A Weekend in the D with J Teen

J-Teen, a dynamic group of Jewish high school students, visited us last weekend all the way from New York and we made sure that they had a jam packed, event filled, serviced up time while here.

They arrived on Friday morning and went straight from the airport to Bagley Elementary where they got to meet Principal Cheryl Price before heading into classrooms. After hearing from Principal Price, they started off in two different 4th grade classes and spent their time discussing quotes from historical African-American leaders. After getting to know each other and sharing what the quotes meant to them, each small group performed their quote for the rest of the class. It was a very meaningful activity done in a fun way; the performances were definitely creative. After finishing with the 4th graders and then the 3rd graders, the group was jazzed and hungry. The next stop, Wayne State’s famous Gold ‘n’ Greens, the only vegetarian, certified kosher cafeteria in Detroit.

After vegging out, we walked over to the Detroit Institute of Art and headed straight for the Diego Rivera Court. Fortunately, chairs were set up and we got to hear from Dosen Susannah Goodman, who told us all about Rivera Court and the history of the automobile industry as it relates to Detroit; lots of ooohs and aahhhs were heard throughout the museum. Once Susannah told us all about the murals, the J-Teens participated in a DIA scavenger hunt before heading back to the hotel and preparing for the Repair the World Turn the Tables Shabbat. Upon arriving at the Repair the World workshop, the J-Teens spent their Shabbat dinner joining in on a dialogue about systemic racial injustice and ways to show solidarity in our communities. Needless to say, they had a long, dynamic, perhaps tiring, day.

The J-Teens began their Shabbat with a Civil Rights service led by their very own Micah Weiss at the hotel. Afterwards, they put on their walking shoes to head over to the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and hear from Director Anna Kohn. Anna proceeded to share with them a history of Detroit that spoke to some misconceptions and generalizations that the teens heard before their trip. She told the story of Jewish Detroit and how that related to her family and to the Downtown Synagogue, the last functioning synagogue located in Detroit proper; overall it was very powerful and definitely contributed to a thoughtful day of rest. After learning more about Detroit’s history, the teens ventured to the Auto Show where they were encouraged to talk to other attendees about their relationship to Detroit and how they felt about the event. After experiencing the Auto Show, they came back to the hotel and had Havdallah with Rabbi Alana Alpert.

Before lighting the candles, Rabbi Alana spoke to the group about different ways to be involved with social change and the importance of each practice. As we reflected on our roles in social movements, we welcomed a new week together. After a brief stint on the People Mover, we headed over to Clark Park in SouthWest Detroit to end the day with some real cool outdoor ice-skating.

After sleeping off their ice-skating excitement, they woke up the next day for an interfaith service at Breakers Covenant Church, which used to be Temple Beth El. Pastor Aramis graciously invited us to join their service as a way to show that the Jewish community is welcome in his Church and to show the importance of remembering the history of the building. After sharing prayers with the congregants, the J-Teens literally left their print on the Church…they worked alongside the young congregants and painted two murals in what will be the teen rooms. They spent the rest of the time schlepping some desks to the basement in order to help clean out the dining hall.

From here, the J-Teens found themselves in Lafayette Park to hear from two wonderful speakers, Harriet and Marsha. Both shared their stories and reflected on what it has meant during the latter half of the 20th century and onward to be an African-American woman and a white Jewish woman living in Detroit. They spoke to the teens about their own experiences as well as how the students can reflect on that in terms of their family histories and themselves personally. After some meaningful conversation  and a brief stop at the Plum Street Garden (a cool urban garden located downtown), we all headed to the workshop to do…drumroll please…more service!

Once in the workshop, our fellow-fellow Benny, taught the teens about Keep Growing Detroit before facilitating them in seed sorting; a fun game of matching on seed package with another. From here, the J-Teens found the most ridiculous sounding seed names and headed back to the hotel.

The final day arrives! We all headed to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where people were coming together in celebration of MLK Day. Here, the J-Teens sat in on panel discussions held by Detroiters and were able to engage in important dialogue about Civil Rights and social justice.

After a looonnnnggg weekend full of service and learning, we had to say goodbye to our J-Teen friends who headed straight to the airport from the museum. After a weekend full of history, awesome speakers and running around Detroit, I’m sure the J-Teens are extremely tired; we wish them a safe trip home and a good nights sleep.

Leah Mack is a Repair the World Fellow in Detroit.

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Kickstart Education Projects: In Brooklyn and Beyond

Since it’s very first post, the blog Humans of New York – which offers snapshots of the weird, wonderful, and sometimes compellingly mundane people who live in New York City – has always been brilliant. But a couple of weeks ago, things took a turn for the even more brilliant. A photograph of a student who attends an underserved public school in Brooklyn talking about his school principal who inspired him, set in motion one of the most successful Indiegogo campaigns in history. People have already donated nearly $700,000 to support kids at the student’s school in Brooklyn – and every time you refresh the page, the amount seems to have gone up by tens of thousands of dollars!

There is still time to make a donation to the campaign. Meanwhile, there lots of other amazing education-focused projects that need your help. Make a difference in a student’s life by supporting one of the following amazing projects below:

English Classes for Nicaraguan Children. Language and literacy are the most powerful tools for advancing learning on all fronts. Support this campaign’s efforts to support English instruction for young students in Nicaragua.

Build a Library Help educators at an underserved school in Denver, Colorado build a warm, welcoming library for students.

Bring the Zoo to the Students A teacher from Staten Island, New York works with wheelchair bound students who are not mobile enough to go on class trips. So she is working to bring a class trip – this time, a trip to the zoo – to them! Help make it happen.

Find more education-based projects to support at the DonorsChoose.org and Indiegogo (search “education”).

On Martin Luther King Day, Jews Must Acknowledge Their Privilege

This Op-Ed by Maital Friedman first appeared in JTA on January 14th.

NEW YORK (JTA) — The events of the last few weeks have shaken me to the core. Beyond the devastation I felt over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, I was heartbroken to learn that the police officers involved would not stand trial. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe” have become harrowing reverberations of a broken justice system.
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Look Beyond the Nostalgia to Confront Current Race Issues

This Op-Ed by Rabbi Seth Goren first appeared in The Jewish Exponent on January 13th.

Of the many memorializations of the civil rights movement, among the most familiar to Jews is a photograph of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching in 1965 in Selma, Ala. In addition to its own innate power, it is referenced as evidence of our community’s support for black rights and the strength of African-American/Jewish relationships.
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A Day in The D with Peercorps!

A few of our Detroit fellows work very closely with Peercorps on a regular basis. Peercorps is an organization that pairs B’nai mitzvah aged students with high school aged mentors to participate in meaningful service work across six sites in the city of Detroit. Peercorps is family to Repair: Detroit and we love being a part of the logistical and programmatic planning on a regular basis. Part of the programming includes training sessions with the mentors around different themes. I reflected on our Elu V’Elu that took place last month based around the theme of communication. I was involved in the planning with one of the Peercorps coordinators and two of the second year mentors.

It was a jam packed Sunday, communication fun day for the Peercorps mentors! Ellery, Noah, and Aj led the way; Beginning with a snackluck. We gathered at the Repair the World workshop in Southwest Detroit, catching up with each other and noshing.

The program opened up with a team challenge activity: carpet squares! Can 14 teenagers fit on one carpet square? Only with excellent care and communication!

The game was followed by a gallery walk: mentors and staff wrote their thoughts under different questions and statements posted on the whiteboard. The statements varied from “I feel most heard when..” to “In our region of Metro Detroit, where do the biggest gaps in our communication exist?”

Next, the mentors paired off to discuss the gallery walk and the prompts. We came back together and shared our ideas:

Active listening is the root of good communication #respect #bagels #pineapplejews #pineapples

Being willing to listen to the other person is as important as being heard #communicationtakeswork

Clarity is key. @adamxphillips x @constantarnopol tweet collab #TheSequel #Zedd #art #UMF #CabbageControl #PersonalBrand

We transitioned into the next activity where we took personality tests, shared out what type of personality category the test chose for us, and discussed the importance of being able to work with different types of personalities.

We then took a bit of time to have short one on one conversations positioned in two lines facing each other with prompts about different communication experiences we’ve had in Peercorps. Discussion partners rotated every couple minutes to hear from different perspectives.

The final component of the program involved mapping our different identities (race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion)  on a graph spectrum ranging from what we feel is visible to invisible and comfortable to uncomfortable. This was followed up with a discussion of what the graph means to us in relation to the way we identify ourselves.

This past Sunday was the first of our elu v’elu programming – ongoing mentor learning throughout the year that’s led by Second Year Mentors. There were positive vibes throughout the workshop and an openness to talk about things that may otherwise be harder to talk about, creating fruitful and engaging communication within exercises exploring our communication. All that was discussed and explored can be used as a tool in understanding our communication skills, to ensure the highest quality of relationships within our Peercorps family, between mentors and mentees, Nora, Aj, Blair, the fellows, service partners, and all the folks we interact with!


Rachel Fine is a Repair the World Fellow in Detroit, MI Learn More >>

January Social Good Roundup!

In addition to our monthly Newsletter, we are also bringing you a monthly round-up of our favorite programs from our partners and from across the web. The opportunities below are separated by long term (6+ months), short term (6 months or less) and ongoing service, social good, and travel opportunities.

Be sure to check back monthly for updates and new finds!


Commit…To Service!     (Long-Term Programs)

You Want To Go To There.      (Short-Term and Travel Opportunities)

Be Social. Do Good.    (Social Good Jobs, Events and Campaigns)

Cleanse Your Volunteer Diet: 5 Ways to Serve Better in 2015

January is already half over, so chances are, the resolution you made so earnestly at the end of 2014 – to get healthy, eat right, maybe go on a juice cleanse? – have already fallen by the wayside. But there’s one New Year’s resolution you can use. This month, pledge to go on a “cleanse” for the sake of your volunteer diet. Check out the tips below and serve better all year long.

Know who you are serving for.
Before you spend an hour, a day, a month, or a lifetime committing yourself to service, ask yourself, “who am I serving for?” In some cases, it might be to make yourself feel good. Maybe it is in honor of someone you love, or it stems from a deep drive to help others. Perhaps it is a combination of all of these factors. Whatever your reason, knowing the core of what drives you to serve will keep you motivated and ultimately help you serve better.

Try a bunch of different volunteer opportunities.
The more types of volunteer opportunities you try, the more likely you are to find one that uses your talents well and feels satisfying. So branch out and try lots of different service opportunities to see what fits you best.

Get to know an organization.
If you find an organization who’s mission you feel passionate about, get to know them well. Attend their programs, volunteer whenever possible, and get friendly with the staff and other volunteers. The deeper you know an organization, the more likely you are to be able to help in meaningful ways.

Find a service buddy.
There’s nothing like finding a service buddy to keep you committed to your service regimen. Make a goal together for how many days you will serve in the coming month, and hold each other accountable. You’ll have more fun and serve more!

Keep at it!
The more you do anything, the better you get – and that’s definitely true for volunteering. Practice makes perfect, after all!