In these High Holidays, Act Now with Repair the World to Observe “A Different Kind of Service”

 

From the High Holidays through Next Passover, “Act Now” will Mobilize Young Jews to Address Urgent Needs around Education, Food and More

New York, NY — Repair the World, the largest Jewish service organization, today invited young adults to Act Now for a Different Kind of Service with the 2017 Jewish High Holidays chapter of its service and education campaign. Repair the World also announced that the year-long campaign, “Act Now,” will mobilize people to address immediate issues and engage in critical conversations at many other meaningful times throughout the Jewish year, including the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving, MLK Day, and Purim, culminating with Passover in 2018.

“Jewish young adults today clamor more than ever for meaningful opportunities to meet urgent needs in their communities, especially at special times in the calendar when they feel called to act on their values,” said David Eisner, CEO of Repair the World. “Act Now will support these activists through providing opportunities to engage in meaningful service and community discussions, expressing our core Jewish values of striving for justice and the intrinsic value and dignity of every human life.”

Each element of Act Now will drive people to take action through service/volunteering, engaging in dialogue, skill building, and organizing their greater networks to get involved. Utilizing its highly collaborative model, Repair the World will work in partnership with local organizations around the country to help address pressing needs specific to each community, expanding the capacity of organizations and bringing a Jewish lens to the volunteering experience. Visit http://werepair.org/high-holidays/ to find or organize local service opportunities, as well as to pick up resources delving into the root causes of injustice, the guiding Jewish values, and discussion guides for tackling these difficult issues.

Repair the World also is releasing new materials, including:

Act Now (werepair.org/high-holidays) features a range of other guides and resources designed to help people take action, to facilitate challenging conversations, and to organize and participate in service opportunities around the country. Following the High Holidays, Act Now will continue to explore social justice through Thanksgiving, MLK Day, Purim, and Passover.

“Against an appalling drumbeat of tragedy and outrage, like we witnessed so recently in Charlottesville, young adults rightfully want to address the critical issues that threaten our communities,” adds Eisner. “For the next eight months, Act Now will offer a clarion call they can use to bring their friends, families and communities into making a difference through education, dialogue, and service.”

Holidays addressed for the first time in service campaigns by Repair the World this year are Thanksgiving—an opportunity to infuse a Jewish touchpoint into a secular holiday—and Purim, a holiday around which young adults have expressed increasing interest in engaging.

Act Now builds on Repair the World’s campaign last year urging participants to Act Now for Racial Justice, which engaged more than 14,000 participants in service experiences and/or peer-to-peer dinners and facilitated discussion.

Coming Home: Reflections on the Jewish Multiracial Network Retreat

The following post is by Rebekkah (Bekkah) Scharf, food justice fellow with Repair the World: Philadelphia. Bekkah identifies as a SF-born Hapa and Jewish Chinese-American; she attended the University of California: Santa Cruz, and is member of Kol Tzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia.

 

“It is beautiful and rare to have Jewish spaces where I walk through the door and think: I belong.” Sabrina Sojourner is a Chazzan, chaplain, and attendee of the 18th annual Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) family retreat on May 12th-15th.

I felt a sense of relief wash over me, filling every pore of my skin, every braciole in my lungs, and a lump in my throat, as her words resonated with me and every other person in the space. It was a breath of fresh air: I had found my people.

Finally.

In August I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Philadelphia, yet to find a space where Jews of Color and patrilineal Jews like myself, felt welcome. I had met Tamara Fish, the current president of JMN, at the Repair the World: Service Matters conference last year. According to Fish, JMN “is the only grassroots Jew of Color organizing group run by Jews of Color, whose demographics range from every permutation of family imaginable, both progressive and traditional from renewal, and everything in-between.” Several months later, she encouraged me to attend their family retreat.

I did not only feel welcome, but celebrated. I did not only feel comfortable, but like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I discovered something critically important missing in my life, something I had recently heard of, but never seen with my own eyes: a thriving, multi-ethnic, intergenerational Jewish community. And a space where I was allowed–no– empowered, to unravel, reflect, discuss, and most importantly, celebrate our shared experiences, with 70 other Jews of Color and white allies, of all ages.

davened, studied, and learned with young adults, parents, teens, kids, and entire families, Orthodox and progressive alike. African, African  American, Filipino American, Chinese American, and Latinx American Jews, LGBQ Jews, from six months to elderly, were in attendance. Traditional and progressive Shabbat services were held on Friday night and Saturday morning, where we counted the Omer and read from the Torah.

I hugged babies and played with the children, shared, listened, and met people who now feel like family. I exchanged stories and life experiences with other Jews of Color and their families, most of whom I had just met that weekend.

I grieved, raw, emotionally, and unexpectedly, with people who truly understood, grateful for every single moment, the Shehecheyanu playing in my head like a broken record.

As Rabbi Mira Rivera, the first Jew of Color at Jewish Theological Seminary to be ordained (two years ago), said afterwards: “The community we have here is every rabbi’s dream.” Rivera is a Chaplain Fellow at DOROT in New York City, and teaches Jews of Color, allies and co-conspirators through Harlem Hevruta.

When we gathered for Shabbat dinner, it indeed felt like a dream come true. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who looked like me, families that looked like mine, and children running around and playing together, like it were any other Shabbat. I had to remind myself that it was real, that I there as well, not an outsider looking in.

Together we sang a nigun as we lit the candles, parents held their children’s heads and said the brucha, and Rabbi Mira and Sabrina Sojourner raised the tallit over their heads and called for the children to gather underneath. We sang and celebrated the children, their beautiful faces. We celebrated each other, in their presence our unity, together, as a people. Our skin colors a spectrum, our families all shapes and sizes, our children, smiles, joy and unquestioned belonging.

It was overwhelmingly…normal.
It was perfect.
It was beautiful.

It was feeling that I could not put into words, until a song returned to my memory: Hinei ma tov uma naim shevet achim gam yachad.

“How good and pleasant it is for people to sit together in unity.” How precious was is to celebrate every single person in the room, exactly as they are, white, Black, AAPI,Latinx, and mixed. Orthodox and progressive, Jews by choice and by birth, patrilineal and matrilineal, single and coupled, families and individuals, young and old.

The babies, clueless to the miracle surrounding them, the children, who will not begin to comprehend the sacredness of this space, until they are years older.

And the teens, parents, and young adults like myself, who do know, savoring every note, laugh, smile, and clap, holding every moment tight in our hearts.

Knowing of the looks, actions, questioning, and isolation to come, subtle and unsubtle, as they always have, in which remembering this moment will keep us grounded in our very sanity.

And knowing that we are loved, belonged, and matter. And I know this because I was there, taking it in all at once, living in the moment.

And in that moment, I felt me.
I felt holy.
I felt everything.
I felt home.

 

A special shout-out to Chava Shervington, Tamara Fish, Sabrina Sojourner, Rabbi Mira Rivera, all of the JMN leaders, organizers and volunteers, and everyone else who made the 18th annual JMN retreat possible. Thank you for helping create such a meaningful and transformative experience for so many individuals and families seeking a brave, inclusive space, for the past 18 years. Thank you to the many individuals not mentioned here, who offered your listening ears and hearts, genuine selves, support, trust, friendship, and open arms.

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 the World People: Rebecca Mather

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 Rebecca Mather, who incorporates Repair the World materials into her work as Social Justice Coordinator at Texas Hillel. Then, join our Passover campaign and help us serve in solidarity by hosting and volunteering. Together we can #ActNowForRacialJustice.

Every Friday night, Jewish students gather at Texas Hillel at the University of Texas, Austin for Shabbat services. But in addition to the Reform, Conservative, and traditional minyanim (prayer gatherings) one might expect, some students opt for a different sort of gathering: a conversation about social justice.

Launched by Texas Hillel staffer, Rebecca Mather, the conversations cover everything from unpacking the Black Lives Matter movement to exploring Judaism’s relationship with water as a starting point to discuss the situations in Flint or at Standing Rock.
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