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Archive for : Education

Serving the Moment in Chicago

I’ve always felt the most Jewish when I’m fighting for a more just world. A feminist research program with a local Chicago Jewish organization first taught me the word “intersectionality” and brought me back to a religion and culture that had felt so alienating and foreign in Hebrew school. When I marched in climate strikes, with Never Again Action, or for racial justice, I would usually bring a sign scrawled with some of my favorite Jewish quotes: “If not now, when?” or “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” I usually brought my shofar, too. And when I started learning more about my identity as a Bukharian Jew, one of my extended family members, knowing my political views, sent along a link for a Facebook group called “Progressive Bukharians” (it’s small but mighty). I am fiercely Jewish, and it is through this lens that I have been able to find my way to practice and exist.

I first joined Repair the World this summer as a Chicago Corps member working with Raise Your Hand, an education equity parent nonprofit organization. I loved it so much that I decided to continue through the fall semester, as well. Serve the Moment is everything that, to me, Judaism is. We sing Jewish music, meet Jewish people, learn about Jewish rituals, all while learning about the oppressive structure of capitalism and housing crises and immigration and injustice through a Jewish lens. Tikkun Olam is the framework through which I believe I have always lived my life, but I am now even more fiercely committed to that ideal: leaving the world better than how I entered.

Being able to work with Raise Your Hand was an absolutely incredible and personally meaningful experience (shoutout to Jianan and the whole team). I learned an immeasurable amount about education injustice in Chicago and beyond. I gained an inside look into community organizing and what goes into successfully pushing for certain policies to be implemented and building people power. Raise Your Hands is also on the frontlines of pandemic-specific advocacy regarding the reopening of schools, protections for teachers, and parent advocacy. Being able to take part in service is important and meaningful. But being able to do so this year, as part of larger COVID-19 responses, was even more so.

But what’s so great about the Service Corps is that that work was complemented by a Jewish-specific analysis of that injustice with my Chicago cohort and the larger group. I could approach secular issues as my fully Jewish self, and use my Judaism as an asset in my service and organizing. Moving forward, I plan to continue organizing and service in general as a whole person committed to Tikkun Olam, my Judaism, and also injustice in the world at large. I credit Serve the Moment with helping me understand that the two are not in conflict with one another.

The world is a really scary and horrible place, but I receive my hope and energy to continue fighting from programs like the Service Corps. I’m really thankful that it exists and that there are so many people around the country who are interested in this kind of work: its impact should not be minimized. 

Madison Hahamy is currently on a gap year from Yale University, where she is reporting for the New Haven Independent, interning for Lilith Magazine, and writing for the Yale Daily News. She is a proud Bukharian Jew and lover of her brother’s service dog, Viego. Madison served as one of 34 Service Corps Members who have served in Chicago since summer 2020.

Families Continue Commitment to Serve

By Kate Thomas

My last family service project before COVID-19 chaos fully took hold was a family Purim celebration at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST). Recently, Senior Rabbi at CBST, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, reflected on lessons from the 90s AIDS crisis that are relevant to today’s pandemic. After reading this article, I felt a combination of uncertainty, strength and a commitment to serve. Just a few short weeks ago, I watched families dress up in costumes and make colorful school supply kits for our partners at East Harlem Tutorial Program, while hamantaschen were served with gloves and tongs, no one knew yet how this pandemic would change future holiday gatherings. 

Now, this project feels like a poignant precursor to how Jewish communities are reacting during this challenging time. We’re still faced with the uncertainty of what’s to come, but we carry on a commitment to service. I hear leaders asking how they can help, folks donating to their local pantries, and families eager to implement service projects into their kids’ time at home. 

At Repair the World, we are nationally engaging volunteers in virtual volunteering and learning opportunities. While we won’t be in person for the foreseeable future, we are thinking of all of you, and especially the families and communities most impacted by this pandemic. For now, we invite you and your family to join us for the many Jewish acts of strength and service we have to share. 

In celebration of Earth Day (4/22), we invite families across the country to join Repair the World Harlem on Sunday April 26th at 11:30-12:30pm from the comfort of your own home for Playdates with a Purpose! We’ll learn how to take care of our planet and lead an at-home project geared toward 3-6 year olds (all siblings are welcome). We’ll feature amazing live music by Tkiya Music and sing songs celebrating the planet. Join by Zoom to play and learn at home, together! Generously made possible by PJ Library, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Register here to receive the link to join! 

While we don’t recommend children picking up trash outside at this time, here are some other safe and fun Earth Day actions you can do with your family! 

  • Make an art project out of recycled items
  • Plant and grow your own vegetables 
  • Make a bird feeder out of recycled items
  • Do a socially distanced nature walk and draw or take pictures along the way  
  • Create a spring garden sensory tub
  • Get a free digital edition of any Ranger Rick magazine
  • Donate to environmental justice organizations 
  • Advocate for better environmental initiatives locally and beyond
  • Find more Earth Day activities for kids here!

We hope your family is staying safe and hope to see you at an upcoming virtual project!

Kate Thomas is a Repair the World Fellowship Alumna and currently serves as the Family & Education Program Manager for Repair the World NYC.

Repair Interview: Rachel Sumekh of Swipe Out Hunger

Repair the World recently launched our High Holiday campaign, focused on advancing racial justice and building relationships between communities. There are many different ways to get involved (Learn about the root causes of racial injustice in America. Host or attend a Turn the Tables dinner. Take action in solidarity with our neighbors as a multiracial Jewish community.) – and we encourage you to explore them all.

Meanwhile, we will be introducing you to some of our favorite change makers. Here’s Rachel Sumekh, the Founding Executive Director of Swipe Out Hunger. Sumekh co-founded the organization – which lets students donate unused points from university meal plans to feed peers and community members facing hunger – during her sophomore year at UCLA. Today, Swipe Out Hunger exists on 23 campuses across the country, and is changing the conversation about poverty and food insecurity on college campuses. Read on…

What was the inspiration behind Swipe Out Hunger?
It started out because we were annoyed with the university for creating meal plans where students who had excess points at the end of a semester lost them. It began informally, with students going into dining halls and buying meals to go, then giving them to homeless and other food insecure people. But the university had some issues with this model. Fortunately, rather than stopping us, they said we should develop a new model. Today, if a student has extra meal swipes, they can opt into the Swipe Out Hunger program and convert that money into resources to help food insecure students.

Read more