by Sophia Chitlik | January 23, 2013 | 0 comments
This weekend, we were thrilled to unite thousands of people from across the country around one of our nation’s most dynamic leaders and his ideals. Nothing could be more American than the inauguration MLK Day of Service! Repair the World MLK Shabbat Suppers resulted in seventy dinners from Los Gatos to the Lower East Side! These meals engaged over 1,200 guests in a dynamic discussion around education inequality, civil rights, and volunteer action. You can read more about Repair the World Shabbat Suppers in an article by one of our heroes, Lynn Schusterman, HERE.
Repair the World was proud to not only bring Dr. King’s legacy of service into homes all over America, but to also be part of the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s iServe fair in Washington, DC! Repair the World staff members Laura Kassen, Jamie Silverstein, and Sophia Chitlik joined new CEO (and service rock star) David Eisner for a whirlwind day of connecting with eager volunteers and citizens from all fifty states. We met members of the Jewish community from Alaska (the frozen chosen!), reconnected with awesome organizations, and met hundreds of people who are passionate about making their communities stronger through volunteering.
On Sunday, David and the Repair the World team attended another amazing event held by our partner, Points of Light. Our Shabbat Suppers program is an iteration of their Sunday Supper initiative, so, naturally the event featured food and great discussions about the issues impacting American communities. At Points of Light’s Sunday Supper, the focus was also on the all-important issue of educational opportunity. Speakers from General Colin Powell to Mayors Rahm Emanuel, Michael Nutter, and Antonio Villaraigosa emphasized the critical importance of creating an education system of the future that works for all kids. We agree that volunteers are a part of the solution! You can check out more about Repair’s commitment to public education HERE.
Martin Luther King Day was definitely not a “day off” for Repair the World staff, who hit the ground running in four cities to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. In Detroit, Devon Rubenstein, Emily Phillips, and Ben Falik engaged over 50 college students as volunteers at a local elementary school. And here in New York, Siobhan Neitzel continued her weekly tradition of mucking out homes that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy (yes, still; find more ways to get involved on our Sandy Service page).
Enough about us. We want to hear about YOUR Shabbat Supper or MLK weekend service experience. Post your pictures on our facebook page, or contact us at [email protected] to share your story!
by Leah Koenig | January 22, 2013 | 0 comments
The official word is in – it’s hot out there! Scientists recently proclaimed 2012 to be the hottest year ever recorded, and in Australia, temps have skyrocketed so much, they had to redraw the weather map to accommodate the rising heat.
In addition to the literal warming of the globe, which increases drought, wildfires and dangerously hot summers, climate change is linked to the increase of drastic and damaging weather events – floods, hurricanes, tornadoes – that we have witnessed in recent years, most recently with Hurricane Sandy.
The Jewish holiday of Tu Bisvhat begins this Friday night, January 25th. Originally an ancient agricultural tax holiday in Israel, Tu Bishvat has evolved into the Jewish calendar’s answer to Earth Day – a day to reconnect to nature, celebrate its gifts, and evaluate how we can help safeguard the planet for future generations. With climate change making more and more headlines (and not for positive reasons), the time to act is now. Here are a few ways you can get involved:
- COEJL: Be a clean-energy advocate! Join the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life’s Jewish Energy Network to gain the skills you need to make a difference in your community. You can also sign up for COEJL’s community organizing training in Washington DC, Mar 13-14.
- Jewish Farm School: Check out this awesome organization’s (and Repair the World partner) Feast Forward video series, which covers all sorts of important environmental and agricultural topics, including an inspiring interview with 350.org’s co-founder, Bill McKibben.
- Hazon: Learn about the connections between Jewish tradition and teaching and climate change (there are more than you might think!) on Hazon’s blog.
- 350.org: Join in 350′s growing movement to encourage colleges and universities to divest financial support for fossil fuels. Whether you’re a current student, or an alum, there are plenty of ways to make a difference at your alma matter.
- Sierra Club: Take part in the Sierra Club’s campaign to move America “beyond oil – they give you all the tools you need to influence your congressperson, support green fleets, and more.
Jewish tradition reminds us about the importance of taking care of the earth. With that inspiration in mind, how will you help make a difference? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld, or in the comments below.
by Leah Koenig | January 17, 2013 | 0 comments
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2009 Inauguration. Photo by Fabrice Florin via cc
President Barack Obama is no stranger to service – in fact, it’s how he started his career. As a community organizer, Obama worked with families on Chicago’s south side to fight neighborhood blight and bolster housing rights. His experiences as an organizer inspired him to become a lawyer, fighting inequality at an institutional level by working to expand the electorate. The same issues that he saw in Chicago led him to run for office, thus beginning his road to the presidency, which he will assume again this Sunday at the inauguration.
With the inaugural festivities in full swing this weekend, we wanted to highlight the President’s commitment to national and community service. Repair the World is proud to be a part of the bi-partisan coalition the President has built around making service a central part of American life. Below is just a sampling of how President Obama has made service a focus of his first term:
- National Day of Service to Honor Dr. King: President Obama founded this annual day of national service four years ago (this year it’s on January 19) to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Find an opportunity to serve with the President (or at least on the same day as him!).
- United We Serve: The President and First Lady launched United We Serve in 2009 as a “nationwide initiative to create a sustained, collaborative, and focused effort to meet community needs and make service a way of life for all Americans.” Get involved and find ways to connect with this national project.
- Joining Forces: President Obama has made service a family affair. First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden launched this White House initiative to provide assistance to militaryspouses and to educate the public on issues impacting veterans and military families. Join them by finding a project near you.
- 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance: In 2009, President Obama signed into law an act that federal authorized September 11th as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance. Thousands of Americans give back on September 11th each year to honor the memories of those lost by giving back to their communities.
- Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge: In 2010, President Obama launched “an initiative inviting institutions of higher education to commit to a year of interfaith and community service programming on campus.” Find out how you can participate.
We’re excited to see what the White House cooks up during President Obama’s second term (perhaps more of Let’s Move?). Check out their official service page for more information. Know of another President-sponsored or supported service/volunteering opportunity? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting @repairtheworld.
by Leah Koenig | January 16, 2013 | 0 comments
Photo courtesy of Benjy Brandwein
Benjy Brandwein’s home in Belle Harbor, Queens (next to Breezy Point) was badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy. So in the days after the storm, the mechanical engineering student rallied friends to come help him recover and rebuild. Inspired by the outpouring of support, he wanted to help other people rebuild as well.
His opportunity arrived a few weeks later when he received a call from the Bnei Akiva youth group, asking if he could organize an alternative winter break trip for Jewish college students who were home in New York for break. As long time supporter of the Bnei Akiva (he’s been a camp counselor and program coordinator there, and is currently involved in coordinating year-round programming), Benjy jumped at the chance. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity oF Westchester, and with micro-grant support from Repair the World, the program he created paid the kindness he’d received forward, and enabled students to make a difference.
How did the service program come about?
My house was severely damaged in the Hurricane. Once the storm passed, I posted on Facebook to rally friends, and had a lot of people come out to help me. A few weeks after the storm, I got a call from the heads of Bnei Akiva in New York saying they wanted to host some kind of volunteer program to help homeowners whose homes had been damaged or destroyed. They were open to any kind of program, so I put together a schedule and budget for a mission that partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Westchester. The idea was that participants would volunteer during the daylight hours, and have bonding activities – like going to the movies and hanging out – in the evening.
One of my bosses let me know that Repair the World was offering micro-grants to support Sandy recovery alternative breaks in New York. We applied and received the funding, which really helped us move the project forward.
How many participants did you have?
We ended up with 12 college student participants from all over the New York area – they drove in from as far away as Riverdale, Washington Heights, and the 5 Towns.
What kind of projects did they work on?
We split into two groups of 6 every day. We had the teams help with demolition – in one of the houses, all the floors had to be ripped up. In other cases, they shoveled sand or removed debris. Their volunteer work was dictated by whatever the needs were in a specific house.
Whose houses did you work on?
Habitat for Humanity had a station set up in Breezy Point where homeowners could come to them and say, “I need help with X,Y,Z,” and they’d help match needs with volunteers. Each morning around 9:30 we would head over there and be sent wherever we were needed. In most cases, the people we were helping would be there watching us rip up their homes and getting all the debris out. Seeing their reaction to having their homes demolished was difficult at times.
What kind of response did you see in participants?
At the beginning, the overwhelming response from participants was, “Wow – what are we doing coming into people’s homes and destroying them?” But they came to realize that tearing down the damaged structures was a part of the rebuilding process. In the end they were happy to have helped. They didn’t realize in advance just how bad the damage was, and they were excited to make a positive difference.
And how about your response? You put together a pretty amazing program!
Honestly, I was slightly overwhelmed. I had never done anything like this. I had worked as a camp counselor before and done a little construction work on my house, but to put them together to help people was entirely new. Luckily, Habitat for Humanity made it all easy. They were there to help us through the process. We have a second group of alternative break students coming next week, and I am looking forward to doing it all again.
by Sophia Chitlik | January 15, 2013 | 0 comments
From Washington State to Washington Heights, we’ve been blown away by the response to our Shabbat Suppers initiative.
In case you haven’t heard it through the grapevine, Repair the World is partnering with Points of Light, NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, and hosts just like you to bring the issue of education inequality to the table. Your kitchen table, that is.
By signing up to host a Shabbat Supper, you won’t just be inviting your friends over for a great meal. You’ll be hosting a conversation around the legacy of Dr. King, education inequality, and how you can take action to make your community a better place.
And we’re here to help you make it happen with our toolkit to guide you through the discussion! Be sure to sign-up by 12pm Eastern on Wednesday, January 16th to receive your toolkit via snail mail.
Even if you miss the deadline, you can receive a digital toolkit which contains two discussion activities, and an access code to screen the fabulous documentary Brooklyn Castle (before it comes out on DVD!) by emailing [email protected]!
by Leah Koenig | January 9, 2013 | Comments Off
Sammie, after donating 9-inches of her hair to Locks of Love. Photo courtesy of Samantha Marks.
Being in college is a time-consuming affair. With classes, homework, extra-curricular and social activities to balance, the hours in the day go by fast! But Samantha Marks (she goes by “Sammie”), a junior and Hillel co-president at University of Iowa, also makes plenty of time for service and volunteering.
Sammie spoke with Repair the World about moving from Los Angeles to Iowa in high school – and how service helped her connect and build community in her new home – bringing a fund-raising dance marathon to campus, and how her parents and grandparents served as her service role models.
Tell me about your background with service?
My love for volunteering started very young. It was something built into my life by my parents and grandparents. My mom’s parents spent the later part of their lives helping develop Chabads in the San Fernando Valley, and my dad’s parents were active in the Civil Rights movement. My mom was also a believer in the idea that even if you couldn’t donate money, you could and should always donate your time. That idea really stuck with me. Learning those things about my family helped me root my own love of volunteering.
What types of volunteering did you do growing up?
I went to a Jewish day school from nursery school through 8th grade, and every Hanukkah we would raise money for Chai Lifeline, which supports children with life-threatening illnesses. In high school my family moved to Iowa City. At first I was unused to being in such a small Jewish community and unsure how to get involved. But luckily, my high school is the kind of place where everyone is involved in something. I was on the student senate, and got involved with our school’s volunteer club. I also initiated my high school’s involvement with the University of Iowa’s dance marathon. Now that I’m in college, I’ve continued being involved with the marathon every year.
What is a dance marathon?
It’s a day-long event meant to show support and raise awareness for kids with cancer. People sign up to raise money and dance for 24 hours straight. That means 24-hours on your feet with no sleep and no caffeine. The University of Iowa’s marathon is the only one in the nation that makes a direct connection with specific families. We represent 700 families in the area that have lost children and want to celebrate the life of their kids, or have sick children in the hospital. I get involved every year and have taken on leadership positions as a morale captain. Now I’m on the development committee, and I help plan shorter, mini-marathons in preschools, middle schools and high schools.
Why did you feel compelled to get involved with the dance marathon?
For me it was a no-brainer. My dad has pulmonary fibrosis and I wanted to be a doctor growing up. My respect for medicine and doctors is huge. And because of my Jewish background, the idea of giving back and helping change people’s days for the better is a given. As a college student, it’s incredibly humbling to be involved in something like this.
You are also involved on campus with Hillel, right?
Yes, I’m one of the co-presidents. We are in a rebuilding year, but we do have a tikkun olam committee. At the beginning of the year for welcome week, Hillel had an event where participants baked cookies for the Ronald McDonald House. There were about 15 participants and they made 150 cookies. That was great, but I’m one of those people who likes to reach for the stars. We have 800 Jewish students on campus, and my goal is to get many more people involved.
by Sophia Chitlik | January 8, 2013 | 0 comments
It’s time for you and me to have an intervention.
You? Oh, no, it’s not for you! I’m pretty sure you’re doing ok.
Sure, you’re spending 50% of your salary on rent, but let’s put it in perspective. Chances are you went to a good, or pretty good school, and that you had at least one of the following: an SAT tutor, a life-changing teacher, a coach that really cared. Those people, they were mentors. And I need you to become one, too.
Mentoring is a proven intervention that will help give every kid the chances that you had. Students with mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to begin drug use and half as likely to skip school. They are more accountable, and have higher self-esteem.  They send in college applications, and improve their grades. They’re more likely to make it to college and through college. But they need someone who has their back.
Can you become that person? Take advantage of National Mentoring Month by learning more about how your involvement in a child’s life can change their chances. Repair the World has made it easy!
We’ve partnered with iMentor , an incredible organization that builds mentoring relationships that empower students in low-income communities in New York City to graduate high school, succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions. Students work with their mentors one-on-one, in-person and online to develop strong personal relationships, nurture a college aspiration, navigate the college application process, and build critical skills that lead to college success. iMentor supports both student and mentor with a college success curriculum, and support from their rock star staff. Best of all, they have the track record that proves you’ll be making an impact: 74% of seniors in their College Transition Program enrolled in college in 2011.
You can make a positive difference in the life of a high school student by volunteering with iMentor. Sign up to attend a February info session or sign up to become an iMentor today .
Not in NYC? We’ve got you covered. Email [email protected] to get connected to a local partner in your area.
 1 Tierney, J.P., Grossman, J.B., and Resch, N.L. Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters . Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures (1995)
 McLearn, K.T., Colasanto, D., Schoen, C., & Shapiro, M.Y. (1998). Mentoring matters: A national study of adults mentoring young people. In J.B. Grossman (Ed.), Contemporary issues in mentoring (pp. 66-83). Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.
 McLearn, K.T., Colasanto, D., Schoen, C., & Shapiro, M.Y.
by Danielle K | January 8, 2013 | 0 comments
Volunteer: Kosha Dillz
Who he is: Israeli-American Jewish hip hop artist
Rami Matan Even-Esh, better known by his stage name Kosha Dillz, is an Israeli-American rapper who is no stranger to the East Coast. Although he spent time in both Israel and the U.S. while growing up, Kosha was born in Perth Amboy and has close ties to the Jersey community.
We’re very excited to have had the opportunity to speak with Kosha, and learn more about his experiences during and after Hurricane Sandy hit his hometown.
Why did you decide to volunteer after Sandy?
I was at my family’s home in Manasquan, NJ getting ready to head back to LA when the storm arrived on the East Coast. My town was hit pretty hard and we ended up without power for eleven days. It was a crazy experience because on the one hand it was weird to think that it should take a natural disaster to bring a community together, but on the other hand it was incredible to see the way everyone was so eager to help.
It felt very natural for me to volunteer in Jersey after the Hurricane hit. I felt a very personal connection to the destruction, not only because the storm literally hit close to home, but because I saw first hand the way many of my friends and neighbors were affected, and I knew I of course wanted to help in any way I could.
What did you do in the days following the storm?
I became very involved in the cleanup efforts. I found many different activities to participate in; one day I’d be working in demolition and gutting a ruined house, and the next I’d be making sandwiches and coffee for people in my neighborhood. I also started bringing my dog with me to volunteer. People loved petting him and taking pictures with him, it was nice to be able to bring a little cheer to a neighborhood that was going through something really rough. Cheer is important at a time like this.
Check out Kosha Dillz’ Sandy Storify here.
How did you respond to your fans that reached out to help?
I’m fortunate to have a great fan base that follows me on social media. It was amazing to be able to tweet, Facebook, or Instagram something about a particular area needing help, and then being able to see that tweet or post spread throughout my fan-base, to their friends, to friends of friends, to people not just in our neighborhood but from all over, all getting involved and offering time, services, or money to help.
Has your volunteer work had an impact on your life or music?
Going through Sandy and getting involved in the recovery efforts has definitely influenced both my life and music. I feel that this experience has really caused a lot of self-reflection. You start to think about what is most important to you, and in my case I know that giving has always been a priority.
Back when the earthquake hit Haiti for example, we did a tour to raise money for relief efforts, and that was one of my favorite experiences. I also recently did a show in Brooklyn; we passed around a bucket for Sandy donations, and people gave what they could, every little bit helps.
Anytime I can use my music to give back definitely represents some of the most fulfilling times in my life; I feel the best when I have the chance to make a meaningful impact, and this most recent experience with the storm has re-sparked that desire within me.
What do you most want to share about your experience?
My immediate takeaway was that getting involved in both donating money and time were equally meaningful. It’s great to be able to get involved in the physical work (making sandwiches, cleaning out houses) and I loved doing it, but I think it’s also important to note that giving monetary donations, or getting involved in other ways in the future is important as well. People will continue to need many things after the initial response has died down, so I think it’s important to follow Facebook and Twitter feeds of smaller groups, like the Occupy movement, for ways to stay updated and involved.
I’d also really like to emphasize that the point of volunteering is not to be recognized or thanked, but to help in a meaningful way. That is what I tried to do and what I hope to encourage others to continue to do.
A huge thanks to Kosha Dillz for taking the time to speak with us about his experiences.
Be sure to check out his songs, and consider donating to his Kickstarter to support the upcoming documentary “Kosha Dillz is Everywhere.”
by Sophia Chitlik | January 7, 2013 | 0 comments
Beyond posting an inspirational quote on facebook, when was the last time you did something meaningful on MLK Day?
We know you’re busy. And we know that your three-day weekend is sacred (and that you probably deserve the break!). But did you know that for over 15 years, MLK Day has been celebrated as a day of service by millions of Americans? Here at Repair, our team has partnered with NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, and with one of the organizations who pioneered the MLK Day of Service, the Points of Light Institute, to offer you a way to join the movement from the comfort of your own home!
MLK SHABBAT SUPPERS. JANUARY 18th. YOUR PLACE.
Repair is challenging you to become part of the living legacy of Dr. King by turning your kitchen table into a table of brotherhood the weekend of January 18th. Through our Shabbat Suppers initiative, you will be sent the tools to transform Friday night with friends into an opportunity for social action.
It’s ok if you’ve never held a Shabbat dinner. We know that not everyone “does” Shabbat. But you’ve gotta eat! Use this event, and this toolkit, as a foundation for a meaningful meal – whatever that means to you.
Shabbat Suppers will take many forms. They might be talks over take-out Chinese or screening parties with your friends from college. Some folks will have sit-down brisket dinners with friends of different faiths, and others will have potluck style meals in tiny apartments. At all of these events, food might get your guests in the door, but it’s the discussion will bring you together.
A SUPER COOL KIT…
On this year’s plate (we couldn’t help ourselves…) is of the defining civil rights issues of our time: education inequality. Once you sign-up as a host, Repair will send you a real, live toolkit via snail mail. These toolkits will contain a discussion guide, Repair swag for your guests, and a T-shirt as a thank you (just for you)!
Our discussion guide bears absolutely no resemblance to your AP Government textbook. Instead, it offers simple questions, real facts, and easy to enforce ground rules so that you can host a dynamic (and respectful) conversation around education and the legacy of Dr. King.
We want to arm you with the facts, and the tools to act on them. In honor of the MLK Day of Service, you will also receive information on how you can make a difference in the lives of public school children all over the country!
Excited? Sign-up HERE to become a host, and we’ll send you a toolkit for free!
And there’s more exciting news for Birthright Israel alumni! Through our friends at NEXT, you can receive funding for your Shabbat Supper through the NEXT Shabbat program. Register your meal, and you will be able to click a box to receive our free toolkit.
As always, we want to hear you from you! Tell us about your Shabbat Supper plans, or send us a question, by emailing [email protected]
by Danielle K | January 4, 2013 | 0 comments
Repair the World is excited to announce that we will be part of the upcoming JRR Rock Your World Web Concert Series!
The concert series will occur over six nights and will showcase six of the top Jewish music artists, each partnered with a great Jewish cause! We are thrilled to join the series kickoff event, with a benefit concert on January 9th at 8:30pm featuring an intimate, live, and unplugged performance by Sheldon Low. All proceeds will go to benefit Repair the World’s Sandy Recovery efforts. One week later on Jan. 16th, we hope you’ll join us again for a second benefit concert featuring singer/songwriter Jay Rappaport.
Not only will these concerts be entertaining and supporting a great cause, but they will also be INTERACTIVE. By donating and watching the concerts online, you will have the opportunity to interact LIVE with each artist during the show. Ask questions, comment, and even request songs throughout the experience.
Jewish Rock Radio (JRR) is a 24/7 international Jewish rock online radio station broadcasting Jewish rock artists from the US, Israel, and the rest of the world, as well as celebrity interviews and interviews with youth from around the U.S. JRR is the flagship program of St. Louis-based Judaism Alive, a nonprofit formed in 2009 to strengthen Jewish identity and connection for youth through their love of music, musical instruments, and online interaction.
Purchase tickets for the Repair the World & JRR Rock Your World Web Concert Series for only $1.00
Learn more about Repair the World, and our Sandy Recovery efforts