2012 National Fellows
This outstanding cohort of leaders receive training, support and a network of peers to help foster and implement service-related projects in their communities and beyond. Selected as part of the 2012 pilot program for their personal investment in service, their wide range of achievements and individual merits, and their commitment to helping engage young adults in service initiatives through Jewish service-learning (JSL), we’re excited to add these remarkable folks to our roster of superheroes out there helping repair the world.
JULIA BARNARD, University of Texas – Austin
Julia is working to engage students at the University of Texas Hillel in several education-related service projects. Over the course of the year, she will develop a core group of weekly volunteers working with the Austin branch of the national non-profit Communities in Schools to tutor and mentor students at a local high-need elementary school. She will also help students plan and implement several Alternative Break experiences related to the same issue around the nation during Winter and Spring breaks.
BENJI BERLOW, Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh
Benji will be leading an ongoing service-learning program in the Pittsburgh community. Working with college students at several Pittsburgh area campuses, Benji will utilize the resources of his Hillel to develop a sustainable relationship with a local community partner. By creating weekly service opportunities, long weekend immersive experiences over breaks, and changing the overall attitude of service, Benji hopes to create a culture of helping and connecting with the local community.
BEN FALIK, Repair the World, Detroit
Ben, who also serves as Repair the World’s Manager of Detroit Service Initiatives, is mobilizing volunteers and building capacity to create college-positive environments in Detroit Public Schools. Working in partnership with The Detroit College Promise and schools across the city, Ben will lead teams of Jewish volunteers in supporting student groups in their exploration and pursuit of higher education. Through academic enrichment, goal setting, positive reinforcement – and exposure to the opportunities that higher education can unlock — students will develop valuable confidence and skills to help them to become and to stay college bound. Volunteers will learn, both in advance of and throughout their efforts, the systemic barriers that often stand between urban students and a college education.
BRIAN FINK, Cornell Hillel
Rabbi Brian, who directs Cornell Hillel’s Repair the World program, will supervise five student Repair the World fellows, each of whom will engage over 30 peers in Jewish Service-Learning, while also designing and implementing the program’s training curriculum. Brian will also work to create local service opportunities for alternative break participants.
JENNIE GATES BECKMAN, AJFCA/Repair the World
Jennie is leading the formation of a cohort of young professional teams, who will be paired with member agencies of Association of Jewish Family & Children Agencies (AJFCA) from across North America. The cohort will conduct a needs assessment alongside the volunteer manager to identify a JSL project that will meet the agency’s meeds as well as the interests of the team and their peers. The cohort will commit to one year of volunteer work with their local service ageny, during which they will receive training and leadership development from AJFCA to ensure the success of their project.
ELYSE KUMER, Hillel Montreal
Elyse is working to bring a Challah for Hunger chapter, with a focus on service learning, to Hillel Montreal. This chapter will go beyond CfH’s traditional goal of philanthropy to also include meaningful service that works to alleviate hunger in Montreal. This program will seek to engage McGill and Concordia University students who are passionate about service, and create service-learning opportunities for others. Elyse will work with student leaders to build the chapter, establish a partnership with a local organization, mobilize students who are interested in tikkun olam, and create learning opportunities for participants that will be woven throughout the CfH experience.
JASON LEIVENBERG, Hillel at UCLA
Jason’s JSL work entails deepening and enhancing already-existing social justice work at Hillel at UCLA. Through this Fellowship, he will focus on factors that build and cultivate ‘service identity’ amongst participating students, and within Hillel organizationally.
REBECCA RUSSO, Northwestern Hillel
Rebecca is working to deepen the long-term impact of Northwestern Hillel’s Alternative Student Break (ASB) experiences by integrating them with local service work in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois. Through the Fellowship, she will train student ASB leaders to engage their peers and other participants, in service that links the ASB experience with local community needs. Rebecca will additionally facilitate reflective learning and hopes to turn alternative break experiences into catalysts for social action in Evanston and Chicago.
MALKIE SCHWARTZ, Institute for Southern Jewish Life
Malkie’s project involves leading the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) in improving education for students locally. To this end, Malkie is spearheading a 2-year service-learning program for young Jews living in the South. Under her leadership, the ISJL’s Department of Community Engagement and partnering Jewish communities will offer participants the opportunity to introduce locally-based projects that positively impact education, and partake in a Jewish and community-building experience. Malkie and ISJL will enable participants to launch initiatives that authentically address educational needs in their own communities.
BOBBY SIPORIN, Jewish Communal Leadership Program
Bobby is working to address the needs of low-performing and special needs elementary school students throughout Metro Detroit. Since these students often require more attention through one-on-one instruction, Bobby will organize young Jews in Detroit to volunteer in public schools, working with under-performing elementary school students on fluency, comprehension and critical thinking skills. In doing so, Bobby will broaden the Detroit Jewish community’s relationship with surrounding communities, while embodying the spirit of Jewish Service-Learning.
BRENDA TALIA VARGAS, The Tribe, Miami Beach
Brenda Talia is working with The Tribe in Miami to engage more young Jews in service-learning. Despite Miami’s dense population, nearly two-thirds of Miami’s Jews (60% of whom are in their twenties and thirties) are unaffiliated with a synagogue or Jewish community center. Brenda Talia will aim to reach 100 people in their 20s and 30s by partnering with Miami Children’s Hospital, the city’s top pediatric hospital. Participants will gain volunteer training intertwined with Jewish learning, and will spend significant time with individual hospital patients.
AMY WEISS, Maryland Hillel
Amy works to inspire Jewish students to take active roles in improving their communities. With its 10 immersion programs, Amy enables students to become active citizens and facilitates a Repair the World student fellowship to create local, sustainable and effective programs together with the community. Amy will also help establish a large-scale tutoring and mentoring program in local high schools in partnership with Teach for America and oversee students’ efforts to provide fresh produce from Maryland Hillel’s organic farm to a local family crisis center, bring inclusion programs to adults with disabilities at Jewish Group Homes, provide services to D.C.’s homeless community through the National Coalition for the Homeless and help spearhead a campus campaign for Maryland Marriage Equality.