Repair the World’s PeerCorps Detroit Visits Houston to Aid in Hurricane Repairs

This article originally appeared on Hot in Houston on June 3, 2018.

When hurricane recovery is still in progress months later after the huge disaster, Repair the World’s PeerCorps Detroit alumni decided to make Houston their destination for volunteer service in continued recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey.

Read More

US College Graduates Take Up Faith-Based Service

This story originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor on May 31, 2018.

By Dan Lothian

From New York City to Los Angeles, college graduates are signing up for faith-based service before hitting the job market. Faith service groups are often more trusted in inner city communities, have ties to well-established leaders, and have a built-in network of local supporters. “I’m really not taking a year off, I’m taking a year on,” says Miriam Lipschutz, a volunteer growing fresh produce at the Jewish non-profit organization Repair the World.

Read More

Reflections and Learnings on 10 Months of “Act Now”

This article originally appeared in eJewish Philanthropy on May 25, 2018.

By Laura Belinfante

Act Now. It’s vague but attention-grabbing. It is a command to do something. The “what,” of course, is open to interpretation. For years, Repair the World has used the words, “Act Now,” in the context of MLK Day to call on and to empower young Jews to engage in local service opportunities and learn about racial justice (the campaign name itself derived from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s repeated call to act with “the fierce urgency of now”). On each MLK Day, a national day of service, we helped organize and curate volunteer service throughout the country and offered relevant resources to help spur challenging conversations and reflections. By most measures, the campaigns were successful.

Read More

Diana G. | Repair the World

This article originally appeared on Charm City Spotlight on May 22, 2018.

What brought you to Baltimore?
I grew up in Baltimore County. In 2016, I began working in the city, and I moved to Remington in the summer of 2017. I have loved every minute of it! I love spending time by the harbor, going to the numerous parks, and checking out new restaurants or hole-in-the-wall bars.

Read More

Repair the World Highlight: Nisha Blackwell of Knotzland

By Rachel Bukowitz

Nisha Blackwell is a self-taught seamstress and founder of Knotzland, a company dedicated to sourcing and rescuing high quality materials and repurposing them into unique, handcrafted bow ties. Born and raised in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Nisha now works with local women in the community by teaching them to sew and make bow ties for Knotzland. Nisha has created a business that supports people and the environment, all the while creating fabulous bowties!

What was your inspiration in starting Knotzland?

I love reuse and reclaiming. Essentially, I’m really passionate about using things that exist already to make things that we want to exist. I initially made a hair bow for friends daughter, and then one thing lead to another and now I’ve ended up in bowtie space.

Can you share a story or example of the impact that Knotzland has had?

There are so many stories, one of my favorite impact areas is working with local women in the seamstress industry. I train women [to make bow ties]. They come in and pick up their supplies and then do their pieces at their home and then they bring them back. The community of women is really special and has impact on the outside community.

What has been the biggest challenge you faced in founding and running Knotzland?

It’s challenging to always be thinking about what growth looks like. People want to scale fast, but I want to scale intentionally and ethically. The bowtie world doesn’t mean scaling fast.

How has investing in sustainability been good for your business?

It’s refreshing for people to see and hear how impactful it is to reuse things that already exist. There has been a huge education component involved. This is slow fashion; it’s not at your doorstep like Amazon Prime. I usually have to have that conversation with customers, explaining why slow fashion is good for the environment.

What is something you are working on now that you are proud of or excited about?

My most recent project was commissioned by City of Pittsburgh through Innovation and Performance (IMP) Inclusive Innovation Week. On the project I was proud to continue working with Darrell Kinsel, a local artist from BOOM Concepts, to make bow ties that were very direct and powerful. We got together and made bow ties with words on them like “Collaborate”, “Peace”, “Equity”, “Innovation”, and “Inclusion” The bowties were then purchased by the City for the ambassadors to wear during Inclusive Innovation Week.

I am proud to make a statement with a brand. Knotzland focuses not just on environmental aspects of the world, but also on social good.

What was it like to be chosen for Facebook’s Small Business council?

[Nisha was chosen to be in the 5th class of Facebook’s Small Business Council which is a private group that consists of 60 members from all types of different companies]

It was a crazy experience! I flew to the Facebook headquarters in San Francisco and had two days of intensive training on topics ranging from creating great content, to advertising, to actually using products. They provided us with a lot of Instagram insight on how to capture audiences and create effective content. Overall, they advised us on tools that help small businesses. Since small business owners usually do a little bit of everything, there is not as much time to learn some of these things like there is in a large business where they can hire a person to do one thing full-time. They answered a lot of our questions and offered us amazing networking opportunities.

Is there anything else you (Nisha) would like me to know, or have included in Repair the World’s blog?

I would like to say that I really appreciate Repair the World. Repair the World provides a platform and space for social justice. Also, Fellows have been customers of Knotzland! Zack [Block, Repair the World Pittsburgh’s Executive Director] and the Fellows have been really supportive of Knotzland.

No More Waste

This article originally appeared in the Detroit Jewish News on April 19, 2018.

Hazon Detroit serves up healthy heaps of compost — just in time for Earth Day.

In the North End neighborhood of Detroit near historic Oakland Avenue, there is a large patch of land where houses used to stand, houses where Jewish immigrants first began their American journey, that in time became the homes for some of Detroit’s most important black cultural figures, including Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and so many more.

Read More

A Mexico City Night Different From All Others

The Shabbat candles flickered, and chicken soup umami wafted from the kitchen.

After a week of preparation, I peered down the makeshift dining table at my roommate Diana and my twelve guests. None were local to Mexico City. We were all transients, strangers in a strange land. We were a mix of Jews, Christians, Catholics, and atheists. A mix of Americans, Mexicans, and an Argentinean. A mix of East and West Coasters, Midwesterners, and Southerners. A mix of black, brown, and white.

All twenty- and thirty-somethings, our colors and backgrounds blended like the ingredients in the charoset, each one highlighting the other, making for a sweet combination more than the sum of its parts.

Diana and I—the Jewish contingent—introduced ourselves, explaining that seder is a storytelling process followed by a festive dinner. That we would lead the way but we hoped everyone would participate. That we wanted people to question, and if we couldn’t answer, Google surely could.

We began with a round robin sharing our placecards. In addition to our names, each held factoids about a Jewish community around the world.

“I’m Macarena,” my Argentinian friend announced when her turn arrived.

“Hiiiiiiiii Macarena,” we all responded in chorus.

“What do Hungarian Jews place on the Seder table to represent the precious gifts given to the Israelites as they departed Egypt?”

We all looked around dumbfounded, until, in Spanish, she gave us a clue. “Sería un buen regalo para mujeres. Seguro que todas las mujeres aquí tiene… (It would be a good gift for women. All the women here definitely have some…),” she added, winking my direction.

“Chocolate!” we shouted. “Wine!”

“Noooo…. Joyas!” She shared gleefully. Jewelry.

After we made the rounds, Diana and I shared a bit of the history of the Jewish community in Mexico. We explained that we hoped tonight would be an opportunity to share diverse stories of struggle and liberation. That we would learn together from the story of Exodus, and explore its relevance today. “We are not merely telling a story here. We are being called to a radical act of empathy,” I read from Jonathan Safran Foer’s New American Haggadah.

We embarked, popcorn-style, around the table, trading off reading mostly from a racial justice Haggadah that quoted Fannie Lou Hamer, Carl Sagan, Harriet Tubman, and Bryan Stevenson, along with the Torah. Diana’s grandparents looked down at us from their crystal frame on our TV console, and my grandparents’ loaned Maxwell house Haggadahs peered up from the table, stained and bent from decades of use.

When we arrived at the first handwashing, we read from a feminist Haggadah about the role of women, and water, in the Exodus story. We invited our guests to wash the hands of the person to their right, but not without first asking for consent. They eagerly complied, each one looking into his or her neighbor’s eyes—some for the first time—speaking in hushed tones, then gently pouring water over their neighbors’ hands.

We moved from the handwashing (urhatz), to eating a green vegetable dipped in saltwater (karpas), to breaking the middle matzah (yahatz).

Why does the Haggadah urge us to feed the hungry at this point in the seder, when it’s already more or less too late, we asked ourselves, with the help of Safran Foer. “Could it be teaching us that this night, in one crucial way, is just like all other nights? On all other nights we eat to satisfaction without a thought for the hungry stranger. Tonight, we speak of hunger, but do nothing to alleviate it.”

We reflected silently, asking ourselves why that is so, and what we should do differently.

Then there were bowls of matzah ball soup with cilantro and jalapeño—a nod to our host-country. A cucumber, tomato, avocado and serrano chile salad. Fish with mole-inspired rub. My mom’s sweet and sour brisket. Flourless chocolate cake. Lemon bars. Matzah toffee rocky road bites.

And then, the great hunt for the afikoman commenced, Vanessa emerging triumphant from beneath the table. We followed a rich meal with those final dry bites, and we read:

“[The afikoman] embodies the faith that there is always a way, concealed though it might be, to make the transition from the suffering that we know, to the future that we dream…. We sit together with our great diversities of worldviews, for we are celebrants of freedom and will brook no tyranny of thought. But we all eat the afikoman together, gesturing toward a sense of the world that sustains us in our hope.”

We stood up and opened the door for Elijah, arms slung around each other. Diana and I began to sing Eliyahu hanavi, surprised when the voices of our guests, high and low, joined in the Hebrew on the second round.

As our celebration of our freedom came to a close, I silently prayed that those voices would continue to echo through our minds, sustaining us in our many fights for freedom, at least until next year.


Ryan Cohen is a Fulbright-García Robles conducting research about how to advance social mobility in Mexico City. She previously worked for the Obama White House, ACLU of Michigan, Department of Justice, and Mayor of Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured in the Huffington PostReformaUniversity of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Social Change, and Kennedy School Review, and can be found on her website ryanashleycohen.com.

Episode 31: Liz Fisher, Repair The World – April 2nd, 2018

This blog links to our COO Liz Fisher’s appearance on “It’s Who You Know: The Podcast.”

Elizabeth (Liz) Fisher is the Chief Operating Officer at Repair the World, where she leads the organization’s growth, operations and external affairs.

Read More

 

Haggadahs blend traditional, modern topics

This article originally appeared in Greater Phoenix and Northern Arizona’s Jewish News on March 28, 2018.

By Selah Maya Zighelboim

Haggadah means “telling,” and different versions of the Passover Seder script, translated and retold in countless languages countless times, can certainly be telling about the state of the world.

Read More

News Briefs: Repair the World Names Director, Mayim Bialik Meets Rivlin, and More

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Exponent on March 28, 2018.

Repair the World Names New Philadelphia Executive Director

Repair the World: Philadelphia announced the hiring of Rachel Berger as its new executive director.

Read More