A Racial Justice Shabbat Dinner with Michael Twitty

Shabbat dinner naturally has a lot going for it. The food (challah! matzo ball soup!), the singing, the camaraderie, the chance to truly rest and enjoy friends and family after a long week – it’s hard to improve upon. But one recent Shabbat dinner held in Atlanta, Georgia last week stands out from the pack.

On November 11, Repair the World hosted a #TurntheTables Shabbat dinner as part of our time at Facing Race: A National Conference – a multiracial, intergenerational gathering focused on racial and social justice. We had spent time at the conference engaging with and learning from community organizers, educators, interfaith clergy members, and other leaders of the racial and social justice movements, and it was time to rest and recharge.

Michael Twitty As night fell and the Shabbat candles were lit, more than 100 people joined together around the table (or rather, many tables!) for dinner, discussion, and a conversation with culinary historian and writer, Michael Twitty.

Twitty focuses much of his scholarship on the history and culture behind African and African-diaspora cuisines, as well as on the idea of “identity cooking” – his theory about the way people construct and express their complex identities through food. As a Black Jewish man, Twitty often writes about his own experiences melding the, as he writes on his website, “histories, tastes, flavors, and Diasporic wisdom of being Black and Jewish.”

With the results of the national Presidential election just 3 days old, he spoke about the commonalities and distinctions between the Jewish and Black experience as minorities in America, and the critical importance of loving and protecting one another as full and complex human beings.

During dinner, guests were also prompted to discuss questions around the table like, “Where are you coming from in your racial justice journey?” which gave them a chance to get to know one another on a deeper level. The dinner closed with an alternative take of the Birkat Hamazon – or the grace/thanks traditionally said after meals in the Jewish tradition. The words of the blessing said it all:

“Giving and receiving we open up our hands / from seedtime to harvest we’re partners with the land.
We all share a vision of wholeness and release / Where every child is nourished and we all live in peace.”

For more information about Repair the World’s #TurntheTables Shabbat dinner, check out the article in the Atlanta Jewish Times, read through the dinner guide Repair the World created, and listen to Twitty’s speech in full.

Naming the Nebulousness: Reflections on being White and Jewish in the Racial Justice Space after Attending the 2016 Facing Race National Conference

This post originally appeared on eJewishPhilanthropy on November 17, 2016.

By Cheryl Pruce

Uncomfortable. Uplifted. Confused. Held. Frustrated. Supported. Disheartened. Inspired. These are some of the things I have been feeling before, during, and after attending Facing Race: A National Conference the past three days in Atlanta. On the one hand, I have immense gratitude for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and any other sponsors of the Repair the World conference delegation for being able to attend. On the other hand, I have I have been struggling. With many things.

Read More

Shabbat and the Sacredness of Healing

This post originally appeared on eJewishPhilanthropy on November 17, 2016.

By Sandy Cardin

Imagine the scene: you walk into the dining room or kitchen and see the table filled with empty platters, messy plates, strewn utensils, crumpled napkins and even a few spills. In the next room, there is a crowd of guests in a post-meal daze, some praising the meal, some critiquing it, all perhaps acknowledging that they ate and drank a bit too much. Some people feel satisfied, some feel like they ate in excess, and more than a few are beginning to doze off from indulgence and exhaustion.

Read More

 

Shabbat Dinner Delivers Social Justice Comfort Food

This post originally appeared in The Atlanta Jewish Times on November 16, 2016.

By Michael Jacobs

Most of the roughly 100 people who gathered for Repair the World’s Shabbat dinner Friday night, Nov. 11, needed a good laugh.

Food writer Michael Twitty provided the good and the laughs.

Twitty’s presentation at the dinner for attendees of the national Facing Race conference and for Atlantans interested in social justice acknowledged the confusion and frustration many felt in the days after Donald Trump’s presidential victory caught them off-guard. But Twitty’s style isn’t quiet acceptance.

Read More

To the Repair the World Community

At Repair the World, we believe that serving together with communities to meet urgent needs can be a valuable path to understanding and building relationships across differences.

Today is a day to focus on for being there for each other, especially for communities experiencing pain and marginalization. Wherever we stand in response to the election results, it is clear that we are a country with deep divisions, a place in which we truly do not understand one another, yet where too many of us dismiss the depth of the others’ despair.

We need to reach out to each other, to our children and elders, to our neighbors and friends, and build community. And, with those we are close to, we prepare ourselves for the difficulty of reaching out and listening to those whom we do not usually hear. In the Repair the World Communities, we will open our workshops for these conversations – hosted by partners and ourselves – conversations that we hope will begin to heal our civic wounds.

We also invite you to reach out to us. Share your thoughts and feelings about the election. Our digital community is a place for dialogue and listening and we invite you to add comments to this post below.

In Jewish tradition, the telling and hearing of a story is one way we create understanding. We encourage you to share your stories today and to ask others for theirs. Through our collective stories, may we continue to build a narrative of understanding and national healing.

We look forward to all of the opportunities in the future to unite in service and solidarity in our local communities.

A Practical Guide for Harnessing the Power of Data

The nonprofit organization Repair the World has one goal: to make public service a defining element of American Jewish life.

Read More

Listen Up: Teaching Leadership through Service

This post originally appeared on JTS in fall 2016

By Mordy Walfish

Every fall, Repair the World welcomes a new cohort of full-time fellows—young adults who commit to spending a year mobilizing their peers around service and social justice. Each year I am tasked with delivering the following seemingly paradoxical message to them:

We are about to invest tremendous educational resources in you. We are training you, teaching you how to lead, facilitate, deepen relationships, and grow your identity. And yet, this experience is not about you. We expect that everything you learn, every resource we pour into you, will be used to catalyze and transform those around you.

Read More

Jews and African-Americans Seek More Than Foul-Weather Friendship

This post originally appeared in The Times of Israel on October 31, 2016.

By Cathryn J. Prince

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. called upon the nation to “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”

It’s in that same spirit the New York-based non-profit Repair the World launched its first ever “Act Now for Racial Justice” campaign. It seeks to show how racism permeates economic, social, and criminal justice systems in the US. It also aims to drive the conversation about racial disparity towards more practical moves that can be taken to make a difference.

Read More

Repair Interview: Leah Lizarondo of 412 Food Rescue

From the vegetables that rot in our crisper drawers before we cook them, to the uneaten sandwiches that get tossed at a coffee shop at the end of the day, Americans waste a lot of food – nearly 40 percent of the total food supply. Meanwhile 1 in 6 people do not know where their next meal is coming from. Those numbers did not add up to Leah Lizarondo and Gisele Fetterman, so they decided to do something about it in their home city of Pittsburgh.

Their organization, 412 Food Rescue, works to recover un-sellable but perfectly good food from retailers, restaurants, caterers, and universities (among other places) and deliver it to organizations that help to feed people in need. Meanwhile, they empower nearly 1,000 volunteers to make a real difference in the lives of their neighbors.

Repair the World’s Pittsburgh Fellows have partnered closely with 412 Food Rescue since its founding. Now, we are excited to share their work with you. Here, co-founder Leah Lizarondo (pictured at right, with Repair the World Fellows Max and Lydia) talks about creating the “Uber for food rescue,” why ugly vegetables are the next frontier of closing the food gap, and the role that faith communities can play in advancing food justice.

What was the inspiration behind 412 Food Rescue?
We started in direct response to the disconnect that we as a society waste 40 percent of the food supply while 1/6 people go hungry. We work on the retail end of the supply chain, where surplus happens on a daily basis. In aggregate, the food wasted by grocery stores, restaurants, universities, coffee shops, and other retail locations represents the largest source of surplus food aside from our own homes. We partner with the retail locations to pick up their surplus and match the food available to non-profits that serve people who are food insecure.

Right now in Pittsburgh we partner with 150 retailers and 200 non-profits, and have 900 volunteers signed up. In our second year of operation this year, we will rescue 1 million pounds of food.

How do you coordinate the food rescues to make sure they are getting to the right place?
We work dynamically to match every food recovery to the right place and make sure the food is useful to the populations the organization serves. We don’t just drop off food without finding out from our partners if its an appropriate delivery. For example, if we recover 2 dozen bagels from a bagel shop, we are not going to drop those off at a housing facility that serves 200 people. Instead, we might drop them off at a shelter that serves 12 people. We are working on creating an intelligent algorithm that will do this matching for us. And in a couple of weeks, we will be releasing an app that coordinates our volunteers by sending them notifications of food rescue opportunities near them.

Tell me about the Ugly CSA.
The Ugly CSA is another one of our programs that tries to tackle food waste at the farm level. About 20% of food waste happens at the farm and manufacturing level. As a society we have these cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables that aren’t realistic, and lot of the produce that is grown at farms is discarded because it doesn’t match those standards. We created a new market for farmers to sell their “ugly” produce at a discount through CSA shares. We launched this past summer with a local farm alliance and sold 40 shares, and plan to scale it up this year.

What are different ways that volunteers get involved in your work?
95% of our volunteer force is dedicated to food recovery. People can sign up to be a “food rescue hero,” which means they pick up surplus food and deliver it to one of our non-profit partners. They are basically like an Uber for food rescue. We have a partnership with Zipcar, which allows volunteers to get a car for an hour for free if they’re doing a food rescue.

Another way volunteers get involved is through our Hidden Harvest program, which just launched this fall. Volunteers help to glean unpicked fruit from private and city trees around Pittsburgh. This fall, volunteers harvested 1,500 pounds of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste.

Can you share a story of 412 Food Rescue’s impact?
Because we are a nontraditional organization, we can partner with non profits that might not specifically be hunger organizations, but that serve populations that are food insecure. One of those organizations is the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh. We are the first providers to bring food directly to their residencies. Because of the work we’re doing, their residents know where their next meal is coming from – they know they can expect food at a scheduled drop off.

Can you describe your partnership with Repair the World?
I met Zack Block, who runs the Repair the World community in Pittsburgh a few years ago when we were working out of the same co-working space. At the time I was writing for an online magazine, and I wrote about Repair the World when they launched here three years ago. At the time 412 Food Rescue was in its germination stage, and I knew they’d be an instrumental partner in getting our organization off the ground. When we were about to launch, I got in touch with Zack and asked for the fellows’ help in recruiting our first volunteers. Repair the World’s fellows played a big role in getting us started, and continue to make a significant difference in our work of recruiting and retaining volunteers.

What role should religious organizations and faith communities play in food justice work?
I think a lot. As we have demonstrated with Repair the World, outreach to faith based organizations is instrumental to what we do. The common thread between all religions – whether you belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque – is a base message to do good. We offer an easy way to plug in and do that.

Living To Serve: Conference Shows How To ‘Do Jewish’ By Helping Others

This post originally appeared in The Times of Israel on October 19, 2016

By Cathryn J. Prince

Mordy Walfish really didn’t want to volunteer during his bar mitzvah year.

“My parents forced me to do a service project for my bar mitzvah. I visited the elderly. I went kicking and screaming. I thought I’d do it for a year. It turned into six years. Then it became my career,” said Walfish, director of programming for Repair the World, just before the opening session of Service Matters: A Summit on Jewish Service.

Read More