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Archive for : Disaster Relief & Recovery

Repair the World with Mutual Aid

Repair the World with Mutual Aid!

Mutual Aid initiatives are responding to meet the heightened needs of people across communities. These networks have gained momentum in order to provide necessary relief from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Repair the World staff and Fellows are directly involved in mutual aid efforts. Check out our #MutualAid campaign below where you can learn more about what it is and how to get involved to support your neighbors!

EDIT: Mutual aid is an important way to support and be supported by the community. It has been a tool for grass-roots community care and support long before the pandemic shut down businesses across the country.  Due to the combined public health threats of COVID-19 and police brutality, both compounded by, the work of mutual aid very crucial right now. We are highlighting ways that you can get involved in local mutual aid initiatives and anti-racist actions that support our local communities.

Mutual Aid Slide 1: What is Mutual AidMutual Aid Slide 2: Neighbors coming together in a community-led movement to support those who face barriers to access resources and services.Mutual Aid Slide 3: Mutual Aid Is - centering the needs of those most impactedmutual aid slide 4#MutualAidMondays

Want to talk with a member of our team? Contact [email protected] to get connected or to share information about your mutual aid initiatives. Posted below are a sampling of initiatives across our communities that you can get involved with today.

  • National Listings of Mutual Aid Networks
    • Relief and Resources for Undocumented Immigrants
  • Detroit
    • Donate to Auntie Na’s Food Box Delivery Program through our partner organization, Detroit Jews For Justice.
    • Pass Your Bucks to redirect federal emergency stimulus dollars toward non-profit organizations supporting communities who are least likely to receive stimulus checks.
  • Pittsburgh
    • Support grocery access with Ratzon: Center for Healing and Resistance’s grocery fund! You can venmo @Ratzon-Food-Distro
    • Donate to neighbors through Open Hand Ministries for grocery/rent/mortgage support!
    • The Wellness Collective created the Community Delivery Hotline to ensure that folks with limited transportation and resources have access to their basic needs. Sign up to get resources delivered to you or volunteer to be a driver, intake coordinator, or switchboard operator.
    • Need support and/or can you provide relief to others? Get involved with the Pittsburgh Mutual Aid network!
    • Fundraise for or donate to the PGH Artists Emergency Fund to provide relief for artist/industry folks, many of whom cannot access unemployment and have lost all sources of income for the duration of the pandemic.
  • Chicago
    • Seniors, those living with disability, and folks living in food deserts are most at risk with the continual spread of the virus. Chicago Repair is working with partner: My Block, My Hood, My City to deliver groceries as well as response packages, to ensure access to hand sanitizer, health supplements, toiletries and food; to participate, email [email protected]

Mutual Aid brings together many elements which we value at Repair the World. Volunteers engage with  their communities to build and reify relationships across differences. Mutual Aid brings people together to directly address many of our major concerns, such as food insecurity, criminal justice, education justice and housing. Let’s work together to build communities we wish to live in, where all people can thrive together!

Ongoing Urgency to Aid Houston Recovery Prompts #ActNowHouston

For Immediate Release
February 6, 2018

Ongoing Urgency to Aid Houston Recovery Prompts #ActNowHouston
Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service issues call with Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

Initiative builds pipeline for hundreds of groups, thousands of individuals, to sign up from
Synagogues, Schools, Youth Groups, Community Centers, Federations, more

No Cost for Group Service Programs; Limited Funds Available to Defray Group Travel Expenses

Washington, DC — A new coalition of national Jewish organizations, including BBYO, Hillel International, JDC Entwine, Moishe House, OneTable, Repair the World and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, has issued a call to Jewish community organizations across the U.S. to send groups to support the still-urgent recovery needs in Houston following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey five months ago.

The Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service has partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on #ActNowHouston, placing recruited volunteer groups within ongoing recovery work coordinated by on-the-ground national and local agencies.  #ActNowHouston organizers expect the thousands of mobilized volunteers will aid some of the most vulnerable and underserved communities in the city.

“The need for recovery support remains massive, and Hillel is committed to working with our partners to mobilize the national Jewish community to meet needs across Houston’s Jewish and larger community.  It is a key part of our commitment to engaging students in tikkun olam,” says Eric D. Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International, a Coalition partner.

Hurricane Harvey dumped more than four feet of rain on Houston over four days in August. The devastation resulted in nearly 200,000 homes flooded, including more than 2,000 of Houston’s 26,000 Jewish households, and the closure of entire residential and commercial sectors of the city. Now, the ongoing and emotional strain is mounting for the thousands of Houston families that remain in temporary housing and nonprofit organizations either shut down or operating under severe constraints.

Avital Ingber, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, said, “Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented destruction to Houston, and the Jewish community was hit especially hard. The solidarity and partnership we have experienced with Jewish organizations across the country has been energizing and revitalizing. While full recovery is expected to take years, our partnership with Act Now Houston expedites this critical work.”

Since the Hurricane struck in August, hundreds of volunteers from Jewish communities across the country have self-mobilized and headed to Houston to offer their service.  Organizers expect #ActNowHouston will help extend national awareness of the tremendous need in Houston and lower the costs and difficulty of serving, thereby bolstering the numbers of volunteer groups able to serve.

Matt Grossman, CEO of BBYO, said, “We know young Jews across the country are passionate about taking into their own hands the challenge of meeting important needs in our society.  The power of our community can be seen in our collective ability to provide opportunities for hundreds of groups and thousands of volunteers to serve that passion in Houston.”

Volunteer groups will help remove damaged household items and sanitize homes; package food and deliver essentials to the elderly or homebound; work with individuals coping with ongoing hardship; assist local residents in navigating available resources; and help families get back on their feet through the rebuilding process.  Coalition partners, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and local Houston Jewish organizations and educators will ensure that each group connects with customized, high-quality contextual education about the impact of Harvey and the Jewish values that are driving the work.

Program Manager Sacha Bodner, a Repair the World staff member, works in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston to coordinate Houston’s Jewish service efforts.  Bodner shared his thoughts on the importance of the program. “We have amazing local nonprofit and disaster response organizations on the ground who understand the ongoing needs.  They are working diligently to make sure the visiting service groups and local volunteers have the opportunity to make a real impact for Houston. We know that additional groups are needed – and, working together, the Coalition, the Federation and our local community will ensure that the Houston experience is deep and meaningful for every group.”

Additional Quotes

David Cygielman, CEO of Moishe House, a partner in the Coalition, said, “When Jewish young adults come together as friends and neighbors, some of the things they speak most about are how they might make a difference and whether they might take important actions together. Act Now Houston represents an important opportunity for our young people to come together in their own, self-organized group to address an important challenge.  I’m excited to learn from the results and to do even more.”

Sarah Eisenman, Executive Director of JDC Entwine, a partner in the Coalition, said, “The thousands of alumni of our Jewish community’s immersive service programs, both globally and domestically, represent an untapped power for good –in cities across the U.S.  They are trained, passionate and experienced in Jewish service. It will be inspiring to see them meaningfully engaged with Act Now Houston and other opportunities the Coalition will put forward.”

Aliza Kline, Executive Director of OneTable, a partner in the Coalition, said, “Around thousands of Shabbat tables in hundreds of communities, young adults come together to discuss what’s important to them and what they want to do about it.  We’re thrilled to help with this effort with Shabbat dinner resources for the young adults mobilizing for this initiative.  Together, we will nourish those conversations over dinner in the heart of this action.” 

David Eisner, CEO of Repair the World, a partner in the Coalition, said, “The hardest part of making service meaningful is both to ensure it is meeting urgent needs identified by the community with which you’re serving, and, at the same time, to create for the volunteer a great and educational experience that connects with the local community.  That’s exactly what organizations can expect when they send groups with Act Now Houston.

About the Coalition 

Tentatively titled the Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service, the coalition is under formation.  Inaugural partners are BBYO, Hillel International, JDC Entwine, Moishe House, OneTable, Repair the World and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. In addition to its mobilization for #ActNowHouston, the Coalition will support efforts that build the breadth and effectiveness of the Jewish service movement, especially calling attention to and lowering barriers for young Jews to participate in opportunities to make a difference.  We welcome other organizations interested in joining our efforts to identify, support and promote well-programmed Jewish service opportunities with national reach.  The Coalition is facilitated by Repair the World. The Coalition also is supported by the William Davidson Foundation, Marcus Foundation, and Jim Joseph Foundation. 



Repair Inspiration: Al Gore’s Optimistic Outlook on Climate Change

There’s no question that conversations about climate change can get a little depressing. Ok, a LOT depressing. There is plenty of news out there these days about climate change’s effect on the planet, and very little of it is positive.

That is why we were happy to read about Al Gore’s refreshing outlook in a recent Co.Exist article. As the man behind the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore knows a thing or two about climate change. And so while he does not paint an overly rosy picture, his words of confidence about the growing movement to stem it’s impacts are heartening.

Check out an excerpt below, and find the whole article over at Co.Exist’s site:

Al Gore’s Climate Change Optimism Will Make You Feel A Little Better About The Future
By: Ariel Schwartz

These days, Gore is hopeful that the world will avoid the worst consequences of climate change, even as reports warn that the world hasn’t made any meaningful progress in slashing carbon emissions.

“I think the momentum is generally shifting,” says Gore. He has great hope that the recent People’s Climate March in New York City, an event held in the run-up to last week’s Climate Summit, will contribute to what he calls “a growing social movement.” He’s also encouraged by the 800-plus investors, including heirs to the Rockefeller family’s oil fortune, who recently engaged in a $50 billion divestment campaign from fossil fuels. The U.N. summit, he notes, “has been a trigger for the largest surge of attention by the media to this topic in several years.”

Aside from being a catalyst for other events, the summit itself ended with some significant pledges in play. China, for example, pledged to make significant emissions cuts by 2020–the country’s first big commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.

When I ask if this is a turning point for China, Gore responds he believes “some turning points are kind of rounded. I think China has been rounding the top of this turning point for a couple years now. Next March, we’ll see the definitive commitments China is prepared to make, but we’ve already seen the introduction of a cap and trade system in five cities and two provinces and a declaration that it will be the beginning of a nationwide cap and trade system.”

For more on Co.Exist, check out Repair the World’s interview with editor Ariel Schwartz.

And check out Repair the World’s photo album from The People’s Climate March!

Help Oklahoma Now

On May 20th, 2013, an EF5 Tornado destroyed Moore, Oklahoma and surrounding areas leaving dozens of causalities and injured residents in its 17-mile path. Interested in helping the victims of the Oklahoma Tornado? Here’s a quick list of how to help now, and in the coming months (NOTE: We update this list as more relief efforts are posted.)

  • OpOK Relief has a HUGE list of volunteer events, places that need help, donations being accepted, and people who can point you in the right direction
  • The City of Moore Recovers has options for people who need help, people who want to provide help, and volunteer opportunities
  • OpOk Relief and Moore’s Wedding Registry
  • Nechama is welcoming volunteers in Shawnee, South Oklahoma City, Moore, and Carney
  • Safe and Well Register yourself on the safe and well website, where you can check in or search for loved ones after a disaster.
  • IsraAID continues to assist in cleanup
  • The Red Cross Make a donation to the Red Cross, which provides immediate relief for families impacted by the storm, and is part of the rescue and recovery efforts.
  • Cash donations can be most useful in situations where supplies must be acquired quickly. Find an organization approved to accept disaster donations on the National VOAD Member Page or the Oklahoma VOAD website.
  • United Way of Central Oklahoma Donate to the United Way, which is helping families on-the-ground in Oklahoma, or  sign up to volunteer . Do not self deploy.
  • Restore Photos. GOOD put a call out for Photoshop professionals (and enthusiastic amateurs) to help restore important family photos damaged in the tornado.
  • Dine out for Oklahoma A variety of restaurants in Oklahoma and nationwide will be donating a portion of their sales to recovery efforts. Find out if there’s a location near you.
  • Local shelters If you have friends and family in the area, pass along this list of local and temporary shelters that are springing up in the area to house people who lost their homes in the storm.
  • JDRC did some great work in the days immediately following the tornado, follow them for more in the future
  • Mashable has great list of various ways to help
  • is promoting Healing through Art : After traumatic experiences, young kids sometimes have a hard time processing what they’ve been through. In these instances, like the one in Moore, OK, art can help art can help them work through their grief in a creative way, starting the healing process.

Know of opportunities to help out Oklahoma tornado victims? Tweet using  #OKvolunteer @repairtheworld

Help Boston Recover

This morning, President Obama visited Boston to attend an interfaith service in honor of the people who were injured or killed during the bombing at the Boston Marathon. As of now, the details of the two bombings remain unclear. What is clear is how, as always happens in times of tragedy, the people of Boston and people across the country came together to help one another and show that love is stronger than fear. Here are some ways you can help now:

One Fund Boston – Help the impacted families recover from injuries sustained during the marathon. This fund, set up by Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick, and Boston’s Mayor Tom Menino will help the families most affected.
Give Forward – Support one family that was seriously impacted by the bombings.

Run in Brooklyn for Boston Join other runners this Saturday for a solidarity run. There are similar runs going on across the country.
Register your family Register at the Red Cross’s Safe and Well listing, a central location for people to find out news about their loved ones after emergency events.

Do you know of other opportunities to help the victims and families impacted by the Boston marathon bombing? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld #Boston.

Sandy Relief Interview: Avigail Hurvitz-Prinz

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Repair has sought to bring you stories from service superstars reflecting on their volunteerism. This week we are excited to feature a guest post by Avigail Hurvitz-Prinz, who volunteered at an evacuation shelter in the days immediately following the storm:

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is a bit hard to process, but I realized that some of my friends and family really didn’t understand what has been going on here so I’m going to do my best to share some of my thoughts and some of my ideas in order to give folks who aren’t right here (and even some of us who are) a bit of a chance to better understand what’s going on and even a bit more of a sense of how to help.

The actual Hurricane had only the smallest effect on me and mine — our internet went out, and the sound of the wind was terrifying but I went to sleep early and when I woke up in the morning and went outside it looked like we’d had a big storm, but the mat of (mostly green) leaves on the ground and a few downed branches on my block were the only signs that there’d been a storm. That first day after the storm became “hurrication,” particularly in my lovely neighborhood. With no transportation options open, and limited access to computer systems across the city, the day was devoted to walking around with friends, finding the spots that were open and drinking coffee in our regular cafes. The mood was joyous and celebratory, aware of how lucky we were. I ran into a bunch of my favorite neighbors and enjoyed the chance to sit with them and enjoy an extra day of vacation. It took me a couple days to begin to understand the desolation the storm had wrought. I still can’t really comprehend it.

On Thursday I got dressed to go to work, thinking that I was going to go to my placement. But, our computers were down and my supervisor couldn’t get into the office — so she suggested that I not come in. So, I ran back home and thanks to my roommate, got motivated to do some volunteering. I got some donations together of books and games and went to the evacuation center in my neighborhood. One of the best high schools in Brooklyn is in my neighborhood, Brooklyn Tech, and it has been turned into an evacuation shelter, particularly for nursing homes and adult home facilities in Coney Island and The Rockaways. For all of the challenges before these folks they have hot food, heat, hot water for showers, a safe place to sleep, and medical attention whenever they need it.

I went in to volunteer and waited for a while before a person asked me to join her in the gym. She explained quickly that she was a volunteer who was hoping to come back for another overnight shift, but that she’d already been dealing with a medical situation this morning. The folks in the gym where I spent most of my time were people who live in an adult home — most have pretty severe psychiatric diagnoses, are isolated and have very limited resources. In that room most of the people were ambulatory, but slow and often unsteady on their feet. The first thing I noticed when I went into the gym was the smell of a mass of humanity who haven’t been able to change clothes in days. The folks I met who’d been evacuated from the adult home reminded me of folks that I meet at my placement — people living on public assistance who are pretty slow moving – mentally and physically. Just like at my placement there’s a question about why that is — is it their negative symptoms of schizophrenia that I’m seeing? or is this a side effect of the meds they’re taking? or is this just boredom and not being engaged enough?

The gym was full of cots, I’d estimate about 175 in that one space. People are living their entire lives with no privacy, with no quiet, no pillow and one blanket. So my volunteer job that I appointed myself to do was to walk around slowly, making eye contact with the people who were awake. People would call me over occasionally to ask for water or coffee. Coffee was a bit of a challenge but, following the lead of the volunteer before me, i’d stealthily steal cups from the staff lounge. People requested 3, 4 even 6 sugars / sweeteners. It blew my mind a little bit, but the last thing I wanted to do was to be stingy with anything for these folks, given how few resources and pleasures they had. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have complicated feelings about this.

But back to the context. For whatever reason, those places on Coney Island weren’t evacuated until the water was literally coming into their buildings. Their staff of nurses had been with them since the evacuation and hadn’t been home to their families or on a real break since their arrival. They were exhausted and grumpy, and one of the first task I put myself on was trying to figure out how to help them. This ultimately meant finding snacks, juices and sugar for coffees for the nurses and trying to get them to smile.

Over the 10 or so hours that I volunteered over two days I had some of the following interactions:

  • A evacuee I’ll call Phil (age 64) serenaded me multiple times (some songs he wrote and a rendition of New York, New York and Maria), shared his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, told me about missing his wife who’s been dead for a few years and also about the abuse he suffered in childhood. I took him “shopping” in the clothing donations and helped him find clean socks, underwear and some warm clothes. He drinks his coffee with 4 sugars and spends most of his social security checks buying cigarettes and coffee for friends. He was warm and visibly excited to see me each time I came to visit.
  • Another evacuee named Margie was separated from her group and had difficulty walking through the building to find them. She sent me out looking — and I was happy to help but spent about an hour trying to track them down (unsuccessfully). After about another hour of work I managed to confirm that they were still there and even talk to one of the shelter staff about her situation and change her misspelled name in the center’s database. She seems to have a tough life and was probably recently homeless and living in a long-term shelter. We exchanged little notes written on scraps of paper. An except from the one she wrote to me …yes, these are trying times but your sincerity really lifted my spirits…
  • This one’s gonna be in Jewish code — I’ll translate with more details for you in another email if you want. In talking to some of the residents from the adult home it seemed like the orthodox Jews weren’t eating the non-kosher food they were being served — which means days of subsisting on fruit and carrots and yogurt. I did some asking around and got a little bit of kosher food delivered to them thanks to a local Chabad rabbi and his networks. I did not manage to get a particular evacuee a chumash, though thanks to friends of mine we did get him bsamim for havdallah. So when I saw him preparing to do the ritual I asked him if I could join — and he said yes. So this old, browbeaten, isolated and ill ultra-Orthodox guy made havdallah for me. Using the spices and the grape juice I had managed to get for him. He had no idea what to make of me in my jeans, but I felt like I really had done a real chesed for him. I can’t think of another context where we’d have any interaction as positive as that one, but after havdallah I wished him a shavuah tov and started to walk away when he called me back to say “a gut voch.”

I’ve never done crisis work before — and I feel blessed to have been a little bit prepared for it by Social Work School. I feel a lot of security in the choice that I made to do this program — and that those skills of helping people connect with resources have never been more useful.

I have been having real feelings — guilt, anger, frustration, pride, joy, and then back around to guilt, anger, frustration, pride, joy and on and on. It has been incredibly important to me in the last few days to try to hold contradictions in mind …eilu v’eilu…

I am incredibly lucky and blessed. My friends, my family are safe and sound and healthy. We were, at worst, inconvenienced. And, many of my people are at their best right now. I’m inspired by my two closest tribes — the Jewish community and my friends in Brooklyn. I’m inspired by their efforts. I also observe that the people who are best mobilized are plugging into community organizations that are expert organizers (like synagogues, churches and Occupy).

It hardly conveys how much hard work they’ve done, but I know that they have:

  • bought and distributed cold weather clothes,
  • biked supplies to distant locations that are difficult to reach due to gas shortages,
  • worked overnight volunteer shifts at evacuation shelters,
  • planned benefit concerts,
  • baked treats for volunteers,
  • delivered supplies to homebound seniors,
  • and just generally behaved with true menchlichkeit.

That said, there is so much need. It is hard to comprehend from our safe homes. It is also totally mind-blowing to think about how physically close the destruction is. But most of the people I know have resources and can do much to share them. Not just today, but in the long aftermath of the storm.

Some people feel confused about how to give, or guilty that they aren’t able to give enough. I want to put myself out there as a resource to help you talk through some of your ideas and work towards finding you ways to plug in. I imagine there could be some small way of contributing to the relief efforts in a way that makes sense for you. It could be as simple as donating a bit of time or money to Occupy Sandy, or following the posts on Congregation Beth Elohim’s facebook page for up to date information about needs they’ve identified or donating blood in NYC or nationally. Nechama is coordinating cleanup efforts in the NJ Jewish community. If you just have a bit of cash you can buy supplies on this Amazon registry that will be shuttled out to places that need them.

Even though the storm hit the East Coast almost three months ago, so many people continue to suffer. The sites listed above remain great resources to find ways to participate in the relief effort, and new ways to help as needs continue to develop every day. I’m thrilled that so many people have been able to chip in as individuals — but this truly is a national disaster, and deserves a national response. So, don’t forget to continue to help to preserve our country’s commitment to real people, who depend on each other for support in good times and in hard times.

Sending love from Brooklyn,