So, why central Brooklyn you ask? To make sure we would be situated productively and compassionately in NYC, we started our site development adventures with some serious research. We focused on building two maps: one that showed us where millennial Jews were moving and the other that illustrated where there was great need for volunteer work. This is important because Repair the World tackles pressing local needs by mobilizing Jewish millennials to volunteer. We enable people to transform their neighborhoods, cities, and lives through meaningful service experiences. To do this properly, we have to understand the needs of the community as well as the demographics of the neighborhood. While there is clear need across many areas of NYC, we’ve found these two maps to intersect directly over Crown Heights and Bed Stuy.
According to UJA Federation of NY’s 2011 Jewish Community Study, 25% of single non-Orthodox young Jews already live in Brooklyn by 2011. As young Jews are getting priced out of places like Prospect Heights and Park Slope, many are moving east towards Crown Heights and Bed Stuy where neighborhoods are rapidly gentrifying and places are still relatively affordable. Yet, very little Jewish infrastructure exists to engage them on a regular basis. I know, because I live here. Creating some form of infrastructure in this area could establish a sense of community to serve as a catalyst for social change work in Crown Heights. It could also become an avenue for community members to explore other ways to be involved that resonate with them outside of volunteer work. We’re here to support their needs and inspire folks to get involved.
Not only can our volunteers make a huge impact here, it’s also really freakin’ cool. With tons of great community institutions like Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum nearby, the strong accessibility to public transportation, bars and restaurants galore, and a diversely rich community of both new and veteran existing residents, the ground is ripe for an organization like Repair the World to offer a real way for people folks to build community around meaningful and necessary volunteer work that can bridge the gap between new and long-time residents right in their own backyard.
Since beginning our work this year, we’ve engaged over 400 individuals in meaningful service projects like working at local soup kitchens and beautifying community spaces. We’ve also hosted a few social events like a bagel brunch before the People’s Climate March and an MLK Shabbat Supper in Crown Heights. As Fellows arrive in August, we expect our programming will grow immensely to offer even more opportunities for Jewish millennials to find community through social change work that will increase social capital needed to support community needs in central Brooklyn.
You might be asking yourself what kinds of community needs I’m talking about. To provide some perspective, the NYC 2006 Community Health Profile illustrates that central Brooklyn’s average poverty level (31%) is overall higher than in Brooklyn (25%) and all of NYC (21%). Many city-wide service organizations have designated central Brooklyn as an area of focus. New York Cares, one of our community partners, explains that, “While rich in history and culture, Central Brooklyn struggles with poverty, low educational achievement, and high crime rates. These issues are exacerbated by rapid gentrification as the city grows and evolves.” As neighborhood demographics rapidly shift, long-time residents are becoming displaced as rent prices begin to rise and commercial properties enter without regard for what may have already existed.
Just a few weeks ago, I had an incredible conversation with a delightful older woman at my local laundromat who chatted me up as we waited for our spinning cycles to finish twirling. She expressed her worry about leaving the neighborhood she’s called home for more than thirty years as her landlord was planning to significantly raise her rent without discussion. At the same time, she was thrilled to see the neighborhood becoming safer and more inviting as just ten years before many New Yorkers would have never stepped foot in the area. The mixture of high poverty rates and rapidly changing demographics brings a lot of complications to the area and is very much affecting the needs of its residents.
We’ve had so many interesting conversations about neighborhood change like the one above and now want to open it up to a wider audience. To get a taste of what we do, join us this Thursday, February 26 at 7:30pm at Berg’n (899 Bergen Street in Crown Heights) for Cocktails with a Conscience: What’s Your Brooklyn? to explore what community means as demographics in the area rapidly change. Hear from local community leaders and meet other like-minded New Yorkers who are passionate about social justice and ready to do something about it!
This post first appeared on the Repair the World NYC Tumblr. Sign up to follow the RTW NYC Tumblr here so you never miss a post!
Purim is almost here, which means it’s time to figure out where to party! And where to tap into some of the year’s most exciting Jewish social change events of the year. In addition to celebrating Queen Esther and Mordechai’s triumph over Haman’s plot to dispel of the Jews of Persia, Purim contains some deep social change themes.
So raise a toast, get to know your neighbors, and get yourself into the Purim spirit at one of these great events around the country:
New York City. On March 5-8, join Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the Aftselokhes Spectacle Committee, and The Workmen’s Circle for their annual purimshpil – a raucous night devoted to great music, great fun, justice, and amazing homemade hamantaschen. Then, bring the kids to JFREJ’s social change-themed carnival with music in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Ladino, and hand-built carnival games.
Los Angeles. Join IKAR on March 4 for their Purim justice carnival. There will be megillah readings, carnivals, and parties for adults and kids alike. Bring a box of mac-and-cheese to use as a grogger, and IKAR will donate them to a local food pantry after the holiday.
Berkeley Join Nehirim on March 5 for their Jewish Mardi Gras Purim festival. In addition to a great party with cocktails and a comedy performance, choose from 1 of 4 exciting conversations about identity, tzedakah, and more.
Berkeley Join Urban Adamah on March 4 for a megillah reading and Purim party on their farm!
Boston Join The Boston Workmen’s Circle Center on March 21 for a reeeeallly late, and reeeealllllly fun radical Purim party featuring political theater, great snacks, and a performance by hip hop artist, Y-Love.
Do you know of another service or social change-themed Purim event? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting @repairtheworld.
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)
All February long during Black History Month, Repair the World is checking in with people, organizations, and projects working on the forefront of Black issues and celebrating the Black community in America. Today we’ve got our spotlight on: Living Like Kings – a powerful exhibit about the intersection of chess and hip hop, on view through April 26 at the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
Created and curated by St. Louis-based artist, Ben Kaplan, the exhibit is inspired by the work of Adisa Banjoko, an artist and activist who founded the peace and knowledge-building organization, Hip Hop Chess Federation, which teaches chess to youth. As Banjoko has written, “Street chess grew in popularity across America in the 1970s as hip hop emerged from its embryonic stage. On the corners where street chess thrived, rap, DJ, and dance battles also took place. The same strategies and insight required to win on the chessboard assisted those clashing on the mic, the turntable, and the dance floor. Like the game of chess, each of the elements of hip hop became defined by the beautiful irony that they were war games that could also be used to promote peace around the world.”
Kaplan’s exhibit features a gallery and 27-minute video instillation that explores contemporary issues, politics, education, and justice and through the intersection of chess and hip hop. Kaplan also created a Learning Lab, which hosts interactive projects and performances.
Both chess and hip hop transcend racial boundaries and can enlighten, inspire, and educate people while bringing them together across difference. Whether you are deeply steeped in the world of chess or hip hop, or a total novice to both, Kaplan’s exhibit offers a compelling entree into a fascinating world with a powerful message.
If you are in St. Louis, check it out at the World Chess Hall of Fame. And find out more by watching the video trailer below.
It’s that time of year again, y’all – unplug time! On March 6th and 7th, thousands of people across the world from New York and Tel Aviv, to Warsaw and Australia, turn off their cellphones, log out of Instagram, cool it on Snapchat, and take a 24-hour break from technology. If it sounds familiar, there’s a reason. It’s because the ancient Jewish tradition of observing Shabbat (the Sabbath) is the inspiration behind Reboot’s fifth annual National Day of Unplugging.
Based around 10 universal principles called the Sabbath Manifesto – things like “get outside,” “find silence,” and “give back” – The National Day of Unplugging encourages people to temporarily disconnect from their hectic, fast-paced lives and reconnect to the world and people around them. Some folks will join in because they are traditionally observant Jews who “unplug” every week. Some will join because they think it’s eco-friendly to give their electronics a little break. And some will join in simply because they want the opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends. So why do YOU unplug?
This year, whether you are observant or not – and whether you’re Jewish or not! – sign the pledge to be a part of the National Day of Unplugging. Head to the beach, the forest, your friend’s house, or join in at one of the many unplugging events going on around the country.
Do you have plans to celebrate the National Day of Unplugging? If so, we want to hear about it! Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting @repairtheworld. You can also follow the National Day of Unplugging at @SabbathManifest, #unplug.
All February long during Black History Month, Repair the World is checking in with people and organizations working on the forefront of Black issues in America. Today we’ve got our spotlight on: the Jewish Multiracial Network, an organization that advances Jewish diversity through empowerment and community building with Jews of Color and Jewish multiracial families.
Founded in 1997, the organization runs an annual retreat that brings together Jews of Color, Jewish multiracial families, and allies from all across the country. Sessions focus on empowerment, advocating for Jewish diversity, and creating supportive spaces for Jews of color to share their experiences. They also have a wealth of resources and educational materials available. Their blog, which often profiles Jews of color, is also a great read.
The Jewish Multiracial Network’s work and the community they have opened up is so critical for making Jews of color know they are welcome in larger Jewish life, and for spreading awareness about the many Black and multiracial families that help make up the Jewish community.
All February long during Black History Month, Repair the World is checking in with people and organizations working on the forefront of Black issues in America. Today we’ve got our spotlight on: Black Women’s Health Imperative – an incredible organization that educates and advocates for health equality for Black women.
Founded in 1981, BWHI has been a champion of health for more than three decades. Their campaigns focus on diseases that disproportionately impact Black women – things like cervical and breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. They educate women about their healthcare options and provide the information and tools needed to get covered by medical insurance.
Meanwhile their campaigns – like Black Women Matter (an initiative focused on increasing the numbers of healthy black women in America) and My Sister’s Keeper (an advocacy initiative on Historically Black College campuses) – help raise awareness and foster a community of empowered, strong women.
Similar to the Black community, the Jewish community faces its own unique health risks – from genetic diseases like Tay-Sachs to a higher risk of breast cancer in Ashkenazi Jewish women. (Check out the amazing education and advocacy work Sharsheret is doing on that front.) That’s just one reason of many why we support and salute the amazing work of BWHI!