Flying into the 21st Century

This article originally appeared on eJewish Philanthropy on August 24, 2018.

By Eric M. Robbins

In a recent article, Talk is Cheap, several challenges facing Federations today are brought to the forefront. These include operating inefficiencies, partisanship, shifting giving trends and affiliation rates – just to name a few. The author correctly identified all of these challenges, and further pointed out that they have been building up over years, but he makes one critical omission: Federations across North America are changing to meet these challenges and they are finding unique ways to support the communities they serve. Just look at Atlanta. We have spent the last year in Atlanta rallying the community to tackle these exact issues.

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A life’s journey filled with service

This article originally appeared on The Times of Israel on August 22, 2018.

By Liz Jaffe

I remember it vividly, stuffing those envelopes side-by-side with my parents for an event. I knew we were doing it for a charitable cause. And I was only 5 years old.

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Poverty: Calling for Meaningful Jewish Attention

Written at the invitation of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), as one of several Jewish leadership perspectives on the role of Jewish Philanthropy in addressing Poverty.

By David Eisner

(An installment in the series Spotlight on Poverty, a partnership between JFN and eJewish Philanthropy.)

Poverty too often appears as a cause, effect, and perpetuating factor in various social crises, including failures in our systems of health, education, food distribution, housing, and other social services. Social ruptures of hatred, blame, and fear toward groups based on race, ethnicity, and other forms of identity often further exacerbate these crises. However poverty comes to be, it is attended by a vulnerability and loss of power that opens the door to other crises, failures, and ruptures that make the cycle worse.

I’ve pushed at the monster of American inequity from many vantage points over 35 years – leading business coalitions that worked to expand digital access rather than exacerbating economic divides; managing foundations that invested in growing nonprofit capacity to address issues of inequity; serving as a White House appointed, Senate-confirmed agency head, distributing billions of federal grant dollars to nonprofits and communities leveraging AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers to strengthen safety nets and interrupt generational cycles; and, today, heading Repair the World, offering thousands of Jewish young adults meaningful service opportunities to address urgent needs experienced in their own communities.

Even though so much energy is required to achieve even limited success addressing poverty, the work of Repair the World has fueled in me a sense of renewed optimism and purpose; a revitalization that comes from tapping into the energetic idealism of young adults together with the urgency of Jewish moral values. Along with Repair, the amazing work that Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps has been leading for decades offers both inspiration and direction for this.

There is an enormous opportunity for the Jewish community to bring new energy, power, and cohesion to the work of our nonprofit sector and, especially, of our philanthropy, to address the needs against which our neighbors and often our community are struggling.

First and foremost, taking this opportunity would make a critical difference at a critical time in the lives of others, and the benefits to the Jewish community would be enormous as well. Struggling to navigate our own demographic changes, to heal rifts of leadership, to bridge generational and geographic divides, we have a truly classic opportunity to recapture our sense of efficacy and community by turning from our self-absorption, and, instead, living out our “light unto nations” purpose. Hillel said the entire Torah rests in the scripture that others should not be treated as you, yourself would not wish to be treated.

Repair the World is experiencing this as a vital moment for our Jewish community to live out our purpose to be a light to the nations, to recognize the holy in all people, to make the places we live better for our presence.

Here are some lessons that we learned that may serve Jewish philanthropists seeking to engage more deeply in anti-poverty work.

  • Nowhere does implicit bias require deeper listening and humility than when philanthropists address poverty. Reducing the chasm between haves and have-nots is an act of valor for philanthropists, who, by definition fall uniquely on the “haves” side of the gulf. This doesn’t necessarily taint their motivations, but it does assure practical and moral conflict in addressing the very dynamics by which the wealth was acquired, and can create instincts that the philanthropists “know better” than the communities suffering poverty about what they need.
  • Relationships first. No amount of work addressing urgent needs or bringing change can yield fruit without holding deep relationships with the people and nonprofits in the communities that are at the epicenter of the challenge. And, in the end, it is the relationships with both organizations and the individuals who lead and participate in their efforts- not the issues or the investments- that drive transformation for everyone deeply involved in the work.
  • Think long-term and act with urgency. The old and new testaments each assert that the poor will always be with us – and we are ordered to be generous, open our hand, never refuse, and more. This reflects the deep dichotomy that the issue of poverty may be immutable, but the journey of individuals, families and communities into, and, more importantly, out of poverty rests in our hands.
  • Address urgent needs – while working to change the system. The need for bringing systemic change to a justice system that seems driven to incarcerate generations of men of color cannot be overstated. Neither can we overstate the need for caring adults to mentor youth whose parents are incarcerated. The likelihood is 75% that a child with one incarcerated parent will spend time in jail themself – a statistic ruthlessly tied to the huge majority of such children who live in poverty. However, when that same child has a volunteer mentor for one year, that likelihood is cut in more than half. Investments to address the system will save future generations – however, they can only succeed over a great arc of time and in partnership across multiple sectors. Meanwhile, investments in effective nonprofits that recruit, train, support and oversee these corps of volunteers will have a real impact on real people, right now.
  • Mistakes are lessons and failures accelerate success. I still shudder recalling my visit to a DC public school in 1996, where I found administrative offices cluttered with dusty servers, screens and CPU’s – all technology that, as head of America Online’s new foundation, I’d sent them nearly a year earlier. We believed that we could “help” overburdened, under-resourced schools create new digital pathways for student success; however, that year not many students actually benefited from the tens of millions of dollars worth of hardware, software and digital access accounts from America Online and other companies. The lesson was painful and expensive – and it was repeated many times over before philanthropists identified the right formulas for supporting installation, training, and integration into educational curricula. Today, however, access to internet technology and training is supporting many schools and students to realize educational aspirations that would otherwise be unachievable – and the early failures were as essential in getting there as the persistent effort.

Victories against poverty come depressingly slow, and are often offset by even larger defeats; relentless acceleration in the pace of change, fueled by technology and globalism are driving economic displacement and volatility, fostering environments that capture vulnerable families in the cycle.

Our Jewish community has people, resources, values and experience to make a big difference with work that desperately needs doing. And, it seems to me that the opportunity to tackle this work comes at the perfect time for our community to reach beyond our insular challenges and support some holy work.

David Eisner is President and CEO of Repair the World.

Poverty: Calling for Meaningful Jewish Attention

This article was originally published on eJewish Philanthropy on August 13, 2018.

By David Eisner

Poverty too often appears as a cause, effect, and perpetuating factor in various social crises, including failures in our systems of health, education, food distribution, housing, and other social services. Social ruptures of hatred, blame, and fear toward groups based on race, ethnicity, and other forms of identity often further exacerbate these crises. However poverty comes to be, it is attended by a vulnerability and loss of power that opens the door to other crises, failures, and ruptures that make the cycle worse.

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Leading By Example

This article originally appeared in The Detroit Jewish News on August 2, 2018.

By Robin Schwartz

Repair the World’s new executive director reflects on her inaugural year.

You might find her jogging through Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood or working in a greenhouse or helping to bury old prayer books in a sacred space for Jewish texts. But you’ll most likely find Sarah Allyn, 30, of Detroit at Repair the World’s cool headquarters on Bagley, where she just wrapped her first year as executive director of the Jewish nonprofit focused on service-learning and volunteering.

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Tisha B’Av Through a Modern Lens

This article originally appeared in the Baltimore Jewish Times on July 20, 2018.

By Connor Graham

On July 15, the same Sunday morning as the World Cup Finals, a passionate and outspoken group of more than a dozen young Jewish adults gathered at the Moishe House in Canton for a program called “Brunch & Learn Tisha B’Av: Turning Tragedy into Action.” Tisha B’Av is the most mournful day on the Jewish calendar, commemorating the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem.

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Commit to helping homeless | Opinion

This article originally appeared in The Florida Sun Sentinel on July 27, 2018.

By Alan Goch

Even living in a privileged society, we are exposed to homelessness and hunger almost daily.

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Jewish organization offers free hair cuts for homeless men

This article originally appeared in The Florida Sun Sentinel’s Jewish Journal on July 25, 2018.

By Sergio Carmona

Repair the World Miami recently partnered with the Miami Rescue Mission to organize an event of free hair and beard cuts for men who are experiencing homelessness at His & Hers Parlour in Miami.

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Passion Shines Bright

I was honored to be invited to serve on the Repair The World (Repair) Delegation.  As the manager of Community Partnerships for the Miami chapter of Common Threads, a national non-profit, I interacted with  Repair – Miami as the organization explored partnership opportunities for their incoming fellows. I attended the Service Unites Conference as a member of the Repair Delegation because of  the opportunity to convene in the historic city of Atlanta with people from all over the country who are actively engaged and committed to service and volunteerism to create positive change in their community and the world.  As a chosen member of the 40+ person team, I was joined by people from different parts of the country and was one of the few non-Jewish, and only African-American delegate, I brought that perspective with me to all the activities and conversations and I fully embraced the opportunity to learn about the rich Jewish culture and religion.

Although I have worked in the non-profit sector for the past eight years, I had never participated in a conference with the scope or size as Service Unites.  Being with over 2,200 people who were passionate about various causes was a powerful reminder that I am not alone, and I felt a sense of community and connection amongst strangers.  The lessons that were reinforced to me over the three-day conference were:

  1. The importance of diversity.
  2. Passion as a catalyst for change.  

The Opening Plenary was held in the historic Fox Theater was my top highlight of the week and did an excellent job of setting energy and tone for the days to come.  The themes discussed were water, youth, and women. The presenters represented a diverse range of colors, religions, ages, ethnic backgrounds, economic status, and impact capacity. Although the content was varied, the passion that each of the speakers and panelists brought was palpable, giving me goosebumps and at times moving me to tears. Through all these differences, the commonality was that each person was driven and inspired to create change through the means, resources, and talents they had available to them – they all lived passion and purpose driven lives. They were each a powerful example of living and serving others and inspiring people to join them in being part of that change. My favorite presentation was the spoken word poem that was performed by Storytelling Activist Amal Kassir. She used her Muslim-American culture and religion as a backdrop to express her experience of inequities as of late in this country through recent policies and procedures that have been put into place and create separation and disconnection among her people in this country.  

The display of passion and emotion was beautifully demonstrated many times in the heartfelt and emotional addresses that Chairman of the Points of Light Board, Neil Bush, shared during the Opening Plenary and the Closing Ceremony. He shared openly and vulnerably about his parents, Former First Lady Barbara Bush and Former President George W. H. Bush, and the lessons that he learned from them about being in service to support others in the best and worst of times.  He gave a teary-eyed reflection about the importance of being accountable to each other and ourselves for the progress and state of the world and communities that we live in. I was fortunate to meet Neil in the hallway in between sessions and I thanked him for being open, vulnerable, and authentic with his words and emotions. I told him that it is my personal belief that when we each show up authentically and allow ourselves to be seen, we become a mirror for others to see themselves too.  It humanizes us. It allows compassion to flow freely. It creates connection, and as my mentor, Founder of the Connection Coalition, Terri Cooper Space says, “Connection is the cure.” I believe that what we need more of is to give each other permission to shine our lights and illuminate the world in a significant and much needed way.

Throughout the weekend, Neil presented two people, actor Jesse Williams and NBA player Dwight Howard, with the Point of Light honor.  Over 6,000 of these awards have been presented over the years. While it was special to see this honor given to them for their important work and dedication, what really stood out to me was that everyone in the room is truly a point of light, and in those three days we all came together to grow, share, learn, and inspire each other to continue to shine through service and volunteerism.  We did this by celebrating and embracing our diversity, living with passion for the causes and issues that we care about and affect us, and believing that a small difference is actually a big difference.

I felt that the Service Unites Conference gave me permission and access to resources to shine my light and be bright!  

Shanté Haymore-Kearney is a champion for community empowerment, health, and wellness. Shante’ has a diverse professional work portfolio which includes over seven years as a marketing and community relations strategist within various business sectors including, national non-profits, international sports organizations, and corporate retailers.

Her dedication to creating positive change and personal empowerment is evident through her personal endeavors as well. She has been a certified yoga teacher since 2011. She founded a wellness company, Inner Inspiration, that teaches “Tools for Mindful Living.”  She has guided hundreds of people to connect with their inner peace and personal power through yoga, meditation, vision boards, prayer, and mindfulness in classes, workshops, retreats, and online content. Shanté has been a member of the service teams of Miami­-based non­profits Unity on the Bay, Connection Coalition (fka Yoga Gangsters), and Gratitude Training Leadership Program.

Haymore-Kearney received her degree in Business Administration from Florida A&M University and her Masters of Sports Administration from Northwestern University.  One of her proudest accomplishments was as an NCAA Division I Volleyball student-athlete when she was named Conference Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001. Shante’ balances her work life, yoga, and meditation teaching, along with being a mom to a 2-year-old and a wife.  She currently resides in her hometown of Miami, FL but is planning to relocate to Atlanta, GA to start a new chapter for her and her family.

Facebook & Instagram: @inspirationbyshante

 

Atlanta Opens Arms to Repairing Our World

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Jewish Times on June 28, 2018.

By Sarah Moosazadeh

Jewish values, a strong identity and affinity toward service are traits Repair the World aims to promote among Jews. The nonprofit hopes to expand that viewpoint this summer by launching its eighth community in Atlanta.

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