Last year, Avodah launched our first-ever Jews of Color (JOC) Bayit within our New York Jewish Service Corps, our 25-year-old residential program for emerging social change leaders. The Service Corps provides a built-in Jewish community along with robust learning, skill-building, and full-time job placements at local nonprofits. Through this program, we cultivate lifelong resiliency and leadership.
Thanks to WRJ’s YES Fund, we secured enough funding and support to launch the JOC Bayit — an initiative that gives Corps Members, who self-identify as Jews of Color, the opportunity to live in a JOC-only space for the duration of the program. New York Corps Members live in three different apartments within New York City. Having the JOC Bayit as a built-in affinity space allows our JOC participants to enjoy deep learning and community building while maintaining a space to disconnect, process, and celebrate experiences that are unique to being Jews of Color.
Now in its second year, our program is already making a mark on the whole Service Corps program. Our current JOC Bayit participants have formed a tight-knit community. They are fortunate to have Judi Williams, JOC Bayit Program Director, supporting them, as well as Becca Belkin, NYC Service Corps Program Director, who works closely to run programming with Judi. We look forward to our third year, for which recruitment is already underway.
These deeply moving and inspiring words from one of the JOC Bayit’s members speaks volumes to the power of the experience:
“Being part of Avodah has been a huge gift and blessing for me. The nerves and anxieties that I had going into this space as a disabled JOC have dissipated, as I have been consistently and continually not only welcomed and accommodated but celebrated and embraced. I feel immeasurably fortunate to be a part of Avodah and this community specifically. I am incredibly grateful for this time and learning experience. My biggest takeaway from Avodah so far has been a massive degree of inspiration and faith in the young Jewish community to advocate for themselves and others and to lead with the kindness and care that can heal the world around us.”
We are so grateful to our seed funders, including WRJ, who share in our belief that the Jewish community is stronger when everyone is invited to participate in the fullness of each of their identities. The JOC Bayit cohort can practice living in an intentional multiracial space that reflects the Jewish community as it is and can be, in a way that reduces the harm of racism and white supremacy.”
Thank you to WRJ for this continued partnership and for investing in our diverse Jewish community.