Taking on the world
Washington Jewish Week and Baltimore Jewish Times · July 11, 2012 · Link
by David Snyder
An outbreak of valuable discussion and a flurry of innovative ideas aimed at highlighting the best ways to engage Jewish young adults in volunteer community service resulted when Moishe House and Repair the World partnered to host their first-ever Jewish service learning retreat last month at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, north of Baltimore. The retreat played host to 24 young adults – all active in their Jewish communities-from 16 cities across the country. Most participants live in Moishe Houses. Located in 49 cities, including Rockville and the District, Moishe Houses lodge three to five Jewish 20-somethings who use their digs to spark organic Jewish communities and supply local hubs for their peers.
Repair the World, a national nonprofit, endeavors to make volunteer service a cornerstone among Jewish Americans. The two organizations have worked in concert since January 2011.
Repair the World brought in its team of experts to share what they’ve discovered in terms of the best practices, as well as what to avoid, when creating volunteer projects.
Rachel Hodes, 23, a resident at the Murray Hill Moishe House in Manhattan, N.Y., appreciated the open forum and the absence of monotonous lectures. “Especially in such a small time period … you have to make the most of your time, and you want people to be fully engaged and fully enthused and have their brains on 100 percent.”
One of the main takeaways Hodes says she gained from the training activities is the importance of investing ample time into getting to know individual community members. While many folks are willing to volunteer, they are far more likely to do so if the programs are tailored to issues that mean something to them, she says.
In addition to the value of building personal relationships, Analucia Lopezrevoredo, 26, says she learned that a community project is more likely to succeed when the volunteers play a larger part in the process.
“When they take on more ownership, they really feel compelled to see the program succeed,” says Lopezrevoredo, a Portland, Ore., house resident.
On top of learning from experts in the field, Moishe House residents benefited from simply being around one another. In the two-day period, they were able to bounce ideas and experiences off peers with similar ambitions.
“Repair the World is an organization empowering young professional Jews to express themselves Jewisly through tikkun olam. They want people to be talking about Jews and always equate them with service. I could not agree more,” says Sarah Waxman, a resident of the D.C. Moishe House who attended the conference. “If I am a manifestation of my ancestors then I am truly the freest version of them. I am here and it is my duty to serve,” she continues via text from her visit to a Moishe House in Moscow.
On one day, retreat participants joined with Living Classrooms, a Baltimore-Washington youth organization that emphasizes hands-on education through urban, natural and maritime resources. Although the immense heat spoiled the initial plan of removing endangered species from the waterfront, retreat participants instead helped Living Classrooms organize its library and office space.
“It was a pretty extraordinary group of people,” says Will Berkovitz, Repair the World’s senior vice president, who moderated several of the discussions. “When you have eager learners, you can work toward some pretty serious change. That’s exactly what these folks represent.”