to come to one of our offices in Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, or Washington, DC, please contact Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Russ Agdern at [email protected] so he can schedule an in-person interview. We may also be able to offer in-person interviews with alumni in several other cities around the country.
Will I have an in-person interview with a prospective placement agency?
Placement agencies conduct all interviews exclusively by phone. You do not need to travel, but you do need to be available by telephone throughout the interview week. If you are going to be away all or part of that week, please let us know right away.
Will I be housed within walking distance of a synagogue?
We strive to put at least one house in each city within walking distance (1.5 miles) of a synagogue. Please be sure to discuss questions or concerns about access to a synagogue during your interview.
Will I be able to keep kosher?
All kitchens in our houses are kosher at the time of move-in. As the year progresses, each household negotiates the standards of kashrut (Jewish dietary law) the members of the community wish to maintain.
What is Shabbat like in the program?
AVODAH corps members create a pluralistic “Community Shabbat” at least once a month. In many houses, corps members choose to celebrate together more frequently.
Do I have to be Jewish to be a corps member?
No, you do not need to be Jewish to join the Jewish Service Corps. It is important to know that a large part of the program is based on the interplay between Judaism and social justice, and creating a Jewish community. We do ask that all dorps members have the ability and interest to live and learn in an environment that is structured around a Jewish lifestyle, regardless of individual faith.
Will my house be in a safe neighborhood?
AVODAH tries to provide the safest living situations possible. You will be living in an urban environment where—like most city neighborhoods—crime can be an issue and levels of safety are unpredictable. AVODAH staff will provide resources for dealing with crime prevention and safety, and you will be living in a concerned community where housemates can help each other use caution and safety.
Can I take on other work while I am a corps member?
Everyone in the program is required to work full-time at their AVODAH placement. In order to ensure your ability to focus on your many AVODAH-related activities and still find time for downtime and other personal activities, you may not take classes, hold a part-time job or do extensive volunteer work for the first four months of the program year. After the first four months, we ask that you keep these sorts of commitments to five hours per week so that you can continue to participate fully in the AVODAH community. For more information about work placements in AVODAH, click here.
When does the program start?
The 2015-2016 Service Corps year will begin in late August, 2015.
Are AVODAH houses furnished?
The houses are fully furnished and have all the dishes, pots, pans, etc. needed to run a household, including a kosher kitchen.
Will I have to share a room?
You should be prepared to share a room for all or part of the program year, since AVODAH houses may have some singles, but most rooms are doubles. AVODAH does not assign rooms - each household decides together how to divide up the living space.
What kinds of commitments to the community are required?
Living in community is a major component of the program and requires a commitment of time and spirit. Since you are working full-time and attending evening and weekend programs, you must make sure you are also able to commit time to living in community by attending communal meals, celebrations of Shabbat, and house meetings.
What does the programing component of AVODAH entail?
The weekly programs (as well as the retreats, day-long workshops and site visits) provide a space for the skill-building, leadership training, and consistent reflective practice that strengthen all effective activists and provide a foundation for a future in social change work. These sessions include meetings with local social change leaders, personal and communal reflection on the year's unfolding challenges and accomplishments, space to debate ideas and methods of social change, and trainings on the skills one needs to pursue justice work successfully and sustain.
The programs are also one setting for the group to engage with their Jewish identity as it relates to their activism, and with the ways that their political and social beliefs and struggles can inform their Jewish practice. The group meets with rabbis, teachers and Jewish activitsts throughout the year to explore Jewish texts, history, and justice-oriented approaches to Jewish holidays and ritual.
What program commitments are required?
In a given month, there will be 4-6 evening programs from 6:00pm-9:00pm. During the course of the year, you will participate in three weekend retreats and three day-long seminars. At least once a month, you will visit other Corps members' work sites. These opportunities help Corps members explore different approaches to social change and expose them to issues they may not encounter on a daily basis in their own work. You will also create a pluralistic "Communal Shabbat" at least once a month.
Is there a living allowance? If so, how large is the allowance and what does it cover?
Yes, there is an allowance, which is paid by the placement agency directly to the AVODAH Corps member. Corps members in all cities pay a portion of this living allowance to AVODAH to cover basic housing costs, including rent and utilities. The rest of the living allowance is used for things like food, toiletries, health care products, telephone, general household items, and modest social expenditures. In addition to the living allowance, placement agencies provide health insurance and a travel subsidy for local public transportation.
The net monthly allowance varies by city, as follows:
$300 for living expenses/$305 to AVODAH for housing
$300 for living expenses/$100 to AVODAH for housing
New York City
$400 for living expenses/$475 to AVODAH for housing
$325 for living expenses/$450 to AVODAH for housing
How did AVODAH decide on these amounts?
We arrived at allowance levels by assessing the costs in each city for basic necessities during the year. The allowance is not designed to cover large expenses such as air travel, school application fees, or out-of-pocket prescription medication costs that exceed $500 per year.
Can I support myself on the allowance?
Your lifestyle will be a modest one, but experience confirms that people can live on the funds provided. Group housing and subsidy from AVODAH keep rent low and food expenditures can be greatly reduced by collective purchasing. Corps members also re-tool their social lives to include more free and low-cost activities.
What about my student loans?
Nearly all student loan payments for US citizens can be put on hold during a year in AVODAH. This process is initiated by the participant, and we are happy to provide instructions.
Outreach and Fundraising
I understand that I’ll need to do some outreach and fundraising before the program starts—what’s involved?
As an incoming AVODAH corps member you are asked to raise money for and spread the word about AVODAH, setting your own goal with a minimum expectation of $1,500. This addresses practical needs and also helps you develop an invaluable skill for bringing about change.
Where does the money I raise go?
Your fundraising will help support the work of AVODAH. Specifically, fundraising enables:
- AVODAH corps members across 4 cities to work at front-line antipoverty organizations.
- Each anti-poverty organization to save an average of $18,000 per Corps member. AVODAH subsidizes the rent and other living costs of Corps members.
- Providing intensive educational programs for participants to support leadership development, skills building, and Jewish exploration.
- Engaging young people in social change issues and learning about Judaism's connection to social justice.
Some of the larger things AVODAH pays for include subsidizing rent for your houses, paying for educational programming during the year, and paying the staff it takes to make that happen. Smaller items we pay for include food and resource packets.
Is acceptance into program contingent on reaching my fundraising goal?
We understand that each corps member will reach different fundraising goals. We support you in your efforts so that this initiative is a rich learning process. Each year over half our corps members exceed the minimum fundraising goal, while others, despite their best effort, do not meet their goals.
AVODAH is grateful for all the work our corps members put into their outreach and fundraising initiatives. We will not exclude anyone from the program for not meeting their fundraising goal.
Why do this over the summer?
Corps members are busy during the program year between working full-time and participating in the AVODAH community. It is not realistic to ask our participants to add fundraising and outreach to their other responsibilities. We have found that incoming corps members understand AVODAH’s mission and do a great job of expressing their enthusiasm even before the formal start of the year.
I’ve never raised money before. How do I do it?
AVODAH will provide resources, tips and training so that you can learn how to engage people in your excitement about the upcoming year.
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This has been a great year of spiritual growth for me and now more than ever, I am aware of the importance of a pluralistic and diverse Jewish community. It gives me much confidence knowing that the individuals I spent a year with are out there”
Lane Rosner2004-2005 Corps Member