Amy Zylberman caught up with Jess Lindenberg '18, former Hillel student board president, to hear about her time at Avodah-- as an Avodah corps member in Washington, D.C. -- and how her time with F&M Hillel motivated her to pursue justice through a Jewish lens.
Jess Lindenberg is from Bethesda, Md.
Major/minor at F&M: Double major in sociology and Spanish
AZ: What was your level of involvement at F&M Hillel?
JL: Hillel was a very important and meaningful part of my experience at F&M. From the beginning of freshman year, I decided that I wanted to be involved and started attending Shabbat almost every Friday. I really valued the community at Hillel.
I joined the board during fall of my sophomore year, when the president at the time asked me if I would be interested. I was Tzedek chair until junior year when I decided to run for president. After my time as president, I was still a frequent visitor at Hillel (I went to Shabbat pretty much every Friday my second semester senior year). As cheesy as this may sound, it is hard to describe how much F&M Hillel and the people there mean to me, and how positively Hillel added to my experience at F&M.
AZ: How did you know you wanted to work in Jewish life post grad?
JL: Because I was so involved in Hillel at F&M, I really wanted to be surrounded by a similar community after I graduated. I thought that Avodah would be a great way to do that, especially since I would be living communally with the other corps members. I also knew that I wanted to engage in justice work, and the combination of social justice and Jewish values was very appealing.
AZ: How did you find Avodah?
JL: I was searching for a community, and an opportunity to transition from F&M to post-grad life where I could be part of a community and also continue my involvement in Jewish life. I had also heard of the program from my mom, so it was always in the back of my mind as something I was interested in doing after college.
AZ: How would you best sum up Avodah's mission?
JL: As a Jewish service corps, Avodah works to strengthen the Jewish community by fighting the causes and effects of poverty in the U.S. Avodah corps members engage in service and community building through a Jewish lens.
AZ: What has your daily life at Avodah been like?
JL: I work at an organization called "DC SCORES," an after-school program that provides a combination of soccer, poetry and service learning to kids in D.C. public schools in grades three through eight. I work with third- to fifth-graders twice per week, and help them with their service learning project. The other service learning coach is a teacher at the school where I am placed, and together, with help from the curriculum, we guide the kids and ensure they are on the path to picking, researching and executing a project. This season, they decided to focus on littering through poetry and art. In the office, I also contact parents and coaches to follow up on registration, attendance at DC SCORES practices, etc. On afternoons when I am not at my school, I attend DC SCORES soccer games to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Daily life at the Avodah houses is kind of like living in a college dorm. You are constantly surrounded by friends, and there is always something exciting going on. In general, daily life on a weekday consists of everyone going their separate ways to work (except people who have another Avodah corps member with them at their organization, like I do!), and then people come home at various times. Because the two Avodah houses are right next door to each other, we all spend a lot of time together (there are 23 of us). Sometimes we have Avodah programming in the evening and sometimes we have daylong programming. Programming can be anything from learning about solidarity and "allyship" and how we can apply those concepts in our jobs/homes, to discussing housing insecurity and homelessness with people who have experienced it.
AZ: What do you enjoy most about being in D.C.?
JL: Even though I grew up close to D.C., I didn't know the city very well. I love that I am able to immerse myself in D.C. life. I enjoy being close to home, while also comfortably living life on my own. I have loved exploring the city with everyone in my cohort. Living near Rock Creek Park is also wonderful, as it is a great place to take a walk or go on a run.
AZ: What will your next step be?
JL: I'm not sure. I am almost positive that I want to work with kids in a school setting. So, next year, I will hopefully live in the D.C. area and work somewhere in the social work/education field. My plans are then to apply to graduate school for social work or speech pathology!