Archive for : Environment

Repair the World People: Horace Bradley

In the month leading up to Passover, Repair the World is sharing stories that highlight the on-the-ground ways our fellows, volunteers, and partner organizations serve in solidarity to turn the tables on racial injustice. Today, meet volunteer extraordinaire, Horace Bradley. Then, join our Passover campaign and help us serve in solidarity by hosting and volunteering. Together we can #ActNowForRacialJustice.

Choosing to volunteer is, when you really think about it, pretty heroic. We’re all busy folks – with school, with work, with family obligations, with…life. So the act of purposefully carving out the time to help someone else, or to help a whole community or the planet is pretty much worthy of a standing ovation.

One of the things we strive for at Repair the World is to create meaningful volunteer opportunities that let everyday people (that’s all of us) become everyday heroes. We have a lot of everyday heroes who volunteer in our partner cities, but Horace Bradley is one of the most dedicated.

By day, Bradley works as a customer service agent at Target. But in his spare time over the last two years, he has volunteered regularly with Philly Farm Crew – urban farm/garden volunteer workdays which we run in partnership with the Jewish Farm School. During Farm Crew days, volunteers get their hands dirty in the soil, doing work on vacant lot gardens and urban farms around Philadelphia.

Farming is labor-intensive work that requires persistence and commitment throughout the growing season. Without volunteers like Bradley, the work of planting and harvesting vegetables, weeding the gardens, building a greenhouse, and constructing a Cobb oven (all things done during Philly Farm Crew days) simply wouldn’t happen. “Farming is a great way to commune with nature and with others,” Bradley said.

In addition to the Farm Crew, Bradley has been involved with Repair the World in a variety of other ways – baking loaves of bread with Challah for Hunger, sorting books at a public school library, and packing food for people in need. He also joined one of Repair the World’s alternative break programs in Detroit. “It was my first time volunteering so far away from home,” he said. During the trip, he and the other volunteers boarded up abandoned homes.

So what inspires someone like Bradley to make such a deep and lasting commitment to volunteering – to get bitten by the service bug? Service is a two-way street. When done well and thoughtfully, service work benefits a community in need in innumerable ways. But it also. “Repair the world has changed aspects of my life,” Bradley said. “I think about food differently thanks to Philly Farm Crew, and I’m more outgoing now. But the most rewarding aspect is just being there, helping others.”

Check out the cute video Bradley made about his experience volunteering with the Philly Farm Crew.

Life After a Repair the World Fellowship: Ariel Wexler

Last month, the current class of Repair the World Fellows held their final closing circles and said so long – but not goodbye! We’ve been incredibly inspired by their work as change makers during their fellowship year, and are excited to keep up with them in the months and years to come.

Here’s Ariel Wexler who was one of Repair the World’s Food Justice Fellows in Pittsburgh. She took some time to share the impact she was able to have on others over the course of the year, and the impact the fellowship had on her. Read on, then find out more about becoming a Repair the World Fellow.

What drew you to being a part of the Fellowship?
At UC Santa Cruz where I went to college, I became extremely passionate about environmentalism. My main focus was on the complexities of the food system and practices of sustainable agriculture. Growing up in a strong Jewish community and being fascinated with the history of the Jewish people I decided to minor in Jewish Studies. I thought that the Repair the World fellowship would be the perfect combination of both my interests in food justice and the Jewish community.
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Snapshots from the Jewish Food Justice Movement

This post was created in partnership with Jewish Food Experience, a project focused on bringing people together around Jewish food, culture, and tradition.

What does food justice look like on the ground? That depends on where you are. Across the country, urban and rural communities of all sizes struggle with food insecurity and uneven access and availability to healthy food. But the particular challenges these communities face change from place to place—and the movement shifts in response to those changes.

Repair the World partners with local organizations and volunteers in multiple cities—Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit and Philadelphia—and on multiple fronts to galvanize food justice movements that reflect and prioritize each city’s specific needs. Recently, we reached out to our food justice Team Leaders, who are working with these communities to get a firsthand account of what food justice looks like from their vantage point. Read on:

What is the most pressing food justice-related challenge in your city?
PITTSBURGH
There are 2 Pittsburghs: the rust belt comeback story people talk about, and the segregation and separation that is keeping blacks, other minorities and individuals living on the margins from being able to access and partake in the “new” Pittsburgh. This affects the food movement as well. Farmers markets, urban agriculture and all the hot new eateries mainly serve the white, wealthier classes of the city. So how does our city continue to progress and move forward without leaving people out? – Greg LaBelle, 25

NEW YORK CITY
Hunger is the most salient food justice challenge for New York City. The high cost of living in NYC doesn’t just prevent people from consuming healthful foods, it straight-up prevents them from being able to purchase enough food. Some government and private programs help alleviate the hunger, but they are not sufficient and have physical and/or psychological barriers to entry. – Sam Sittenfield, 25

PHILADELPHIA
The availability and distribution of healthy food options throughout the city is pressing. Philly is the poorest large city in America. Food resources tend to be concentrated in the wealthiest areas while under-resourced areas have more corner stores (which often lack fruits and vegetables) and fewer grocery stores. – Bridget Flynn, 23

DETROIT
I think the most pressing food justice challenge in Detroit is childhood hunger. In southeastern Michigan, 1 in 5 children is food insecure and over 300,000,000 children qualify for free or reduced lunch in schools. Without consistent access to nourishing food, children and adults are not able flourish. – Erin Piasecki, 25

What role can/should Jewish food advocates play in helping address this challenge?
PITTSBURGH
Jewish organizations and advocates can truly support the people fighting these issues when they understand how best to support the individuals and groups that need help. It is crucial that we not overpower the people who need help and not diminish the focus on them and their struggle.

NEW YORK CITY
The first thing that we need to do is to educate ourselves. Many of us in the Jewish community come from privileged backgrounds and will never truly understand hunger. We can, however, start to understand the context and how pervasive it is in our communities.

PHILADELPHIA
I have seen Jewish food advocates help to make positive change in the food justice sphere by listening to community needs and providing the resources to fill them. A major part of ally-ship is active listening before taking action. Jewish texts can also be used as a tool for food justice education.

DETROIT
Jewish food advocates have tremendous power to keep hunger, and particularly the plight of hundreds of thousands of hungry children, in the public eye through awareness raising campaigns, food drives, and other volunteer driven initiatives in their communities. By supporting and collaborating with longstanding institutions advocates can amplify and concentrate their fundraising and other efforts to eliminate 21st century hunger.

Find out more about Repair the World’s food justice work, including #SupportforRefugees, a Passover campaign focused on the global refugee crisis, and how you can become a future Repair the World fellow. Big thanks to some of our wonderful local food justice partners: Grow Pittsburgh, Keep Growing Detroit, Jewish Farm School in Philadelphia and Hunger Free America in NYC.

Tu Bishvat Across America (Find an Event Near You)

New Year’s Eve has come and gone which means it’s time for 2016’s first Jewish holiday: Tu Bishvat! Commonly called the holiday for the trees (or Jewish Arbor Day), Tu Bishvat is an ancient holiday that has evolved and changed throughout the centuries into a celebration of tikkun olam (repairing the world), connecting to the environment, eating seasonal and ancient biblical fruits, and having fun at seder celebrations.

Over the last decade, celebrating Tu Bishvat has moved from the fringe to the mainstream. There are lots of great opportunities and events to honor Tu Bishvat around the country. Whether you’re a synagogue goer or more of a nature lover (or both), find one near you and plug in!

New York City (with Repair the World!): On January 24, join Repair the World and Kolot Chayeinu for a mystical Tu Bishvat seder experience. Meet our awesome NYC Fellows, sing, sample a delicious variety of fruits and nuts, and get hooked into the interconnectedness of all things.

New York City: If you are looking for something truly unique this Tu Bishvat, head to the 92Y’s Enchanted Rainforest Tu Bishvat Dinner on January 22. This earth friendly dinner includes lots of locally sourced fruits and veggies and tropical sounds to highlight some great singing.

New York City: Love great music? Celebrate the holiday of the trees on January 25 at the Manhattan JCC with a concert featuring some of the city’s most compelling artists.

Chicago: On January 26, head to the Chicago Botanical Garden for a family freindly Tu Bishvat celebration. Plant a seedling, enjoy a special Tu Bishvat book reading, and explore the trees in the greenhouse.

Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love’s own Morris Arboretum is celebrating Tu Bishvat. From January 24-31, student groups can take part in an interactive tree education program. They’ll even get to take home a birch tree seedling.

Washington DC: The DC JCC is hosting multiple Tu Bishvat events this year – a family seder on January 25 and a brunch on the 31st that’s equal parts earth-friendly and entertaining.

Berkeley: Urban Adamah’s “divine sensory” seder (featuring farm crafted libations and a six course local, kosher menu) is sold out for the year. But check it out online because it looks amazing – and mark your calendar to get tickets early next year!

San Diego: On January 24 the Leichtag Foundation will host the Food Forest Festival, an all-day celebration featuring tree planting and a live concert.

Seattle: Have a little person in your life? On January 21 take them to The Seattle Public Library for a special Tu Bishvat story time co-sponsored by PJ Library.

Redwoods, California Join Wildnerness Torah on January 24 for an experiential and totally natural Tu Bishvat seder in the Redwood forest. Where better to celebrate than amongst the trees?

DIY / Anywhere: Don’t see an event in your area? Make one yourself! The awesome Jewish sustainability organization, Hazon put together a great collection of resources on their website to help you plan your own amazing Tu Bishvat seder.

Tractors over Touchdowns: How One Football Player Became a Food Justice Hero

Football players, like most professional athletes, live glamorous lives. With contracts regularly topping 10 million dollars, they can afford to. But what if one of them decided to give up the cars, the glory, and the worship of thousands of fans to become a…farmer.

Meet Jason Brown. At the age of 29, after spending seven years as a professional football player, Brown decided to trade in his helmet for a bundle of hay. As self-taught farmer (he watched You Tube videos for instructions on the basics and consulted with other nearby farmers), he launched First Fruits Farm – a faith-based agricultural operation that grows food to be donated to food pantries. He has already given away tens of thousands of pounds of food and he has no plans for stopping soon. (If the notion of giving first fruits sounds familiar, it should – it is a concept found in the Torah.)

Brown and his family took an incredible leap of faith to make such a radical life change. Asked on CBS why, he said two beautiful things. The first: “When I think about a life of greatness, I think about a life of service.” And then, “Love is the most wonderful currency you can give anyone.” We kind of love this guy.

In other news, Brown also recently delivered his own baby when his wife went into surprisingly fast labor and the midwife couldn’t arrive in time. So, yeah he’s mensch.

Check out the video for more of his remarkable story.