I received this note from Becca Neril, a very active member of Jewlicious during her tenure as an undergrad at the Claremont Colleges, and one of the Jewish leaders on campus. She brought nearly 50 students to the festival last year, thanks to her organizing. Becca is working in Chicago, with AVODAH. Needless to say – we are very inspired by Becca and her work.

Dear friends and family,

Two blocks away from my apartment, on the street where my grandfather attended high school, there are eight deciduous trees whose flaming red and golden yellow leaves rustle in the Chicago autumnal wind. I woke up on Saturday morning to bare ivy vines lining the outside of our apartment windows and to the last remaining leaves, now auburn and dusty brown, solitarily swaying on the now bare tree branches. O how I love the fall here!

This email has been in the works for the past…two months. I have only recently gotten around to finishing it, hence the delayed update on my post-college adventures. In late August, I moved to Chicago to be part of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, which is an intensive Jewish learning program that seeks to educate the Corps Members about how Judaism relates to social justice. I am working full time at a Jewish anti-poverty organization called The Ark, which provides vital human services to the Chicago Jewish community. The Ark has a free community medical clinic, dental clinic, pharmacy, kosher food pantry, job placement and legal services, transitional housing for the homeless, psychological services, and intensive day program for mentally ill patients. Let me just say that I LOVE my job. My boss is so so so wonderful and everyone is really friendly at work. Because I am the youngest person on staff, some of the staff consider me like their own daughter. One case manager, for example, has already tried to set me up with her friend’s son!

My days at work focus mainly around food and drugs. The Ark is home to the largest kosher food pantry in the Midwest and I get to spend two hours every day filling clients’ orders and unpacking and checking hechshers on donated food items. I also have my own caseload of clients who I help prepare for their visit to the food pantry. I often reflect on how for many of these clients, handing us their shopping list strips them of some of their dignity. They are not able to complete one of the most basic tasks-that of supplying food for their family-and have to submit to other people to pick out their food for them. Whenever possible, I ask clients if they want crunchy or creamy peanut butter or whole wheat or white pasta in an attempt to give them back some autonomy that I feel they have lost. I often mull over these ethical issues and would love to discuss them with you! In terms of drugs-I work to secure free medications for our clients by enrolling them in patient assistance programs. I don’t have too many juicy stories about the pharmaceutical companies.

In short-I LOVE my job and I LOVE being part of AVODAH. If you are ever in the Chicago area, please give me a call or email! Also, I would love to hear any updates on your life adventures, whatever they may be.



About the author

Rabbi Yonah

1 Comment

  • The Ark is a great organization. They also have a thrift store, which is awesome 🙂 I’m glad to hear that working there is fun, too!

    But Becca, don’t let the fall lure you in… the winters are rough rough rough. Hope you have a good coat! 🙂