Archive for : Passover

Repair the World People: Ken Regal of Just Harvest

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 Ken Regal, a pioneer of the food justice movement and Executive Director of Just Harvest in Pittsburgh. Then, join our Passover campaign and help us serve in solidarity by hosting and volunteering. Together we can #ActNowForRacialJustice.

These days, food justice is at the forefront of American consciousness. But back in the mid-1980s, years if not decades ahead of its time, Just Harvest pioneered a dynamic anti-hunger organization in Pittsburgh. By linking local poverty with global food challenges – they are talking about food deserts before it was even a term – and combining holistic direct service with education and advocacy, they have become one of the country’s most important food justice organizations.

Over the past 30 years, Just Harvest has stayed true to its core principles that food is a fundamental right and that all people – regardless of their background or circumstances – are entitled to “dignity, rights, and a voice in the policies that affect them.” At the ground level, they help connect low income families to public services like food stamps and school meals, and help foster increased access to healthy, fresh foods within underserved neighborhoods. They also are a resource for individuals and families who need subsidized help with income tax preparation.

On the advocacy level, they lobby and educate on these same issues – childhood hunger, a compassionate approach to benefits, and healthy food access. “Some people see us as mostly an organization that directly helps low income people,” said co-founder and Executive Director, Ken Regal. “But our roots are in policy.”
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Repair Interview: Martin Storrow of Keys for Refugees

Finding out that there are 60 million refugees and displaced people around the globe can be overwhelming. It can be terribly difficult to know how to help, or even where to begin a conversation. That’s why Martin Storrow and Rachel Brandt founded Keys for Refugees – a brand new, grassroots campaign to help raise awareness about the world’s refugee population. Their idea is simple, but profound: keys are a symbol of home, security, and comfort. And they can help to “unlock” important stories.

Through Keys for Refugees, people can purchase red keys for themselves or friends that serve as a reminder and a starting point for conversation. A portion of the proceeds from the keys goes to HIAS, the oldest refugee resettlement organization in America, and Repair the World’s partner in our #SupportforRefugees campaign. We recently spoke with Storrow to find out more about the inspiration behind Keys for Refugees, how people and organizations are using their keys, and how you can get involved with this inspiring movement.

Can you tell me a bit more about the inspiration behind Keys For Refugees?
I was in Europe around the time the Syrian refugee crisis was reaching a tipping point, and the things I saw really affected me. I’ll never forget the images of families sleeping on train station floors, living their lives very publicly with nowhere to go. When I came home, Rachel and I started having conversations about what we could do to help the 60 million people who are currently displaced around the world.

The more we spoke about this with our families and friends, the more we began to realize how powerful a conversation can be. We started Keys For Refugees with the simple idea that a key can unlock a conversation, a conversation can lead to action, and a series of actions can change the world.

How did you decide to donate the proceeds to HIAS?
We believe that every person should have a place to call home. We see the 60 million displaced people around the world as individuals – each with dreams, each hoping not just to survive, but to contribute. HIAS not only helps to provide relief to those who are displaced, but also helps to resettle refugees and ensure that they have a support system so they can thrive. We love that their mission is rooted in Jewish values, and were really impressed by the HIAS/Repair the World #SupportForRefugees partnership. There are many wonderful organizations that are supporting refugees around the world, but we were excited to make HIAS our first partner in this campaign.

Can you share a story that demonstrates the impact of your work?
The campaign is still new (we just had our pre-launch last month), but we’re already seeing an impressive response from those in our networks and in the Jewish community. We were really moved by the connections people were making to Passover. One organization, for example (The Well in Detroit), set fifty red keys on their seder table so they could start conversations about those making their own modern day journeys to freedom. That was really inspiring.

What’s the best way for people to get involved?
The simplest thing you can do is visit our website to buy a red key or gift one to a friend. We have ‘key’ facts there too, so you can start unlocking conversations – whether in-person or by posting in social media. This is a huge humanitarian challenge, and it can certainly feel daunting, but big change often starts with small actions. We’re at the beginning of something special, and we’re excited to bring people together to raise awareness, spread hope, and help build a movement.

Turn the Tables: A Refugee-Focused Seder in Kansas City

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis. All across the country this Passover, people found ways to share refugees’ stories during their seders and to talk about the issues they face. Using resources and materials from Repair the World’s Turn the Tables project, they were able to add additional meaning and spark important conversations at their tables. Here, Kansas City resident, Malinda Kimmel, talks about her experience hosting a Turn the Tables seder for friends and family from a wide range of political backgrounds.

What inspired you to host a refugee-focused Passover seder?
For me and my family, this seder made sense. Refugee issues are something we are passionate about, and Pesach is a story of leaving one country for another to come to freedom and safety. Also, three of our seder participants work at JVS Kansas City, an organization that works to resettle new refugees into our community. The seder allowed us to share with others the importance of refugee resettlement in our community.

How did you weave refugee issues into the seder?
We began our seder with the Turn the Tables guided discussion. We made sure all guests understood our seder was to be a safe space for open discussion and respectful conversation. Our guests really jumped in and opened up, allowing us to talk about the connection between Jews in Egypt and others now who flee their countries for freedom and safety.
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Turn the Tables: A Refugee-Focused Passover Seder for 54 in Portland

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis. All across the country this Passover, people found ways to share refugees’ stories during their seders and to talk about the issues they face. Using resources from Repair the World’s Turn the Tables project, and nourishment support from OneTable, they were able to add additional meaning and spark important conversations at their tables. Here, Portland, Oregon resident Debbie Frank talks about her experience hosting a Turn the Table seder for more than 50 people in conjunction with the Meetup group PDX MOTs!

1. What inspired you to host a refugee-focused seder and dinner?
Over the years, the Passover seder has become my favorite Jewish holiday experience. My family in Alabama always uses the same traditional Haggadah, which I still very much cherish. But, it wasn’t until I moved to Portland a few years ago that I experienced my first Seder at a friend’s house with a Haggadah that was completely custom for the kids. Since this year was my first time to tackle putting on a seder myself (for 54 adults no less), I wanted to honor tradition while melding in something unexpected.
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Repair Inteview: Ruben Chandrasekar on Helping Refugees in Baltimore

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s Passover campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis.

Imagine leaving everything and everyone you know, and starting life over from scratch. For the millions of refugees around the world who are forced to flee war and persecution in their home countries, this unimaginable situation becomes everyday reality.

As someone who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, Ruben Chandrasekar personally understands the challenges that come with being uprooted. And his experiences drive his work as Executive Director of the Baltimore chapter of International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization that helps refugees rebuild their lives. Repair the World recently spoke with Chandrasekar about IRC’s refugee resettlement work in Baltimore, how volunteers can get involved, and his thoughts on how the Jewish community can make a difference in the lives of today’s refugees. (Spoiler alert: it involves Albert Einstetin.)

How did you get involved with refugee work?
I was born in Chennai, India and moved to the US with my mom when I was 14. I lived in a small town in Upstate New York, and was the first non-white kid in the school. I faced a lot of challenges and discrimination as a student. My mom, who was a prominent nurse in India, couldn’t find work as a nurse until she passed the board exam. She studied for the boards while working as a home health aide. I remember driving her to someone’s home to take care of them once. An elderly gentleman opened the door, took a look at her, and said, “We don’t want your kind in our house.”
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Share Your Favorite Social Justice Haggadah!

Passover is only a few days away, which means our minds are set on freedom. (And matzo balls, but I digress). As the holiday that tells the story of the Israelite’s exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt, talking about justice is a hugely important aspect the celebration.

Fittingly, there are a ton of haggadot (the text read during the seder) that highlight these themes and help us apply the notions of freedom and justice to modern day life. In past years, we’ve told you about some of our faves – like the Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement by the folks at Uri L’Tzedek and Jews United for Justice’s Labor Seder. But we know we’re missing some biggies.

That’s where you come in! Do you have a favorite haggadah, supplement, or Passover reading? One that means a lot to you and that illuminates themes of freedom, justice, or social change? If so, we want to hear about it!

This Passover, share you favorite social justice haggadah in the comments below or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld #HaggadahShare

Thanks and Happy Passover!