Ah, November – a time for family feasts, autumn leaves, giving thanks…and growing mustaches.
Started in 2003, Movember (a mash-up of “Moustache” and “November”) is changing the face of men’s health – pun intended! Each November, over one million men around the world begin the month clean-shaven, and spend the next 30 days cultivating their mustaches, all with the goal of getting their supporters to pledge money for men’s health. By committing to growing a mo’ for the 30 days of Movember, these men become walking billboards, raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and other prevalent men’s health issues. Last year was a staggering success, with participants raising over $42,000,000!
The movement’s greatest success is the awareness and education it spreads. By diffusing awareness through a quirky, fun facial adornment, Movember is able to break down stigmas and social barriers that often surround men’s health issues. The discussions sparked by these furry accessories prevent illness and encourage healthy living – and ultimately, save lives.
Movember occurs every year, around the world, and it’s not just your friends and colleagues getting involved. Many high-profile celebrities and athletes have supported the Movember Foundation, including Joe Jonas, Justin Bieber and Foster the People’s Mark Foster, creating great press fodder and increasing knowledge about a creative and worthwhile initiative.
Do you know someone growing out their stache for a good cause this Fall? Tweet us a pic and we’ll send you a Repair the World tee! @repairtheworld
It may not be immediately apparent when walking down the street, but youth (both children and teens) are all too common victims of homelessness. In fact, whether it’s the child of a family that lost their home, a victim of domestic abuse, or a teen who has run away from an unstable situation, an estimated 50,000 youth end each day with nowhere to call home.
This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week – seven days dedicated to raising consciousness about America’s homeless population. Jewish tradition reminds us that we as a community have an obligation to care for the orphan, the widow, and the stranger – in other words, people in need. In that spirit, make this the week you get involved: Here are five organizations working to curb youth homelessness across the country and in Israel, and an opportunity for you to make a difference with each:
Homes for the Homeless. Based in New York City, this organization helps families, including children, transition from living in a shelter to independence. Click here to volunteer with one of HFH’s summer camps, or another program.
Teen Feed. This Seattle-based organization engages volunteers in offering meals, support and services to homeless youth and teens. Find out more here and sign up to become a meal team volunteer here.
Ali Forney Center. This organization’s mission is to “protect LGBTQ youth from the harm of homelessness.” Click here to find out how to donate toiletries, bedding, clothes and other items for one of their drop-in centers.
My Friend’s Place. Based in Los Angeles, this organization works to inspire homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives. Click here to download a volunteer registration form, which will enable you to serve at their Safe Haven facility.
Shanti. First opened in 1984, this Israel-based organization serves as a “temporary home as well as a long-term framework for runaway and street youth ages 14-21, regardless of religion, race, sex or gender.” Donate to support their work here.
Find out how to plug into an event for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week here. Know about another organization doing great work to fight against the cycle of youth homelessness? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting @repairtheworld.
Steve (right) talking with a Tivnu volunteer. Photo courtesy of Steve Eisenbach-Budner.
Steve Eisenbach-Budner was a social-justice minded carpenter working in Portland, Oregon when he had a big idea: what if there were a Jewish service organization that combined carpentry education, affordable housing, and Jewish tradition? From that seed of an idea, Tivnu (which means “we build” in Hebrew) was born: an organization where “you can learn how to use a table saw in the morning, see what an ancient Jewish text has to say about social justice in the afternoon, and celebrate Shabbat in the evening.”
Eisenbach-Budner, who is a participant of Repair the World’s technical assistance program, was recently named a Joshua Venture Group fellow, giving him funding and support to take Tivnu to the next level. As of next fall, the organization will launch a gap year program for recent high school grads to live together in a pluralistic Jewish environment in Portland, while learning hands-on carpentry skills and Judaism’s take on justice.
Eisenbach-Budner took the time to speak with Repair the World about the influence his father had on his social justice perspective, how Repair the World and Joshua Venture have helped him on his journey of building Tivnu, and the power of building something with one’s own two hands.
What is your background with service?
I had several experiences growing up that impacted my commitment to service and social justice. Growing up in Manhattan in the late 1970s and 80s, when the current homelessness crisis was taking root, I grew accustomed to seeing people who were homeless. I got involved with Young Judea, which meant friends from other cities would visit for events. While walking with a friend, I stepped near a homeless person without really noticing them and my friend said, “Steve, that’s a person!” I remember that conversation as being my first real awareness of the issue. My father was also a great role model for me – he taught me to see and treat everyone as a human being.
In college I was involved in a couple of service programs, though I wasn’t yet looking at the big political stuff. I worked in a sleep-over shelter, working the night shift. I brought meals to elderly people with Dorot – I would visit with them for a while because it seemed like that was almost more important than the food.
Did you begin working for a service or social justice organization right after graduating?
Actually, I wanted to be a carpenter first. I liked to build stuff and do useful things, so I started working for a contracting company. Eventually I realized that instead of building fancy kitchens and remodeling people’s homes, I really wanted to be helping people who needed it. So I started volunteering in Oregon with Portland Youth Builders, which is part of a national coalition of schools that work with at-risk kids through mentoring and carpentry. The kids work to get their diplomas or GEDs, learn job training and carpentry skills, and build affordable houses for the community in the meantime. I started working as a substitute trainer 10 years ago, then began working there full time 6 years ago.
So when did you get the idea for Tivnu?
About four years ago, I started to envision something that combined aspects of Youth Builders and Habitat for Humanity with Jewish organizations that work on social justice issues. I tried to ignore it for a while – I have three kids after all! But that didn’t work out very well. So I started talking with different service leaders in organizations like AJWS and Avodah, and the idea seemed to resonate with people.
I started doing one day and one week programs – events for people in their 20s or 30s, or for a particular synagogue or community that worked across the age spectrum. And we would also partner with a non-Jewish organization to do the building projects – for example, we worked with the Oregon Farm Workers Union to help build a 2,600 square foot leadership institute. Meanwhile, we had educational programming about farm worker issues, and also Jewish study that focused on relevant topics. What I found was, the programs built relationships within and beyond the Jewish community, and across ages. And because we would bring real construction experience as well as willing volunteer labor, we were able to make a real difference.
And now you’re about to pilot a new program, right?
Yes, we’ll be starting a gap year program for recent high school graduates in the coming year. The program will start next fall and be based in Portland, Oregon. The participants will live together and work together learning construction, building affordable housing, and studying Judaism’s perspective on what traditionally has been the obligation of a community to help people have a roof over their heads. The Jewish learning will focus on traditional texts, but also more modern texts and literature like Yiddish poetry about tenement living. That program will become Tivnu’s cornerstone, but it will also strengthen our capacity to offer one-day or one-week programs for synagogues, BBYO groups or other community groups.
Congratulations on being named a Joshua Venture Group fellow! What will that allow you to do?
Until last month, everything I’ve described – putting together the organization, finding a board, running the programs, dealing with legal issues – has happened on the side of my job with Portland Youth Builders. Joshua Venture has helped me go full time with this work and really make it happen at another level.
How are you connected with Repair the World?
I’m part of Repair the World’s technical assistance program, which means they provide professional support and training to help me do my work better and more effectively. Early on, I attended a logic modeling workshop, which was really helpful and helped me pull together my model for the gap year and have something professional and thought through that I could share with people. Repair the World holds webinars and training phone calls, and is helping Tivnu spread the word about the program.
How can people find out more, or apply for the Tivnu gap year program?
Applications will be available soon for the coming year. People can learn more on our website and sign up for our newsletter so they’ll be the first to know when applications are out. We’re also on Facebook.
Any last thoughts to share?
Tivnu is the first domestic Jewish service learning program for gap year participants, and it’s one of the first ones based on the West Coast. Through our programs, whether a day program or the year program, people gain real skills, help others and build community – we are excited to keep moving forward.
The Masai people on their land. Photo by Abeeeer via cc
Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Chayei Sarah, opens with a brief mention of the death of Sarah (the matriarch) at age 127, and then is immediately followed by a much longer description of Abraham purchasing land from local citizens. They offer to give him the land as a gift, but he refuses – instead insisting that he pay for it in full. This week’s dvar tzedek author, Sarah Mulhern, asks the question “why is it so important to Abraham to purchase this land in precisely this way—at full price and in front of the entire community? And what is so crucial for us to learn from this process that the Torah sees fit to devote so many verses to it?
The “takeaway”: Mulhern writes that “we see that Abraham was a man of great foresight. He understood, as do…other indigenous and marginalized populations around the world, that land ownership is not something to be taken for granted.” Indigenous people all over the globe, particularly in developing countries, have to fight for their rights to the land they have often lived on for centuries. It can be a painstaking process, and the fight is not always successful – too often, big corporations are able to displace an entire people to fulfill their development goals.
The “to-do”: Support the work of organizations that are “doing crucial work to ensure that, like Abraham, people around the world today retain legal rights to their land.” American Jewish World Service partners with many of these organizations – like Il’laramatak Community Concerns in Kenya, which works with the Masai community. Find out more about their work at AJWS.
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.
Are you involved with a great J-Serve project that is helping to address education challenges (like literacy rates, math deficiency, and mentorship) in your community? Or do you have an awesome project idea in mind? Now’s your chance to get your idea off the ground: J-Serve (The International Day of Jewish Youth Service) and Repair the World have teamed up to offer micro-grants for creative, volunteer-focused programs supporting education and child development.
The micro-grants will range from $500-$1000 and fund J-Serve projects across the country that help to solve the problem of education inequality. (Preference will be given to programs in New York, Detroit, Baltimore and San Francisco, but all are encouraged to apply.) Sample programs might include:
Starting a book drive and then creating flashcards based on key vocabulary for the books that were received, packing them together as a kit for local elementary school students
Gathering college alumni from your local BBYO chapter to give tours of their college campus to local youth. Follow up by hosting a college prep workshop for the community!
Rallying your friends and community to start a peer-to-peer mentoring program.
Working with a local preschool to create playground graphics on the blacktop to teach letters, numbers, colors, etc. to their students.
Applications will be accepted each month on the last day of the month (i.e. Nov 30, Dec 31, Jan 31 and Feb 28), 2013. So get excited, get some friends and volunteers together, and apply! Click here to download the application. And for more information, contact campaigns[@]werepair.org.
The following post by Repair staff member Talya Gillman, originally appeared on Maryland Hillel’s Blog for Change
“Nurses breathe for infants during Sandy hospital evacuation”; an article I read in the midst of Hurricane Sandy’s assault on the east coast. It described how nurses and medical professionals from the neonatal intensive care unit at a New York City hospital descended nine flights of stairs (the power, and therefore elevators, were out) carrying the babies while simultaneously – and manually – pumping breathing bags that enabled the infants to stay alive while wind and water raged outside. What a way to be welcomed into the world, the city – and lives – being ravaged by the storm, causing terror and chaos for those in the most affected areas.
And yet: what courage; what kindness; what generosity the nurses enveloped those little humans in. I like to imagine that those are qualities the nurses breathed into the babies as they made careful journeys down those steps. I like to think about the choices they made that night (that so many made that night) – to remain at work when they might have been home with their own loved ones, to act boldly in the face of danger in order to support those more vulnerable, and to do what was needed when circumstances were tense and stakes high – and how these choices created the possibility that the infants will grow up to engage with the world in similar ways; in ways characterized by the qualities that saved them.
These images make me think back to the first months of my brothers’ lives. Twins, they were born three and a half months prematurely – extremely sick at birth – and they, too, were cared for by ever-watchful and committed nurses. Once they came home from the hospital to begin their miracle-lives, my parents began a weekly tradition that many Jewish parents carry out each Shabbat, of reciting the ancient blessing, “May God bless you and keep you. May God shine [God’s] countenance upon you and be gracious unto you, and may God bless you with peace.”
And it occurs to me that as Sandy stormed, the actions of the nurses in New York were an actualization of this blessing. The nurses were breathing life and the best of humanity, the closest thing to “Godliness”, into the infants. Regardless of what we each perceive “God” to be or represent, the blessing is about a universal truth; that beyond health, safety and happiness, our lives should also be marked with meaning. And such meaning comes from making certain choices; owning what it means to be human, and responsible. When we act courageously in the face of adversity or injustice, when we commit ourselves to the causes of people marginalized or more vulnerable than ourselves, and when we join in efforts to address the societal needs that visibly and silently surround us, we serve the most essential and meaningful cause there is: one another.
In the aftermath of Sandy’s ruin, young people have dispersed throughout the east coast to “breathe life” into devastation; to breathe comfort into despair. Through their service, they, too, are carrying out the blessing. Let us learn from their example, and the examples set by the nurses and hospital workers who cradled the newborns with compassion and care. Let us commit ourselves to, now and throughout our lives, to acting in the ways those individuals have in the wake of disaster.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is not to be afraid.” But I’ve been thinking, and I’ve come to realize that at the end of the day, it’s all right to be afraid. The most important thing, I believe, is that we help one another across that narrow passageway.
This Thanksgiving, bring more than turkey to your dinner table. Photo by Dinner Series via cc
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, homes across America are about to get enveloped in the cozy scents of mulled cider, roasting turkey and pumpkin pie. True to its name, Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks – for family, friends and, of course, all the delicious food. And like Shabbat, Thanksgiving offers a time to stop, relax and simply be with the ones we love.
But while it’s easy to get lost in the epic meal preparations, and equally epic turkey bowls unfolding in the backyard or a nearby park, there’s more to Thanksgiving than simply being thankful. The holiday offers the perfect opportunity to give back to others, and spread the good wishes beyond our own tables.
This year, add the spirit of service to your Thanksgiving table. Here are a few ideas to get you started – and we would love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
Consider the Tofurkey. Think about going vegetarian this Thanksgiving, or make sure the turkey you buy was humanely raised.
Build a cornucopia. Invite guests to bring non-perishable foods (rice, pasta, tomato sauce, cereal, canned beans etc.) with them to dinner and collect them in a box by your door. After Thanksgiving, donate them to a local food pantry.
Pass the tzedakah box, please. After the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts make their way around the table, pass around a tzedakah box. After the holiday, donate the money collected to a hunger organization like Mazon or an organization that supports Native American communities like NRC.
Support Food Aid reform. Print out AJWS’s Food Aid petitions and ask your guests to support international food aid reform, which will make the food assistance we give to other countries safer and more effective.
Skip the nap. Instead of curling into a tryptophan-induced sleep state, find a local Thanksgiving volunteer opportunity that will get you off the couch! Check in with your local Meals on Wheels chapter to see if they need volunteers to deliver meals to housebound people, or search Volunteer Match for ideas.
How will you add service to your Thanksgiving table? Let us know in the comments below, or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.
Ilana Gatoff and Laura Kassen, our AVODAH Corp members
The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly is a premier Jewish communal event attracting over 3,500 influential decision-makers, prominent leaders, and Jewish youth from around the world…so of course we had to be there too!
Repair the World will be represented at the GA in Baltimore next week, and we’re so excited to share the experience with you. Repair the World’s booth will be staffed by our dedicated AVODAH Corps members and members of our staff. Not only will they be on hand to provide information and answer any questions about Repair, but they will also give visitors a special first-look at our upcoming Read.Write.Repair. campaign! A visit to our table will also ensure you’re not left empty-handed – we’ll be giving away pins, stickers, postcards, and offering a chance to win some of our awesome t-shirts!
The GA has always been a hub of service-oriented ideas and development, but in recent years, a greater focus has also been placed on reaching out to young people as part of The Jewish Federation’s broader look to the future. The programs are designed to cover learning, sharing and building ideas to bring home to your community. Whether you want to find out how to raise money in this challenging economy, better use digital media to connect with communities, or learn how to encourage innovation and philanthropy, there are workshops and speakers present to teach you.
The scope of speakers and representatives at the GA is huge, and we’re thrilled that a couple of key members of the Repair family will be involved. One of the speakers from the Repair team is our consultant Dana Talmi, who founded Yahel – Israel Service Learning. In addition, Repair Fellow Jesse Rabinowitz will be in attendance and representing the University of Maryland Hillel, providing a student’s perspective to panel attendees. Both Dana and Jesse will be on the “Volunteering and Tikun Olam: Who is the Beneficiary?” panel on Monday, November 12 from 2:00pm – 3:30pm. This panel is sure to be a highlight of the conference! Panelists will present an in-depth look at service through a unique lens focusing on creating a meaningful experience for the volunteer vs. maximizing impact on the beneficiaries.
We are in the final stages of prepping our booth and getting our team ready for the conference, and we hope to see you there. If you can’t make it to Baltimore no worries, we’ll bring the booth to you! Follow us @RepairTheWorld (official hashtag #JFNAGA) where our staff will be live-tweeting from the conference. We’ll show you pics of our booth, give you a chance to win some of our fantastic SWAG, and share tidbits about new opportunities as we discover them!
Participants at last year's Everything but the Turkey event at the Washington DC JCC.
Washington DC people, take note! This November 19th and 21st the Washington DCCJCC is hosting their “Everything but the Turkey” event – an annual volunteer opportunity that brings together 500 volunteers to prep Thanksgiving side dishes for the city’s hungry and homeless population. The program, which is in it’s 12th year, works closely with DC Central Kitchen, one of the city’s leading anti-hunger organizations, to make a real difference in the community.
Erica Steen, the DCJCC’s Director of Community Engagement, took some time to talk with Repair the World about what it’s like to prep Thanksgiving dinner for 6,500 people, and why volunteers shouldn’t wait to sign up.
What exactly is Everything But the Turkey?
It’s an annual event where we partner with DC Central Kitchen to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for all of the homeless shelters and low-income community organizations in the city. They make all the turkeys and we make all the side dishes. Every year more than 500 volunteers join us the Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving to prepare the dishes.
Amazing! How many people does the program feed, and what’s on the menu?
There are 100 different shelters in the area that feed approximately 6,500 hungry people a full Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to turkey, which DC Central Kitchen makes, we prepare green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, stuffing and a harvest salad, which includes beans and corn.
What do people do while volunteering?
The volunteers are involved in all aspects of food prep. We organize tables of eight and each table is given one recipe and all the supplies and ingredients they need to make that recipe multiple times. Over the course of the two days we make approximately 12,000-15,000 servings of food. Because we have volunteers who come with their children, we also make snacks for an after school program that DC Central Kitchen runs.
How do you keep track of all that food?
It’s a lot of team work! We have our own staff and DC Central Kitchen also sends representatives who help volunteers pack up trays and make sure things run smoothly. There’s even someone at the door tallying up the completed trays as they leave the kitchen. The process is made somewhat simpler because we do not cook anything at the JCC. We do the cold prep and then wrap up the dishes in clearly marked aluminum trays. They are then packed into a cooler van and delivered to DC Central Kitchen. A couple of the dishes like the coleslaw and harvest salad are good to serve as-is, but anything that needs to be cooked gets cooked there.
Can you talk more about who participates?
We have a wide variety of participants, and we let people know they do not have to have previous cooking experience to get involved. That said, a lot of people who volunteer love to cook – some people even bring their own knives! A lot of our preschool families come with their kids. And companies or groups from local universities will often sponsor a table. We also have grandparents who bring their grandchildren and let mom and dad stay at home to prep their own Thanksgiving meal.
This year, we are really ramping up sponsorship opportunities. Groups can sponsor a table and we add their logos to our advertising and website. Individuals can also sponsor. I had a mom call me this morning who wants to sponsor a table in honor of her daughter’s bat mitzvah, which is the following week! They’ll bring friends and family and make a bat mitzvah service project out of the day.
How can people sign up to be involved?
People can register directly at our website – but if they’re interested they should sign up soon. This event fills up quickly every year!
Find more volunteer opportunities with the Washington DCJCC here, and learn more about DC Central Kitchen’s work and how you can get involved here.
We hope that you, your friends and families are safe and secure as we’ve witnessed unprecedented destruction from Hurricane Sandy. We’re updating this list of opportunities regularly, so check back frequently, spread the word, and let us know about additional opportunities. Also be sure to check out the resources compiled by TabletMag, UJA, Occupy Sandy, Brokelyn, Tasting Table and WNYC.
Have you volunteered already? Email us about your experience if you’re interested in guest-blogging for Repair. Let us know about opportunities that come your way or how you’re helping out in your area and beyond.
Stay connected and don’t leave people in the dark: Check out our blog series featuring just a smattering of service superstars reflecting on their volunteerism and follow us @RepairtheWorld to stay on top of additional opportunities.