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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.

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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 

Think Globally and Act Locally. March is in Session!

Did you know Georgia’s legislative session lasts only 40 days? Our 56 senators and 180 representatives have from the second Monday of January late March to propose, debate, and vote on laws that deeply impact our lives. On February 6–in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council, American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League–Jeff Willard of Tzedek Georgia gave a training on making your voice heard as bills become laws.

Making Your Voice Heard in seven steps from Tzedek Georgia.

  1. Start on a positive note. Research your legislator. Find something you can thank them for, or at least connect with them on. 
  2. Frame your issue based on their values. Just like you, your representative has a system of values that is fully formed and unlikely to change. How can you frame your issue so that it appeals to what is important to them?
  3. Share the facts. This might start with making your legislator aware of the bill you want them to vote on or even handing them a copy of the bill. Tell them what you know about the issue.
  4. Share a personal story. Why do you care? How does this affect you or someone you know?
  5. Bring up the unintended consequences. What negative consequences might occur if the vote goes the wrong way? This does not mean threatening your legislator with supporting their opponent, etc. Stick to the issue. How will people be impacted?
  6. Ask how they plan to vote. If they are unsure or not voting your way, ask what other information you can provide. 

  7. Follow up. Advocating for what you care about takes a lot of energy, but a single visit isn’t enough. Follow up with additional information, call, email, write a note, and come back again, with friends!

 

 

Playdates with a Purpose: A Space for Kids to Learn the Joys of Volunteering

This originally appeared in The Jewish Times on February 27, 2020. 

Playdates with a Purpose is a program created by PJ Library of Metropolitan Detroit and Repair The World Detroit to allow children to do social service projects related to Jewish books they’re reading.

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Celebrating Black Leaders in the Community – Repair the World Partners

This Black History month we highlighted the extraordinary Black leaders behind our partner organizations that are doing amazing work in their communities. Because of these partnerships, we have been able to reach and serve more community members. Here are just a few of the amazing Black leaders building their communities and helping them thrive. 

The Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center (SWEEAC) serves more than 48,000 families & distributes over 1,000,000 pounds of food to families in the communities of Atlanta. Executive Director, Ernesta B. Ingram, has been leading SWEEAC since 2005 and introducing new and exciting food programs to Atlantans. Repair the World Atlanta has been able to reach and serve more community members in Atlanta because of organizations like Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center, Inc. Visit their website to learn more about their work!

The Safe Alternative Foundation for Education was founded by Van Brooks, a community leader who inspires students every day. Repair The World Baltimore was honored to feature the SAFE Alternative’s work when Van Brooks served on the educational equity panel during last month’s MLK Day program. SAFE Alternative believes that all students should have access to quality education and the resources and opportunities that will assist them in achieving their goals. SAFE Alternative provides after school, weekend, and summer learning educational opportunities in West Baltimore and hosts one of Repair the World Baltimore’s VolunTeams, a group of volunteers who visit the center once a month to do career workshops. Visit their website to learn more about their work!

The African Healing Garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is truly a place to restore wholeness to mind, body, and spirit. The plot of land owned by Betty Lane, the community’s 80-year-old matriarch, includes fruit trees, herbs, flowers, water, and a restful atmosphere. Betty grew up in the Hill District. She moved to Larimer in 1970 to raise her kids. She still lives in the same house within sight of the healing garden. The garden is a place where solace and peace of mind can bring about wholeness to those who enter its gates. It is being designed to provide an outdoor classroom for children’s activities. Repair the World Pittsburgh has spent many service days tending the garden and planting new plants throughout this partnership. Visit their website to learn more about their work! 

Black History Month: How Jewish Judges Played Role In Miami’s Civil Rights Movement

This originally appeared on CBS Miami on February 14, 2020.

Recently, Repair the World Miami hosted Shabbat at the Historic Black Police Precinct and Museum. CBS Miami was there while attendees learned about Jewish support during the civil rights movement.

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Jewish Leaders Travel to Rwanda to Engage in International Development

This originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on February 13, 2020. 

“In February, a group of 16 Jewish leaders from Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom traveled to Rwanda as part of the InterACT Global study trip. Participants were heads of organizations such as Shalom Corps, UJIA, the Schusterman Foundation Israel, Repair the World and more. InterACT Global was initiated by the Office of the President of Israel and is led by OLAM, a platform of Jewish and Israeli international development organizations, in partnership with SID Israel, Gesher Leadership Institute, and Shalom Corps.”