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Grist 50 2021

This article first appeared on Grist. 

A few years ago, Yoshi Silverstein began dreaming about a community center that could weave together the threads of his life — fitness and movement, his Chinese and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, a love of nature, and outdoor teaching and leadership. At the time, he was directing a fellowship within the burgeoning JOFEE movement — Jewish outdoor, food, and environmental education — but wanted to create something tangible and local.

 

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Repair the World’s Haggadah Insert: Ten Plagues on Housing Injustice

This article originally appeared in Boulder Jewish News on March 26th, 2021. 

Each year on Passover, Jews and their communities gather around Seder tables and open the door for Elijah, a messenger of hope, as we retell the story of Exodus. This #Passover, join us to #ServeTheMoment and open the door to housing justice.

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‘We simply feel forgotten about:’ 9 Asian American Jews Speak

This article originally appeared in The Forward on March 20th, 2021.

In partnership with Rabbi Mira Rivera of Romemu in New York, N.Y., we’ve asked nine Asian American Jewish leaders to share their experiences in this painful time, as well as thoughts on how American Jews can and should offer support to the Asian American community. Their responses, which have been edited for length and clarity, are below.

 

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Nonprofits stepping up to bolster COVID vaccination efforts

This article originally appeared in The Washington Post on March 5th, 2021.

Volunteers power many nonprofits’ efforts to support vaccine distribution. In Washington, D.C., the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center tapped students from the George Washington University chapter of the Jewish campus-life group, Hillel, to manage its work to assist older people in securing vaccination appointments.

The collaboration inspired Repair the World, a national Jewish relief organization, to launch similar efforts nationwide that will encourage young adults to volunteer to help those in need get shots. And the Washington project now collaborates with other local social-service nonprofits to help the homeless, refugees, and low-income people — not just older adults — access vaccines.

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New Initiative Connects Seniors and Other Vulnerable Populations with Tech-Savvy Volunteers to Help Navigate Complicated Vaccine Appointment Systems

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Jason Edelstein

510/239-1102

New Initiative Connects Seniors and Other Vulnerable Populations with Tech-Savvy Volunteers to Help Navigate Complicated Vaccine Appointment Systems

Successful Pilot Program Now Replicated Nationwide

(NEW YORK) — The Vaccine Appointment Network‘s project template helps communities connect tech-savvy volunteers with seniors and other vulnerable populations to help them get appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine. Powered by Repair the World, the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center in Washington DC (EDCJCC), and Hillel at the George Washington University (GW Hillel), the Networks’ first training session included hundreds of participants from organizations around the country. Organizations can access the Network’s toolkit to start building a local program to match volunteers to vaccine-eligible community members locally.

“We’re building a network of organizations and young people who are committed to helping the most vulnerable get this vaccination,” said Jordan Fruchtman, Senior Director of the Jewish Service Alliance at Repair the World, which mobilizes Jews and their communities to take action to pursue a just world, igniting a lifelong commitment to service. “The model is proven to work, and by providing an easy-to-use project template for communities to adapt the program locally, we can impact thousands of lives.”

EDCJCC and GW Hillel launched the model in Washington, D.C. by connecting their community’s population of seniors with student volunteers, respectively,

“Young people want to make a difference and help at risk older adults to better navigate the complex vaccine system and secure appointments,” says Reuben Rotman, President/CEO of NJHSA, which is sharing the Vaccine Appointment Network’s Toolkit with its Network. “We’re excited to bring this much needed program model to front line Jewish human service agencies and their clients.”

By putting out a call to their population eligible for the vaccine, EDCJCC recruited 200 seniors for the program in one week. A similar call from GW Hillel for volunteers resulted in 100 sign ups—just in the first week. They’ve now matched 200 seniors with volunteers.

“The COVID-19 vaccine registration process is tedious, frustrating, and emotional for many, but especially for our country’s most vulnerable,” says volunteer Sarah Boxer of George Washington University’s Class of 2022. “After a year of immense trauma and suffering, older adults should not need to navigate ten different websites and compete with younger, faster typers for a potentially life-saving vaccine. The Vaccine Sign-Up Support project found a way to build companionship and community out of an exhausting process. It feels incredible to be part of the GW Hillel community knowing that we are willing to take meaningful action to help when a need arises.”

Background

The COVID-19 vaccine roll out in the United States is in desperate need of volunteers. Eligible community members across the country,  particularly seniors over 65, are struggling to navigate the complex online systems needed to schedule an appointment to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. Young adults make ideal volunteers for this effort, with native internet skills and a desire to support their communities.

Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, DC (EDCJCC)  and  Hillel at the George Washington University (GW Hillel)  pioneered a successful approach to this problem by connecting EDCJCC’s population of seniors with GW Hillel’s population of student volunteers. Repair the World loved this model – and we wanted to bring a similar strategy to as many communities as possible. Recognizing that a hyper-localized vaccine roll-out required a local approach,  Repair the World  set out to replicate EDCJCC and GW Hillel’s materials to create a templated vaccine sign-up support program toolkit for any local community to adapt to their needs.

According to Jewish tradition, someone who saves a life is credited as if they have saved an entire world. By supporting vulnerable community members in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, we have a chance to live out the Jewish value of piku’ach nefesh (saving a soul) in a direct and meaningful way.

The Vaccine Appointment Network is a project template for a community-based program matching tech-savvy volunteers with eligible community members (focusing on seniors ages 65+) for support navigating the COVID-19 vaccine appointment process.

Dialogue, events, foster equity, inclusion during Social Justice Week

This article originally appeared in The University of Miami’s [email protected] on February 22nd, 2021.

Last week, students across the University of Miami’s Coral Gables Campus participated in various discussions and events as part of the Butler Center for Service and Leadership’s annual Social Justice Week. The programming, supported by multiple student organizations and campus departments, aimed to promote dialogues, experiential activities, and initiatives that foster equity, justice, and inclusion to bridge gaps within the campus community.

The final virtual event, “Beyond the U,” discussed homelessness, gentrification, and food insecurity in the Miami community. The discussion took place in partnership with Repair the World Miami, a local nonprofit that encourages communities to pursue a just world, and the University of Miami Hillel.

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Jewish orgs. in America advocating for social justice, advocate education

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Post on February 21st, 2021.

Repair the World and the Jewish Theological Seminary, two organizations advocating for Jewish education and social justice, are teaming up to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders.

The two announced a strategic partnership to support the alumni of the Repair the World Fellowship and Repair the World Staff by offering reduced tuition to study at the seminary.

“The Jewish Theological Seminary is excited about partnering with Repair the World,” said Missy Present, chief enrollment officer at JTS. “The combination of social justice training and higher education instruction can help set students up for a successful career in the social justice sector.”

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The Edge: What’s Different About This Recession and Why That Matters to Higher Ed

This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education on February 17th, 2021.

Three weeks ago, the Hillel chapter at George Washington University began working with a local Jewish community center to help older residents of the D.C. region navigate the digital obstacles to sign up for coveted Covid-19 vaccines. Tech-savvy college students stepping up? Cool, I thought — not to mention a great model for all sorts of other student groups.

The project has since expanded, with more than 250 students and alumni from GW and neighboring colleges now volunteering to help seniors get appointments for the jab. And the effort is going national. The Hillel chapter is sharing its training materials and FAQs with an organization called Repair the World so that volunteers in other communities can work with local organizations to offer a similar service. Adena Kirstein, executive director of the GW Hillel chapter, said Repair the World, which is better positioned to scale up the program, could be promoting new partnerships within weeks.

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Beth Samuel’s small religious school perseveres through pandemic

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle on February 15th, 2021.

Older students have hour-long Sunday experiential activities and discussions, complemented by asynchronous Hebrew language lessons, said Homich. During a recent session, a conversation about the Torah’s mandate to care for pets was followed by a crafting activity in partnership with Repair the World Pittsburgh. Participants made a chew toy for dogs and a catnip pretzel for cats. The items will be donated to the Beaver County Humane Society, and a future project is planned with PJ Library.

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Jewish college students volunteer to help local seniors register for vaccine

This article originally appeared in The Forward on February 14th, 2021.

In less than a month, the JCC-Hillel initiative has registered 105 seniors for vaccines as of Thursday morning, according to Adena Kirstein, the executive director of the GW Hillel. More than 780 seniors have requested assistance via the program, and around 300 people have signed up to volunteer — two-thirds of them, students. Now, the group is in touch with Repair the World, the Jewish community service nonprofit, discussing strategies for bringing their grassroots effort nationwide.

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