Haggadahs Blend Traditional, Modern Topics

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

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.

And this year’s crop of new haggadahs and supplements are certainly no different. Though the reading of the haggadah is a custom thousands of years old, these are all relatively young, as they place this ancient story in a contemporary context.

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Jewish organizations encourage retelling the Passover story with trivia cards

This article originally appeared on Religion News Service on March 26, 2018.

By RNS Staff

(RNS) — Quick: “Why do Jews from Gibraltar sprinkle brick dust into their Passover haroset dish?”

Or, “Why do Middle Eastern Jewish families whip themselves with scallions at the seder table?”

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With Houston still suffering, Jewish groups step up hurricane relief efforts

This article originally appeared in the JTA on March 22, 2018.

By Ben Harris

Avram Mandell is no stranger to disaster zones. As the founding director of Tzedek America, a Los Angeles-based social justice group that runs relief trips for Jewish teenagers, Mandell helped out in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the wake of a devastating 2016 flood.

So he was hardly surprised on a recent trip to the Houston area with 15 California teenagers to discover floodwater still in homes six months after Hurricane Harvey decimated the area.

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Repair the World: Philadelphia Welcomes Rachel Berger as New Executive Director

Philly Native Returns Home to Lead Jewish Service Organization and Work with Local Non-profits

Philadelphia, PA – Repair the World: Philadelphia, the local workshop of the largest Jewish service organization in the country, Repair the World, welcomed Rachel Berger as its new Executive Director. Rachel will work closely with Program Manager, Dani Horn; Workshop Coordinator, Kari Collins and Repair the World Fellows in Philadelphia who engage peers and work with local non-profits addressing food justice, education justice, and other social service needs.

“I am thrilled to return to my hometown of Philadelphia and to join an organization that taps into my passions of social justice and service alongside community building” says Rachel Berger, Executive Director of Repair the World: Philadelphia. “The Fellows here are deeply committed to serving with our partners in West Philly, Center City, and the Greater Philadelphia Area. I’m really looking forward to joining their efforts with the many organizations in Philly that make our work impactful and meaningful.”

Rachel has dedicated her career to building Jewish organizations that serve the underserved, advance justice, and deepen the connections between Jewish communities and their neighbors. She previously worked as the Director of Community Engagement at Footsteps, which supports and affirms those making the transition from ultra-Orthodox communities to the secular world. Rachel oversaw Footsteps’ community building and leadership programs, large scale public events, and foundation relations.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rachel completed her BA in Fine Art at Yeshiva University and her MSW at Columbia University. In 2011-12 Rachel was a Dorot Fellow and is a current Wexner Field Fellow (Class 1). She recently moved back to Philadelphia with her family and is looking forward to returning to her roots.

“Repair the World: Philadelphia is fortunate to have someone with Rachel’s experience, passion, and hometown connection leading its efforts,” adds Adina Mermelstein Konikoff, Senior Program Director for Repair the World. “She will elevate the work and community relationships of our Fellows and will continue to make Philadelphia a model city for Repair’s Communities program.”

Repair the World’s Communities’ year-long Fellowship program connects Jewish young adults with local opportunities to make a meaningful difference in their community. Philadelphia, with eight fellows on the ground this year, is one of seven cities where the program operates. You can volunteer with Repair the World: Philadelphia next Tuesday, March 27th from 4:00-7:00 pm in an effort to #RockTheVote.

Philadelphia residents and neighbors can meet Rachel Berger in person at a welcome event with light snacks and refreshments on April 16th, 2018 at 6:00pm at the Repair the World: Philadelphia Workshop at 4029 Market Street.

Additionally, in advance of Passover, Repair the World: Philadelphia and HIAS Pennsylvania are hosting Immigration Stories: A Passover-Inspired Shabbat this Friday, March 23rd at 6:30 PM. Inspired by the Passover narrative, the event will explore past and present immigration stories in varying faith traditions. Guests will hear from local advocates doing important immigration and refugee resettlement work in Philadelphia.

Nationally, Repair the Word is teaming up with Be’chol Lashon to offer specially designed seder supplements this Passover (weRepair.org/Passover). The materials, part of the Passover campaign, #MemoryToAction, encourage seder participants to engage in meaningful, sometimes difficult conversations about how we talk about individual and systemic struggles for freedom in the context of the Passover story.

 

Rachel Berger is Repair the World:Philadelphia’s new ED.

This article originally appeared on Generocity on March 22, 2018.

By Julie Zeglen

Power Moves is a semi-regular column chronicling leadership movements within Philly’s social impact community. Send announcements to [email protected]

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J-Serve 2018: Jack Rosenblum

Each year, J-Serve: The International Day of Jewish Youth Service mobilizes more than ten thousand Jewish teens worldwide around meaningful service programs. Repair the World is a proud partner of J-Serve and supports global planning efforts through a series of web-based trainings for Jewish youth professionals across the country and around the world.

This year’s official J-Serve date is Sunday, April 15 (though some communities pick an alternative service date a few weeks before or after to maximize participation). We checked in with Jack Rosenblum, a high school senior from Virginia Beach, VA, currently serving as BBYO’s Male Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how he’s planning to take part in #jserve2018. Check out what he had to say!

How did you get involved with J-Serve? What’s your background with service/volunteering, and how did that experience draw you to J-Serve?

What sort of project(s) will your J-Serve community be working on?
In my community, we usually tend to focus on service projects geared either towards working with the elderly communities in our area or building projects to help the environment. With my chapter, we’ve visited synagogues and old age homes and had incredible experiences spending time with the senior community of our city. It’s a really meaningful moment to be able to make a senior citizen laugh and know what you did made their day better, all while learning from them too about who they are and where they come from. This is something my chapter in particular has had great success doing in the past and will continue to work towards in the future – through J-Serve this spring and beyond. As a city we also love to rally behind environmentalism, especially towards the Chesapeake Bay, as we live directly on it. It’s very common for teens in our area both with our schools and with our chapters to create projects such as cleaning the bay or the beach or building oyster reefs. We have a very strong connection to the bay and to her well-being, which makes these programs very personal and meaningful to us.

What has been the most fun part of working on J-Serve so far?
The most fun part of this entire project has been working with more and more of my fellow teens in creating their own individual projects in communities around the world. It’s an amazing feeling to hear about all the incredible ideas and visions they have for engaging Jewish teens in service locally. It’s absolutely inspiring. J-Serve offers a great opportunity for Jewish teens to express how much they care about certain issues, providing them with the chance to engage 10, 50, 100, sometimes even 500 teens all together in an act of service. It’s an incredible feeling to know what you’re doing has such a large impact internationally and that all around the world people are benefiting from our mission. The fun part is getting to help my peers be creative in what they decide to do for J-Serve, and working together to elevate their service experience by engaging more teens in more meaningful service. Many of my fellow teens have initial ideas or thoughts about what they want to do, but after we get the chance to work together and bounce ideas off each other, we end up with these incredibly powerful and enriching programs. Although I do not get to actively participate everywhere, knowing that teens around the world are all doing such great work and being engaged is breathtaking.

What’s been the most inspiring part of working with J-Serve as a leader this year?

What do you think makes J-Serve successful in its ability to excite Jewish teens around the world about service? What makes it special?
Teens don’t realize when they’re first invited to a J-Serve project how much it will impact their lives. However, once they get there and actively participate in the incredible acts of service with teens from across their community, they understand one of our oldest Jewish values: tikkun olam (to repair the world). They connect to thousands of years of Jews doing what makes the world a better place. It also gives them an opportunity to be involved in a project that matters to them, supporting causes they care about. Whether it be saving the environment, helping refugees, feeding the homeless or any other amazing act, teens are doing projects which are meaningful to them and they can see the impact right in front of their eyes. It’s not adults leading them and telling them what they have to do, but rather it’s a group of teens deciding for themselves how they want to make a difference. J-Serve is important because it offers a platform for Jewish teens to feel inspired, empowered, and excited to do more; especially when they realize that all across the world other Jewish teens are doing the exact same thing: making the world a better place. It’s a very powerful feeling.

Why is doing service specifically in a Jewish context meaningful to you personally? What’s uniquely Jewish about doing good and/or giving back?

Keep up with J-Serve at jserve.org, by tracking #JServe2018 on Twitter and Instagram, and via their Facebook page. For more information on how to get involved, contact Rae Williams

J-Serve 2018: Noga Hurwitz

Each year, J-Serve: The International Day of Jewish Youth Service mobilizes more than ten thousand Jewish teens worldwide around meaningful service programs. Repair the World is a proud partner of J-Serve and supports global planning efforts through a series of web-based trainings for Jewish youth professionals across the country and around the world.

This year’s official J-Serve date is Sunday, April 15 (though some communities pick an alternative service date a few weeks before or after to maximize participation). We checked in with Noga Hurwitz, a high school senior from the San Francisco Bay Area, CA, currently serving as BBYO’s Female Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how she’s planning to take part in #jserve2018. Check out what she had to say!

How did you get involved with J-Serve? What’s your background with service/volunteering, and how did that experience draw you to J-Serve?

What sort of project(s) will your J-Serve community be working on?
In the Bay Area, teens from BBYO and NFTY have partnered in creating a hands-on day of service with a menu of volunteer opportunities to cater to different teens interests. Throughout the day, participants will engage in direct service projects with one of eight organizations — with options range from gardening at a local social justice garden to creating advocacy artwork with Habitat for Humanity to creating blankets for kids in need through Project Linus. The event will conclude with meaningful community building programming centered around Jewish values. I had the privilege of spearheading J-Serve in the Bay Area last year, and it has been incredibly exciting to see how this year’s leadership team has continued to build out the event in a way that provides teens with diverse interests and skill sets an opportunity to participate in service and better our community.

What has been the most fun part of working on your project so far?
One of my favorite things to emerge from the J-Serve planning process are the conversations that teens around the world are having with each other about their specific community needs. There is significant forethought that goes into planning a community-wide J-Serve experience, and seeing 15, 16 and 17 year old leaders welcome the challenge of narrowing down the injustice that they will work to address is really cool and inspiring. And that’s just the first part! Being part of these conversations as they evolve into full-fledged projects has also been incredibly rewarding, and I look forward to continuing to support our diversity of J-Serve projects taking place around the world throughout the coming weeks.

What’s been the most inspiring part of working with J-Serve as a leader this year?

What do you think makes J-Serve successful in its ability to excite Jewish teens around the world about service? What makes it special?
Unlike other community service events, J-Serve’s “global” aspect makes it feel like teens have the power to better the entire world. It is empowering to know that as I work on a service project in my local community, teens everywhere are donating their time, efforts, and energy to bettering their communities, as well. Each year, participating in J-Serve reminds me that I am a part of an entire generation of young people who are passionate about creating real and tangible change both locally and globally. The value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, is so central to Jewish tradition, and to see teens champion it through meaningful service programming is what fuels my passion for my own Jewish identity. It is remarkable to see how teens are shaping our current cultural and political landscape around the world, and J-Serve offers a concrete example of how our young leaders are making a real, tangible difference.

Why is doing service specifically in a Jewish context meaningful to you personally? What’s uniquely Jewish about doing good and/or giving back?

Keep up with J-Serve at jserve.org, by tracking #JServe2018 on Twitter and Instagram, and via their Facebook page. For more information on how to get involved, contact Rae Williams

Liberation And #MeToo Collide At The Seder

This article originally appeared in The New York Jewish Week on March 21, 2018.

By Hannah Dreyfus

Eric Thurm, a 25-year-old Brooklynite and writer, has been hosting seders for his contemporaries since his college days.

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5 Haggadahs and other Passover supplements to modernize your seder this year

This article originally appeared in the JTA on March 21, 2018.

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Although Jews have celebrated Passover by reading from the Haggadah in one form or another for 2,000 years, Jewish organizations and publishers strive each year to connect the holiday to modern times with fresh Haggadahs as well as supplements.

If you’re looking to give your seder a distinct 2018 flavor, consider these options — they bring up topics ranging from Donald Trump to Ethiopian chickpea matzah.

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Be’chol Lashon and Repair the World Create New Passover Seder Supplements to Connect Biblical Exodus Story to Modern Struggles for Freedom

New York, NY — To spark conversations connecting the ancient Passover Exodus story to modern struggles for freedom, Be’chol Lashon and Repair the Word are teaming up to offer specially designed seder supplements this Passover (werepair.org/passover). The materials, part of the Passover campaign, #MemoryToAction, encourage seder participants to engage in meaningful, sometimes difficult conversations about how we talk about individual and systemic struggles for freedom in the context of the Passover story.

“Jews are more diverse than many realize,” says Diane Tobin, CEO of Be’chol Lashon, which advocates for the ethnic and racial ​diversity of the Jewish people. “We focus on unique expressions of Passover around the world, while coming together over the universal Jewish story of Exodus. Our goal is to spark conversations, connecting the journey from slavery to freedom to the ongoing fight for racial justice.”

The Haggadah insert, with artwork from illustrator Shane W. Evans, is framed around the seder passage Avadmin Hayinu, Hebrew for “we were slaves.” The resource asks each participant to consider what it means to begin retelling the story of Exodus with the words, “we were slaves,” and leads one to explore today’s “fight for freedom on interpersonal, systemic, global and local levels” through the lens of the seder.

Print-at-home Trivia Place Cards offer a fun, interactive way to celebrate Passover rituals and traditions from diverse Jewish communities while also amplifying the multiplicity of identities and experiences within the American Jewish community. Trivia questions include, “Why do Jews from Gibraltar sprinkle a little bit of brick dust into their charoset?” Answer: “To remind them of the bricks that the Israelite slaves were forced to make.”

People not hosting their own seders, but who still want to use these resources at the seder’s they attend, can sign up to have the resources sent directly to their seder host at weRepair.org/Passover. Others looking to connect Passover with volunteer service, to bring #MemoryToAction, can search for volunteer opportunities at weRepair.org/Volunteer.

Repair the World’s ten-month call for young people to Act Now has included the 2017 High Holidays (Act Now for a Different Kind of Service), Thanksgiving (Act Now Against Hunger), MLK Day (Act Now for Racial Justice); Purim (# ShareHerStory), and concludes with the Jewish holiday of Passover. Repair the World has found that during special times in the calendar people are looking to root their celebration in issues that they care about. Over 223,000 people participated in the digital Purim campaign and nearly 10,000 people participated in service experiences as part of MLK Day’s Act Now for Racial Justice.

“Right now, people across the country, specifically young people, are looking for ways to engage their friends, families, and neighbors in conversations about what matters most to them,” says Laura Belinfante of Repair the World, the largest Jewish service organization in the country. “Holidays, specifically Jewish holidays, are the perfect time to open up conversations about social issues with loved ones. We are excited to see people apply learnings from our history towards action today.”

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