Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Gold
Rachel Gold participated in AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps in 2002-2003 in New York City. She received an AJWS-AVODAH Double Impact Social Justice Grant this summer to support her internship with the British Columbia Non-Profit Housing Association in Vancouver, British Columbia.
What motivated you to become an AVODAH Corps member, and what was your year like?
I had spent a number of summers before my AVODAH year working at a camp for at-risk youth near Ottawa, Ontario, where I grew up, and those summers really helped to form the foundation for what would later become my interest and desire to pursue a career in social justice work. They helped spark some of the questions that I brought to my AVODAH year about children at risk, families, communities; about why things are the way they are and how can things be different.
When I think back to my AVODAH year, what stands out for me is the sense of community that I built with other young, progressive Jews. I had just finished an undergraduate degree at a university where my classes were really massive, so to be able to sit around with 15 other people and have in-depth conversations about issues felt so much more practical to me than what I had been studying. It also connected my Judaism to the social justice world, which I was just diving into that year.
How has your AVODAH experience influenced your career path?
My AVODAH year helped to answer some of my questions from working at camp and also spark new questions for me about what social justice meant and how I wanted to see my role in it. I worked for part of each week in a transitional shelter for homeless seniors, which was really eye-opening. I had a few opportunities to support some of our residents in dealing with Medicare and other benefits issues, and it gave me a taste of the bureaucracy that they were dealing with on a daily basis. I realized I wanted to learn more about policy and activism.
After AVODAH, I ended up in Victoria, BC and did a masters degree in Studies in Policy and Practice at the University of Victoria. It seemed like a perfect venue for me to ask more questions, to think more theoretically about some of the societal issues I had been exposed to through AVODAH and to get a better sense of what policy means and how I can relate to it in some way.
What has your internship experience this summer been like?
The internship gave me an opportunity to work on and develop some skills that I haven't had much practice in yet, such as proposal writing and securing grants from different funders. To get a feel for how to raise money and what it takes to envision a project or a program that's going to meet our members' needs has been really useful for me.
What do you plan to do following the end of your internship?
There are some general areas that I'm beginning to realize I want to go into or consider exploring. Community development is an exciting possibility—doing a blend of bigger-picture policy development work while supporting communities in whatever ways they need.
I am enjoying learning more about affordable housing issues—it is a massive issue and problem here, so I feel lucky to be at a place where I can sort out what work is going on. Ten weeks isn't that much time, so part of me is keen to continue this piece for awhile, continue working on and learning about issues of affordable housing and supporting affordable housing providers here. I also think a lot about getting back to issues that relate to children, families and communities. That desire has been with me since I started working at camp over ten years ago.
How does Judaism play a role in your life?
Judaism is always a thread running through the work that I'm doing. I still draw from the energy of my AVODAH community, and I'm still close with a number of people that I spent a year abroad with in Jerusalem. I feel a strong attachment to that community, and having the AVODAH-AJWS alumni community present, knowing that it's there for me if I want it, makes me feel cradled.
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