Repair Interview: Martin Storrow of Keys for Refugees

Finding out that there are 60 million refugees and displaced people around the globe can be overwhelming. It can be terribly difficult to know how to help, or even where to begin a conversation. That’s why Martin Storrow and Rachel Brandt founded Keys for Refugees – a brand new, grassroots campaign to help raise awareness about the world’s refugee population. Their idea is simple, but profound: keys are a symbol of home, security, and comfort. And they can help to “unlock” important stories.

Through Keys for Refugees, people can purchase red keys for themselves or friends that serve as a reminder and a starting point for conversation. A portion of the proceeds from the keys goes to HIAS, the oldest refugee resettlement organization in America, and Repair the World’s partner in our #SupportforRefugees campaign. We recently spoke with Storrow to find out more about the inspiration behind Keys for Refugees, how people and organizations are using their keys, and how you can get involved with this inspiring movement.

Can you tell me a bit more about the inspiration behind Keys For Refugees?
I was in Europe around the time the Syrian refugee crisis was reaching a tipping point, and the things I saw really affected me. I’ll never forget the images of families sleeping on train station floors, living their lives very publicly with nowhere to go. When I came home, Rachel and I started having conversations about what we could do to help the 60 million people who are currently displaced around the world.

The more we spoke about this with our families and friends, the more we began to realize how powerful a conversation can be. We started Keys For Refugees with the simple idea that a key can unlock a conversation, a conversation can lead to action, and a series of actions can change the world.

How did you decide to donate the proceeds to HIAS?
We believe that every person should have a place to call home. We see the 60 million displaced people around the world as individuals – each with dreams, each hoping not just to survive, but to contribute. HIAS not only helps to provide relief to those who are displaced, but also helps to resettle refugees and ensure that they have a support system so they can thrive. We love that their mission is rooted in Jewish values, and were really impressed by the HIAS/Repair the World #SupportForRefugees partnership. There are many wonderful organizations that are supporting refugees around the world, but we were excited to make HIAS our first partner in this campaign.

Can you share a story that demonstrates the impact of your work?
The campaign is still new (we just had our pre-launch last month), but we’re already seeing an impressive response from those in our networks and in the Jewish community. We were really moved by the connections people were making to Passover. One organization, for example (The Well in Detroit), set fifty red keys on their seder table so they could start conversations about those making their own modern day journeys to freedom. That was really inspiring.

What’s the best way for people to get involved?
The simplest thing you can do is visit our website to buy a red key or gift one to a friend. We have ‘key’ facts there too, so you can start unlocking conversations – whether in-person or by posting in social media. This is a huge humanitarian challenge, and it can certainly feel daunting, but big change often starts with small actions. We’re at the beginning of something special, and we’re excited to bring people together to raise awareness, spread hope, and help build a movement.

Turn the Tables: A Refugee-Focused Seder in Kansas City

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis. All across the country this Passover, people found ways to share refugees’ stories during their seders and to talk about the issues they face. Using resources and materials from Repair the World’s Turn the Tables project, they were able to add additional meaning and spark important conversations at their tables. Here, Kansas City resident, Malinda Kimmel, talks about her experience hosting a Turn the Tables seder for friends and family from a wide range of political backgrounds.

What inspired you to host a refugee-focused Passover seder?
For me and my family, this seder made sense. Refugee issues are something we are passionate about, and Pesach is a story of leaving one country for another to come to freedom and safety. Also, three of our seder participants work at JVS Kansas City, an organization that works to resettle new refugees into our community. The seder allowed us to share with others the importance of refugee resettlement in our community.

How did you weave refugee issues into the seder?
We began our seder with the Turn the Tables guided discussion. We made sure all guests understood our seder was to be a safe space for open discussion and respectful conversation. Our guests really jumped in and opened up, allowing us to talk about the connection between Jews in Egypt and others now who flee their countries for freedom and safety.
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Turn the Tables: A Refugee-Focused Passover Seder for 54 in Portland

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis. All across the country this Passover, people found ways to share refugees’ stories during their seders and to talk about the issues they face. Using resources from Repair the World’s Turn the Tables project, and nourishment support from OneTable, they were able to add additional meaning and spark important conversations at their tables. Here, Portland, Oregon resident Debbie Frank talks about her experience hosting a Turn the Table seder for more than 50 people in conjunction with the Meetup group PDX MOTs!

1. What inspired you to host a refugee-focused seder and dinner?
Over the years, the Passover seder has become my favorite Jewish holiday experience. My family in Alabama always uses the same traditional Haggadah, which I still very much cherish. But, it wasn’t until I moved to Portland a few years ago that I experienced my first Seder at a friend’s house with a Haggadah that was completely custom for the kids. Since this year was my first time to tackle putting on a seder myself (for 54 adults no less), I wanted to honor tradition while melding in something unexpected.
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Repair Interview: Maria Fedore on Helping Teachers Help Refugee Students

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis.

Being a teacher is a heroic challenge, no matter who your students are or what you’re teaching. But imagine walking into a classroom where several, or even most, of your students come from refugee backgrounds. Knowing how to bring these students together and meet the needs of such a diverse classroom is an almost unimaginable task. But in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an organization called Tulsa Newcomer Services is working to make it a bit easier.

Through trainings, professional development, and ongoing support, TNS “empowers teachers to provide an excellent education to their culturally and linguistically diverse learners.” Repair the World recently spoke with Executive Director, Maria Fedore, to find out more about Tulsa’s refugee community and how she helps students – and teachers – thrive.

What was the inspiration behind Tulsa Newcomers Services?
Our inspiration is our students. In Tulsa, the population of refugees is large and continuing to grow. Many of the students have experienced long stays in refugee camps, have had limited access to education, lack language fluency, and have experienced discrimination in school settings. Meanwhile, all students deserve to have access to education and a chance to thrive. We recognized the importance of supporting teachers who are working with these culturally and linguistically diverse students, and aim to help them meet their unique needs.
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Snapshots from the Jewish Food Justice Movement

This post was created in partnership with Jewish Food Experience, a project focused on bringing people together around Jewish food, culture, and tradition.

What does food justice look like on the ground? That depends on where you are. Across the country, urban and rural communities of all sizes struggle with food insecurity and uneven access and availability to healthy food. But the particular challenges these communities face change from place to place—and the movement shifts in response to those changes.

Repair the World partners with local organizations and volunteers in multiple cities—Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit and Philadelphia—and on multiple fronts to galvanize food justice movements that reflect and prioritize each city’s specific needs. Recently, we reached out to our food justice Team Leaders, who are working with these communities to get a firsthand account of what food justice looks like from their vantage point. Read on:

What is the most pressing food justice-related challenge in your city?
PITTSBURGH
There are 2 Pittsburghs: the rust belt comeback story people talk about, and the segregation and separation that is keeping blacks, other minorities and individuals living on the margins from being able to access and partake in the “new” Pittsburgh. This affects the food movement as well. Farmers markets, urban agriculture and all the hot new eateries mainly serve the white, wealthier classes of the city. So how does our city continue to progress and move forward without leaving people out? – Greg LaBelle, 25

NEW YORK CITY
Hunger is the most salient food justice challenge for New York City. The high cost of living in NYC doesn’t just prevent people from consuming healthful foods, it straight-up prevents them from being able to purchase enough food. Some government and private programs help alleviate the hunger, but they are not sufficient and have physical and/or psychological barriers to entry. – Sam Sittenfield, 25

PHILADELPHIA
The availability and distribution of healthy food options throughout the city is pressing. Philly is the poorest large city in America. Food resources tend to be concentrated in the wealthiest areas while under-resourced areas have more corner stores (which often lack fruits and vegetables) and fewer grocery stores. – Bridget Flynn, 23

DETROIT
I think the most pressing food justice challenge in Detroit is childhood hunger. In southeastern Michigan, 1 in 5 children is food insecure and over 300,000,000 children qualify for free or reduced lunch in schools. Without consistent access to nourishing food, children and adults are not able flourish. – Erin Piasecki, 25

What role can/should Jewish food advocates play in helping address this challenge?
PITTSBURGH
Jewish organizations and advocates can truly support the people fighting these issues when they understand how best to support the individuals and groups that need help. It is crucial that we not overpower the people who need help and not diminish the focus on them and their struggle.

NEW YORK CITY
The first thing that we need to do is to educate ourselves. Many of us in the Jewish community come from privileged backgrounds and will never truly understand hunger. We can, however, start to understand the context and how pervasive it is in our communities.

PHILADELPHIA
I have seen Jewish food advocates help to make positive change in the food justice sphere by listening to community needs and providing the resources to fill them. A major part of ally-ship is active listening before taking action. Jewish texts can also be used as a tool for food justice education.

DETROIT
Jewish food advocates have tremendous power to keep hunger, and particularly the plight of hundreds of thousands of hungry children, in the public eye through awareness raising campaigns, food drives, and other volunteer driven initiatives in their communities. By supporting and collaborating with longstanding institutions advocates can amplify and concentrate their fundraising and other efforts to eliminate 21st century hunger.

Find out more about Repair the World’s food justice work, including #SupportforRefugees, a Passover campaign focused on the global refugee crisis, and how you can become a future Repair the World fellow. Big thanks to some of our wonderful local food justice partners: Grow Pittsburgh, Keep Growing Detroit, Jewish Farm School in Philadelphia and Hunger Free America in NYC.

A Refugee-Focused Alternative Break With Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life

This guest post is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s Passover campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis. It was written by Ya’arah Pinhas and Will Simon, and covers a jam-packed alternative spring break program focused on refugee resettlement, and run by Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life.

Over the recent Spring Break, Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life’s Social Justice Committee led a service learning trip to NYC and NJ exploring refugee resettlement in the area. With an ever increasing number of 60 million internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and refugees worldwide alongside the media’s focus on the Syrian refugee crisis, the committee has focused its efforts on raising awareness on campus and encouraging students to take action on this topic. The trip’s goals were to learn about the process of resettlement of refugees in the US, specifically looking at the services provided to them once they arrive within US borders, and volunteering with organizations that assist refugees newly arrived to the US and advocate on their behalf.
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