Students Extend Community’s Reach With Harvey Recovery

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Herald Voice on April 4, 2019. 

By Michael C. Duke

Hillel students from California participated in an alternative spring break program that brought them to Houston, where they spent a week rebuilding a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

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How to Create an Effective and Meaningful Service Experience

This piece first appeared on the Schusterman Family Foundation’s blog celebrating National Volunteer Week on April 11, 2019. 

As Interim President & CEO of Repair the World, Cindy Greenberg helps make meaningful service a defining element of American Jewish life. We spoke with Cindy to learn why Repair the World focuses on a service-learning approach, how to plan a successful service initiative and the ways service has changed in recent years.

What motivated you to pursue a career focused on service?

Cindy Greenberg, Interim President & CEO of Repair the World

Service has always been an important part of my identity and was a defining part of my vision for building Jewish life during the 15 years that I worked for Hillel. The Jewish community I sought, and the one that so many of the students I worked with demanded, was one that is deeply engaged in service.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City. The Jewish community I was working with immediately stepped into action. In the days and months following the storm, we mobilized thousands of volunteers to care for our impacted neighbors, providing food, supplies, medical care and even respite. It forever shaped my understanding of how compassionate New Yorkers are and how the Jewish community comes alive when it is showing up to support others.

It was also a moment of personal reckoning for me. The people we were serving, my neighbors, weren’t just impacted by a natural disaster, but by systemic poverty, and I was inspired by the power of the Jewish community to make change.

What is service-learning, and why does Repair the World focus on this practice?

At Repair the World, we focus on meaningful service where volunteers learn, act and reflect. If you join us in one of our local Communities to volunteer—for example, if you rescue food that’s about to be thrown out with 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh, or you tutor students in Detroit with Brilliant Detroit—you’ll help to address an immediate need in your neighborhood.

And we think it’s important to do more than that. We dig into the systemic issues that cause the need in the first place and we reflect together on what we experienced. We ask hard questions, often grounded in Jewish text, about our responsibility for our neighbors, about whether our service really matters and about how we might create a more just society.

Research shows that this learning and reflection—closely coordinated with the service itself— helps those serving find deep meaning in their efforts, and makes it more likely they will continue to engage in service to create change and to support others.

How does service help people overcome implicit bias?

All of us who consume American culture have deeply internalized unconscious assumptions that we make about people based on their race. Research shows that the most effective way for people to shift their own implicit bias is through individuation, which means increasing the quantity and quality of our relationships with people from historically oppressed groups.

Service that is done alongside neighbors of different backgrounds is a powerful way to build relationships and uproot our internalized biases. And this matters a lot because that bias can inform our everyday decisions about where we live, shop, dine and who we interact with. In this way, our service has the power to not only transform our communities, but to also transform ourselves.

What advice would you give to someone looking to create an effective and meaningful service experience?

My number one piece of advice would be to invest time in partnership. Make sure your service is driven by the needs of the community, and not by the needs of the volunteers. Don’t organize a drive and then try to identify a place to donate it. Instead, invest the time in identifying a partner who is doing quality work and ask them what is needed. Show up to see them in action and get to know them. Make an ongoing commitment. Try to organize the service to work alongside the people most affected by the issue. The best service experiences blur the lines between who is serving and who is being served.

How has service changed over the last few years?

I see two trends in service right now. The first is that we’ve reached a tipping point in our culture in acknowledging that inequity is tied to racism. We’re seeing that our Fellows and volunteers want to engage in learning and discussion about how racism impacts the issues we’re trying to address. For example, when we volunteer as tutors in an afterschool program, the discussion about education inequity leads to deep questions about school segregation and how race impacts education outcomes in our communities.

The second is that since the 2016 election and the growing divide in our country, there’s been a growing number of people seeking out ways to understand and connect with people of different backgrounds, and service is one way to do that. There’s also a growing desire to show up to support communities who are feeling marginalized right now.


Cindy Greenberg is the Interim President & CEO of Repair the World and a Schusterman Fellow. Previously, she served as the founding Executive Director of Repair the World NYC. Cindy lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Dan, and three children, and she has a passion for launching and managing innovative initiatives in Jewish life.

Repair the World engages thousands of people in ongoing volunteer opportunities every week in Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Miami, NYC, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and sparks conversations around social justice that lead more people to want to volunteer in their communities. This Passover, check out Repair’s #MySederServes campaign, which includes seder resources for meaningful conversations and volunteer opportunities in your community

Spring Break in Brooklyn

This article originally appeared on the UF Hillel blog on Thursday, April 4.

By Andrew Nissensohn 

Spring Break 2019 was such an incredible experience for me. I participated in the University of Florida Hillel Alternative Spring Break, with Repair the World NYC. Five students from the University of Florida Hillel, spent five days in Brooklyn, New York, volunteering with various service partners of Repair the World.

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Panel discussion at Mt. Lebanon library addresses food justice

This article originally appeared on The Almanac South Hills Community News on Monday, April 1.

By Harry Funk

If you’re not familiar with the concept of food justice, let Molly Patterson explain.

“At a very basic level, food justice would mean that everyone has access to the food that they need, and not just any food, but healthy food,” South Hills Interfaith Movement’s operations coordinator said.

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#ShareHerStory – a Jewish Multiracial Network, Jewish Women’s Archive, weRepair.org Project

This article originally appeared on Daily Kos on March 24, 2019.

By Daily Kos contributor

Although the Book of Esther read this past week tells us she was queen —like Queen Vashti before her— the significance of these women is not for royalty. It is for their courage and determination in the face of danger, to refuse to abide by limits placed upon women as less than equal stature human beings.

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Maya Hawkins, Volunteer at Digital Girl

This article originally appeared on Righteous Crowd on March 22, 2019. 

By Righteous Crowd

During this week’s celebration of Purim, we read about Queen Esther, who proudly and bravely stands up to King Ahasuerus, ultimately saving the Jews from the evil Haman. In honor of Queen Esther, we are excited to support Digital Girl, a Brooklyn-based organization that that works with inner city youth, especially girls, to learn and pursue activities and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Read our interview below with Repair the World NYC Fellow, Maya Hawkins.

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South Florida Jewish community makes the call on Super Sunday, Good Deeds Day

This article originally appeared in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on March 22, 2019. 

By Sergio Carmona

Jewish federations in South Florida provide opportunities for volunteers to come together and perform community service at Super Sunday phonathons and Good Deeds Day events.

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J-Serve 2019: Teen Leadership Perspective from Emma Herman

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 (along with BBYOGood Deeds Day, and Youth Service America, among others) and supports global planning efforts through a series of web-based trainings and other educational resources for Jewish youth professionals and teen leaders across the country and around the world.

J-Serve 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of this powerful global initiative and is poised to be the biggest and best year yet, engaging more than 15,000 teens in meaningful service, advocacy, philanthropy and other social impact experiences throughout the spring. This year’s official J-Serve date is Sunday, April 7 (though some communities pick an alternative project date a few weeks before or after to maximize participation).

We checked in with Emma Herman from Washington D.C., currently serving as BBYO’s Female Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how she’s planning to take part in #JSERVE2019. 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?

As a native Washingtonian, I feel fortunate to be part of an area with such a unique platform from which to advocate and serve. My BBYO community of ‘DC Council’ takes full advantage of our hometown, planning many small/large-scale projects to engage hundreds of local teens  through J-Serve. From partnering with national organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to assembling care packages for newly settled refugees in/around DC, we’ll truly be leaving no stone left unturned. As we gear up for what will be the biggest and best J-Serve season to date, I’m so excited to help lead my community’s efforts to make an impact, and I’m proud to do my part as we rally together alongside Jewish teens everywhere to enact real change.

What has been the most fun part of working on your project so far?
In my role as BBYO’s International Sh’licha (the Female Teen VP of Jewish Enrichment), I work closely with communities around the world to help bring their J-Serve vision to life. So far, my favorite part of this process has been initial conversations with my counterparts, discovering what ignites their fire for driving change. In the many calls/emails that have followed, I continue to be inspired by their dedication to creating fun, interesting, and meaningful opportunities to engage their peers through service, advocacy, and other forms of social change supporting causes about which they are so passionate. As we approach J-Serve 2019, I look forward to doing everything I can to support the strengthening of all aspects of these amazing events every step of the way!

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?
The Talmud states, “We, the youth, are the builders.” In my opinion, J-Serve is the perfect embodiment of this notion in its ability to excite Jewish teens to take the reins, devoting time and energy into something that truly matters together with their peers around the world.  I’m proud to be part of a generation that refuses to sit back, instead constantly seeking opportunities to improve our world through initiatives like J-Serve. Additionally, what makes J-Serve so special is the fact that while one teen group may only interact with one service project, across the globe there are more groups of Jewish teens doing good work, too. As such, J-Serve provides an incredible platform from which teens are empowered to experience the magnitude of our global Jewish community on a local level.

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 #JServe2019 on Twitter and Instagram, and via their Facebook page. For more information on how to get involved, contact Rae Williams.

Purim inspires #ShareHerStory 2019

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Advocate on March 13, 2019.

By The Jewish Advocate

#ShareHerStory, an initiative powered by the Brookline-based Jewish Women’s Archive, Jewish Multiracial Network and Repair the World, is inspired by the story and legacy of Queen Esther, a Jewish woman of color, who risked everything for her people.

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J-Serve 2019: Teen Leadership Perspective from Liam McLean

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 (along with BBYOGood Deeds Day, and Youth Service America, among others) and supports global planning efforts through a series of web-based trainings and other educational resources for Jewish youth professionals and teen leaders across the country and around the world.

J-Serve 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of this powerful global initiative and is poised to be the biggest and best year yet, engaging more than 15,000 teens in meaningful service, advocacy, philanthropy and other social impact experiences throughout the spring. This year’s official J-Serve date is Sunday, April 7 (though some communities pick an alternative project date a few weeks before or after to maximize participation).

We checked in with Liam McLean from Milwaukee, WI, currently serving as BBYO’s Male Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how he’s planning to take part in #JSERVE2019. 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 hometown of Milwaukee, WI, BBYO Wisconsin Region is going big for J-Serve this year, hosting a Youth Advocacy Shabbat Dinner in partnership with the MCRC, NFTY, and surrounding synagogues. This event reflects an exciting new direction for our community’s J-Serve, which has traditionally focused on direct service. We made advocacy the core of J-Serve this year to be part of a shared global focus on diversifying teen social action efforts as part of the initiative’s 15th anniversary celebration. With this exciting new approach to our J-Serve experience, we hope to welcome even more Jewish teens from across the community – many of whom aren’t formally affiliated with Jewish institutions (yet!) – to participate in this innovative program that will hopefully inspire a continued connection through future social action events, too!

What has been the most fun part of working on J-Serve so far?
I feel truly privileged to have the opportunity to support the planning of J-Serve events around the world, in partnership with my peers, through my role as BBYO International Shaliach (or Male Teen VP of Jewish Enrichment). So far, my experience has shown me the undeniable power of Jewish teens to create J-Serve projects and events supporting causes that best represent their passions through meaningful programming designed to make a real, positive impact on each local community. I’ve learned that J-Serve is incredibly powerful in elevating the welfare of communities because – when done right – it is absolutely a catalyst for local change on a global scale. There’s really no better feeling than knowing that the hard work you and your friends are doing is poised to change the world.   

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?
Ultimately, I believe that choice is the trait that makes J-Serve so special. In my experience, I’ve found that J-Serve’s commitment to empowering Jewish teens to choose causes and social action efforts that they wish to serve is a unique spark that drives teens to become passionate (or deepen their existing passion) for social action. When a community is championing a cause that best represents their interests and community needs, we are ensuring that there’s ample energy and drive to fuel their efforts. J-Serve is the ultimate platform for grassroots social change, and – IMO – the power of choice in the hands of teen leaders shaping these experiences is one of the many reasons that J-Serve is a force in the Jewish community worldwide.

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 #JSERVE2019 on Twitter and Instagram, and via their Facebook page. For more information on how to get involved, contact Rae WilliamsJ-Serve 15th Anniversary Logo