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How we are Repairing The World this National Volunteer Week

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 19-25), we are highlighting the incredible stories happening around the country during this time of global pandemic. Our Repair the World communities are acting now to fight for the most vulnerable in our societies, read more to see our impact and find ways to get involved:

ATLANTA:

In the spirit of Earth Day, Abigail Natelson, Repair the World Atlanta Fellow, helped lead our first ‘Mindfulness in the Garden Series’ (a virtual version of Farm Crew) that encourages participants to zoom in while outdoors. 

We created “signs of solidarity” in support of a campaign launched by local artists that asked residents to create and display colorful signs with positive messages for neighbors to see.

 

BALTIMORE:

Repair the World Baltimore hosted a Virtual Cocktails with a Conscience that allowed participants to do some meaning-making around the Passover holiday, think about the theme of what it means to find one’s individual purpose within a collective narrative, and discuss how to get involved locally even during a time of great uncertainty. 

 

BROOKLYN:

Caitlin Garbo, Repair the World Brooklyn Fellow, facilitated our first Virtual Art program through the Brooklyn Community Services‘ TLC program! Participants joined in creating art and writing letters to women currently living in a Brooklyn shelter. 

Caitilin reflected on the program saying, “I was inspired to begin the virtual art hour while quarantining because I missed making art and chatting with the clients each week. Whether we were interpreting poems, beading bracelets, or making snowflakes, every season and holiday we put up decorations and created art that filled the communal spaces with cheer. Now, words of encouragement and pages filled with springtime colors will be delivered to the program to try to mitigate feelings of isolation and perhaps bring some inspiration until full programming and communal gathering can return to normal within the shelter.”

If you’re interested in joining a project to send art and letters to local shelters or isolated older folks, please contact [email protected].

CHICAGO:

On March 27, Repair the World Chicago and One Table collaborated on a digital “A Neighborly Shabbat”. 

Together, we reviewed Repair the World’s Neighborly Letter and discussed ways to support hyperlocal neighbors and neighborhoods during this time. Participants engaged in ritual, broke bread, and built community during their Friday night Shabbat meal. 

 

DETROIT:

With all in-person volunteer programming canceled for March and April, Madeline Turner, Repair the World Detroit Fellow, helped find ways for our partners to continue their essential work under these circumstances. 

Keep Growing Detroit, a garden resource organization working to cultivate a food-sovereign Detroit, has had to get creative to maintain its two-acre farm and prepare seeds and transplants to distribute to thousands of Detroit gardeners without its usual support from hundreds of volunteers a week. With staff adjusting their hours to spend much of their time working at the farm, Madeline stepped up to the plate and found ways alongside our Detroit site, to support their work from home. She took the rest of the seeds home to Ann Arbor and with the help of her family, she was able to divide the larger bags of seeds into thousands of individual seed packets for Detroit growers to pick up at distribution and take home to their gardens.

HARLEM:

With the COVID-19 Pandemic disproportionately affecting older adults, Haley Schusterman, Repair the World Harlem Fellow, partnered with DOROT to help support their clients who may be experiencing increased social isolation and loneliness during this challenging time.

Haley participates in their Caring Calls program and forms connections by phone with an older adult—they chat weekly! Haley also creates birthday and holiday cards for older adults. Particularly now, DOROT’s clients may not have many other important social interactions. 

Haley shared, “I’ve enjoyed creating these cards so much that I’m running a virtual card making workshop this week to engage folks from around the country in supporting some of our most isolated neighbors!”

MIAMI:

Ella Fies, Repair the World Miami Fellow, engaged our community in Miami by teaching a virtual free yoga class with 40 people in attendance. The yoga class supports local organization Leap For Ladies who empowers incarcerated women. Ella mentioned, “I love teaching yoga and getting to share such an important practice with so many. It is totally a gift for me to get to do this every Sunday at 5!”

Join Ella in her efforts by heading to https://www.gofundme.com/f/leap-relief-fund

PHILADELPHIA:

On Friday, April 3rd, Repair the World Philadelphia, NextGen, and other local Jewish young professional groups brought together 102 community members to celebrate Shabbat with the uniting message of “even in isolation, we can still come together and welcome in the Sabbath.” Dani Horn, Program Director of Repair the World Philadelphia, led the Hamotzi, the blessing over the bread, and asked participants to think of those who may need nourishment at this time. As the virtual community reflected, people mentioned frontline workers, school children, and their own communities. It was important to acknowledge those in our community who may need support during this time. The program also included moments of joy and gratitude for blessings that have happened amidst the difficulty of COVID-19.

PITTSBURGH:

Maya Bornstein, Repair the World Pittsburgh Fellow, has been volunteering at the East End Cooperative Ministry’s Food Pantry, an interfaith coop which provides crucial access and services to meet the immediate needs of Pittsburghers, especially people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.

Maya shared, “I have greatly enjoyed volunteering at the East End Cooperative Ministry’s Food Pantry the past month or so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Serving there has given me a sense of purpose and a safe reason to leave the house in order to work towards the goal of ensuring that every Pittsburgher’s human right to food access is met. The staff, other volunteers, patrons, and food donors give me comfort that even in tragic and uncertain circumstances people can come together to help each other and create meaning.”

Maya alongside Ilana Drucker (both Repair the World Pittsburgh Fellows) are also growing seedlings in the grow room above the food pantry to then plant in our nearby Sheridan Ave Orchard and Garden and to share with another community organization. The fresh produce harvested throughout the season will all go directly back to the pantry. Check out this virtual seed starting at-home program, video and directions! 

National Volunteer Week is coming to a close but it is not too late to volunteer and serve your community. If you are interested in additional ways to volunteer, virtually or in person, sign up for volunteer opportunities at werepair.org/volunteer.

CEO and President, Cindy Greenberg Featured on Panel – Direct Service in the Age of Coronavirus

NCJW hosted a panel on finding the balance between social distancing and meeting the needs of our communities. CEO and President of Repair the World, Cindy Greenberg appeared along with Sheila Katz of NCJW and Ruth Messinger of AJWS.

Watch Here

Families Continue Commitment to Serve

By Kate Thomas

My last family service project before COVID-19 chaos fully took hold was a family Purim celebration at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST). Recently, Senior Rabbi at CBST, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, reflected on lessons from the 90s AIDS crisis that are relevant to today’s pandemic. After reading this article, I felt a combination of uncertainty, strength and a commitment to serve. Just a few short weeks ago, I watched families dress up in costumes and make colorful school supply kits for our partners at East Harlem Tutorial Program, while hamantaschen were served with gloves and tongs, no one knew yet how this pandemic would change future holiday gatherings. 

Now, this project feels like a poignant precursor to how Jewish communities are reacting during this challenging time. We’re still faced with the uncertainty of what’s to come, but we carry on a commitment to service. I hear leaders asking how they can help, folks donating to their local pantries, and families eager to implement service projects into their kids’ time at home. 

At Repair the World, we are nationally engaging volunteers in virtual volunteering and learning opportunities. While we won’t be in person for the foreseeable future, we are thinking of all of you, and especially the families and communities most impacted by this pandemic. For now, we invite you and your family to join us for the many Jewish acts of strength and service we have to share. 

In celebration of Earth Day (4/22), we invite families across the country to join Repair the World Harlem on Sunday April 26th at 11:30-12:30pm from the comfort of your own home for Playdates with a Purpose! We’ll learn how to take care of our planet and lead an at-home project geared toward 3-6 year olds (all siblings are welcome). We’ll feature amazing live music by Tkiya Music and sing songs celebrating the planet. Join by Zoom to play and learn at home, together! Generously made possible by PJ Library, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Register here to receive the link to join! 

While we don’t recommend children picking up trash outside at this time, here are some other safe and fun Earth Day actions you can do with your family! 

  • Make an art project out of recycled items
  • Plant and grow your own vegetables 
  • Make a bird feeder out of recycled items
  • Do a socially distanced nature walk and draw or take pictures along the way  
  • Create a spring garden sensory tub
  • Get a free digital edition of any Ranger Rick magazine
  • Donate to environmental justice organizations 
  • Advocate for better environmental initiatives locally and beyond
  • Find more Earth Day activities for kids here!

We hope your family is staying safe and hope to see you at an upcoming virtual project!

Kate Thomas is a Repair the World Fellowship Alumna and currently serves as the Family & Education Program Manager for Repair the World NYC.

Technology Buddy 101: Creating Tech-Savvy Seniors

This originally appeared in The Jewish News on April 20, 2020. 

Repair the World Detroit is launching a new program, Technology Buddy 101, to help seniors learn more about technology so they can stay connected to their families during this social distancing period.”

Read More

CEO and President, Cindy Greenberg Featured on Panel – Look to the Helpers: Caring for Vulnerable Populations

CEO and President of Repair the World, Cindy Greenberg appeared on a panel with other leaders in the Jewish community and discussed how to help vulnerable populations during Pesach while maintaining social distancing.

Watch Here

A Spaced Out Seder

By Rabbi Jessy Dressin

This year is my youngest nephew’s first seder. The first grandchild for my parents. The first of the next generation of my family. I pictured the Matzah Ballin’ bib on top of the “I found the afikomen” onesie. And then, it became clear, seder would be different this year. I began to think about how I would still host my family for seder. What would I need to create in order for my family, spanning ages 6 months to 75 years and three thousands miles, to come together virtually?

And then, the texts started to come in. From friends. From neighbors. “What are we gonna do for seder?” and “Are you creating something?” I hadn’t thought about the google doc I was working on for my family seder becoming the document that hundreds of others could use, but I soon realized the document could be a tool for others to meaningful engage with family and friends this Passover, at a time when we need it the most. This season is already difficult enough and I hated the thought that people would give up on the idea of hosting a seder virtually because they were uncertain of how to do so.

I began to adjust the google doc from a resource for my family to a more general resource with guiding tips and helpful advice. I considered the platform and I realized a long seder may not keep people engaged. I realized there was an opportunity for sharing videos and other content in an attempt to create something sensory and engaging. 

With humility, I added some loose instructions. (1) How to make sure everyone would have what they need to participate. (2) Designating someone to lead the seder, who I assume may be different than the person who typically leads the family seder – because technology – a true moment of passing the generational torch. (3) Things to think about in advance and the encouragement that trying to make seder happen this year is an act of resistance to the limitations and barriers the current circumstances place us in.

Circumstances may not be ideal. They may not result in a refined or polished celebration. We may find ourselves feeling limited and uncertain as to how we engage. Yet, the Passover story is about finding our own unique placement in a collective narrative. It is about seeing where we are at each year and how we relate to the timeless themes we are asked to consider at our tables. And, through my work with Repair the World, it is an invitation to think about the various ways that others may be experiencing these narrow and restrictive times. I am so glad to have special Passover resources from Repair to include at my seder table this year. 

Passover is the quintessential ritual that leverages memory as a motivator to act. An invitation to consider the ways that oppressive systems still inhibit people today from living to their fullest potential; to see ourselves as having a role to play in a liberation story that has not fully yet been realized because not all people are free.


Rabbi Jessy Dressin is dedicated to building Jewish connections and helping others find their connection. She worked for the JCCs of Greater Baltimore as a rabbi and director of Jewish life from 2012 until 2019. She now serves as the executive director for the Baltimore chapter of Repair the World. In 2016, Rabbi Jessy was named as one of The Forward’s Most Inspiring Rabbis.

How to Help Others While Social Distancing

This originally appeared in The Jewish Voice on April 1, 2020.

“In the last week our organization has shifted our focus to consider how we can mobilize Jews and our neighbors to take action to repair the world under our new, mostly virtual, circumstances.” Repair the World’s President and CEO, Cindy Greenberg shares how to continue to serve your community while social distancing.

Read More

This Passover, virtually serve communities and beyond

Join us this Passover as we connect the holiday from past to present with virtual volunteer opportunities and innovative resources.

This year, around the world, Passover will be different from all others. It may be especially difficult for you to connect with your community from a distance. However, there are many virtual opportunities to serve and engage your community and beyond while social distancing. This Passover, we ask, “how will you support those around you in these new and rapidly changing circumstances?”

Social distancing in the wake of COVID-19 has changed how we serve our communities and how we celebrate the season. Take a look at our guides and resources to spark new #DifferenceAmidstDistance conversations at your table. As we all prepare amidst the unknown, we hope that our resources and opportunities will offer some comforting and grounding to you during this time.

Value of Community During this Global Health Crisis

Dear Repair the World Community,

Never in my lifetime has the imperative to love the stranger felt so alive. As we adopt new practices of social isolation to protect ourselves and our greater community, we are practicing the essence of what it means to care for our neighbors. 

As a community, we are grappling with the question, “what can we do to support those around us?” We know that vulnerable members of our community and our neighbors require extra support and thoughtfulness during times of distress. Repair the World has put our in-person service and learning opportunities on hold, and we are shifting our focus to consider how we can mobilize Jews and our neighbors to take action to repair the world under our new circumstances.

We challenge you to consider how you can care for and love the stranger during these times of heightened fear and uncertainty.

While the situation is changing every day, here are three opportunities we see in this moment to make a difference.

1. Continue to Support Our Amazing Local Service Partners

We have been in touch with our 65+ service partners across nine communities. While they are all in different stages of planning, one theme is that they anticipate a dramatic increase in clients due to the pandemic and as a result are in need of financial support. Now is a good time to increase your donations to your local soup kitchen or food pantry. Some of our dearest partners in this work, who we know could use your support during this difficult moment are Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center (Atlanta), Baltimore Hunger Project (Baltimore), St. John’s Bread and Life (Brooklyn), The Night Ministry (Chicago), Gleaners Community Food Bank (Detroit), Food Bank for New York City (Harlem), Lotus House (Miami), Broad Street Ministry (Philadelphia), and East End Cooperative Ministry (Pittsburgh). 

2. Volunteer Online

With increased time at home, consider spending some of your time volunteering online. Our partners at Points of Light compiled this resource with a number of options for virtual volunteering, Catchafire matches volunteers with online opportunities that tap into their professional skills, and Golden is building out opportunities for virtual volunteering. 

3. Support Your Neighbors

While being advised not to venture far out from our homes, now is the time to think about who in our immediate proximity is vulnerable. We love this template that you can use to reach out to your neighbors and this new initiative in New York City called Invisible Hands which connects people with opportunities to shop and perform other tasks for their neighbors. We hope to see many more of these initiatives being developed in the coming days.

There are many more questions for us to consider. Who is suffering from social isolation? What are the needs of the health care workers on the front line and how can we support them? With many people now unable to work, how will we support those in need given an extreme rise in demand for food and supplies? 

As an organization we are continuing to focus on mobilizing the Jewish community to care for those who are most vulnerable right now. Read and share our resource, developed in partnership with Amplifier, on caring for the sick during the COVID-19 crisis. We are thinking creatively about how we can accomplish this and we welcome your support and best thinking. As opportunities emerge, we will share some ways we can all serve and care for our community virtually alongside our partners. 

The work to heal during and after this global health crisis will be ongoing. We are grounding this work by listening carefully to community needs. Our hope is to keep you updated in the coming weeks on opportunities, big and small, for you to make a difference. 

Yours in partnership, 

Cindy Greenberg
President and CEO, Repair the World