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Archive for : Education

Repair Interview: Talya Gillman on Covenant’s Pomegranate Prize

What has been keeping you busy since you left Repair the World?
After leaving Repair the World in late August, I began work at the University of Washington’s Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center, coordinating – what else? – service-learning opportunities! The majority of our work at the Carlson Center focuses on creating opportunities for 1,000+ students to volunteer with hundreds of different community-based organizations in the greater Seattle area each academic quarter. Enrolled in thematically diverse service-learning courses offered by the university, these students spend time with, and support their partner organizations’ efforts each week, for the duration of the term.

The Carlson Center also facilitates multiple service and civic leadership fellowships, and other community engagement opportunities around town, each of which offer space for reflection and discussion about the complex social realities prevalent throughout the city. Operating at this scale, I draw upon principles of partnership, mutuality, flexibility and empathy each day. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to practice and cultivate commitments to these ideals through my work at Repair over the last several years.

Congrats on getting the Pomegranate Prize! Can you tell us a little more about it?
Thank you! I was certainly surprised and humbled by this honor. The Pomegranate Prize is distributed annually by The Covenant Foundation to a small cohort of young, emerging educators who demonstrate promise in the field of Jewish education.

Although I’m no longer collaborating on the development of training and service-learning curricula for Repair’s programs, the Pomegranate Prize will help me explore something I’ve been thinking about for some time now: the connections between positive character traits (empathy, kindness, generosity, critical thinking, humility, etc.) and practical and impactful social justice work. My goal is to study, support, and build programs that use Jewish teachings, ritual, vocabulary and other resources to cultivate these ‘postures’ in young people, believing that if we can help these traits become more authentically ingrained within individuals and the Jewish community broadly, then maybe we can strengthen our inclinations and abilities to effectively address large and small-scale inequalities in society.

My interest in this work is grounded in learnings and values that have been sparked and deepened through my experiences with organizations like Repair, American Jewish World Service, ATZUM and others, and I’m eager to do what I can to channel the knowledge and insights that have come from them, to help address pressing needs in our world. And, I’m excited about joining the Covenant ‘community’ via the Pomegranate Prize, because it’s clear that so many thoughtful people within it are already doing this kind of work in powerful ways!

What’s next on the horizon for you?
In addition to my work at the University of Washington, I’ve also begun graduate studies at Seattle University (yep different schools ;-)), towards a Masters in Transformational Leadership (MATL). I’m loving it – the content and ideas have consistently been inspiring, challenging, thought-provoking, and more!

Seattle U is grounded in the Jesuit tradition, and/so steeped in principles of social justice (Jewish tradition offers many similar or parallel concepts, to be sure!). The MATL itself facilitates deep exploration of leadership and the mechanics of “meaning-making” in this justice context, and I’m eager to soak up as much as I can in order to develop programs and content that – as I mentioned before – help cultivate positive social values and character traits in more and more young people today.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov had a teaching: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.” But I like to say instead, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to help each other across.” And, I’m grateful for the opportunities the Pomegranate Prize represents, because I’m certain they will help chart new pathways for this important work!

Repair Interview: Sabrina Malach on Shoresh

Over the last two decades, the Jewish environmental movement has grown from a fringe afterthought, to an important aspect of the mainstream Jewish community. Organizations like Hazon and programs like the Jewish Farm School, Teva, and Adamah have made a big impact in the States. Now, an awesome organization called Shoresh, founded in 2009 in Toronto, is helping to expand this awareness to the Canadian Jewish community. Repair the World recently spoke with Director of Community Outreach, Sabrina Malach, about Shoresh’s programming, gardening across the generations, and realizing the dream of land-based Judaism in Canada.

What was the inspiration behind starting Shoresh?
Both the founder, Risa Alyson Cooper, and I are from Canada but lived and participated in programs at The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. We were fellows in Adamah, the Jewish farming fellowship, and Risa was also a Jewish environmental educator with Teva. We talked a lot about what it would be like if we could bring programs like that to Toronto.

When Risa came back to Canada, she had the great idea of starting a community garden in the suburbs, and that was the beginning of Kavannah Garden. At the same time, there was a huge new Jewish community center in development in the northern part of the city, and she had the foresight to approach them about starting the garden there. Most of our other programs stem from there – overall, Shoresh’s success has centered on offering the right programs at the right time.

What types of programs do you run?
Kavannah Garden is our flagship program. Each spring and fall, dozens of day school groups come to visit. Shoresh developed a curriculum for kids from kindergarten to grade 5. It weaves in Jewish and ecological teachings, but is based on Ontario’s curriculum, so it allows teachers to justify field trips. One program example is, we have this bike-powered blender that the kids love. They’ll go and harvest edible weeds and herbs, then go on the bike and turn them into pesto. So it teaches them about plants and nutrition, and helps them learn to see a world where food is everywhere and everything is valuable. It also draws from the Talmudic teaching that it is forbidden to live in a city where there is no vegetable garden.

In addition to the school groups, we have have a family farm drop-in program, and a CSA running out of the garden. It has been so restorative to build this ecological place deep in the heart of the Toronto suburbs. Our hope is that people take the ideas they learn and that they ripple out into their backyards and neighborhoods.

Do you have educational programs outside of Kavannah Garden as well?
Yes, definitely – we work with participants from kindergarten age to people in their 90s. We partnered with the Baycrest geriatric center to develop three gardens. We’ve trained the staff their and also go in every other week to work with clients. It is amazing to sit with bubbes and zaydes there, many of whom have Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia, and talk about growing food. We do a lot of sensory workshops with them, like having them smell herbs. Working with them is a reminder that a lot of the work we do with gardening and food is not new, and that we have a lot of wisdom to glean from our elders.

We also started a new program at the Kensington Market called Maxie’s garden. Kensington was once the center of Jewish food and communal life in Toronto – it was where all the kosher butchers and bakers were located. That is mostly gone now, but there is a man in his 90s who has been living in this house there since 1927. His backyard has some of the best soil I’ve ever seen! We partnered with Toronto’s Jewish Family & Child Services to create a program in his backyard where women working below the poverty line come and grow food. It is amazing to help revive some Jewish food culture in Kensington, while actively bringing social justice into our programming.

What do you have planned for the future?
Our next big project is the creation of Bela Farm, a 114-acre rural center for land-based Judaism, education, and farming in Ontario. Expanding from a quarter-acre garden to a huge farm an hour outside of Toronto is a big jump, so we have spent the last three years visioning with our creative team to think about what we want, and how to make it our own instead of just replicating other farm projects. We hope to fully launch in 2016, but have already started an apiary there, started a small orchard of 17 fruit trees, and planted 300 garlic cloves (originally from Adamah!), which we hope to double this year. We are taking it slow and weaving permaculture and Jewish values like shmita into the design of the space.

How has working with Shoresh impacted you personally?
Personally, it has been so amazing to be able to work with a small organization that does so much amazing work. My own personal interests have been nurtured, and I have had the space to learn and explore while making a difference.

Learn more about Shoresh, Kavannah Garden, and Bela Farm – and see lots of great farm and garden pics! – at Shoresh’s website and Facebook page.

Crowdsourced Summer Reading List!

Ahhh, summer. There’s no better time to head to your favorite bookstore or download a bunch of virtual tomes to Kindle and get reading!

Each summer, Repair the World puts out a hot weather reading list of our fave social change titles. This year, we’ve done the same, suggesting classic and hot-off-the-presses reads that are sure to inspire. But we also want to hear from YOU! Help us create the best-ever crowdsourced summer reading list by letting us know what world-changing books you’re bringing with you to the beach. Share your recs in the comments below or by tweeting @repairtheworld #SummerReading.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS
Maya Angelou
Beloved feminist poet and writer, Maya Angelou, passed away this year. Celebrate her life and work by reading (or rereading!) her classic 1969 autobiography, which explores subjects including racism, identity, and being a woman.

THE THIRD PLATE: FIELD NOTES FROM THE FUTURE OF FOOD
Dan Barber
One of America’s most respected chefs and food activists shares his thoughts on how the local food movement has failed to achieve its goals – and how it can do better. Barber’s food writing is as lively and passionate as it is informative, and this just-released book is among his best.

A FIGHTING CHANCE
Elizabeth Warren
Read the newly-released autobiography of the Massachusetts senator – from her childhood in small-town Oklahoma to her current status as one of the country’s most passionate, rabble-rousing defenders of the middle class.

THE END OF POVERTY
Jeffrey Sachs
Delve into some thrilling (really!) money talk, as economist Jeffery D. Sachs shares his knowledge and vision for creating a “safer, more prosperous future” for the world.

I AM MALALA
Malala Yousafzai
If you haven’t already, now is the time to pick up a copy of the courageous young Pakistani woman and human rights activist who refused to be silenced in her fight for education.

So, what are YOU reading this summer? Tweet us at @repairtheworld #SummerReading.

Repair Inspiration: Eden Village Camp Makes the New York Times

Here at Repair the World, we have been big fans of Eden Village Camp – the Jewish organic farm camp – since the get go. We have profiled their awesome summer program, with its environmentally-focused, hands-on, empowering approach to summer camp education. We even volunteered to help them build their greenhouse!

So we were very psyched to see Putnam Valley, New York-based program profiled recently in the New York Times for its innovative and gutsy “no body talk” policy, which aims to shift kids’ and preteens’ awareness from a body image and style-driven focus to deeper engagement with one another. Check out the excerpt, and read the full piece at The New York Times’ website:

No Body Talk at Summer Camps
New York Times, July 18, 2014

“Last August, on a clear summer day, Tom and Maura Gould were driving their 12-year-old daughter from Eden Village, an organic farming camp in Putnam Valley, N.Y., to their home in Cambridge, Mass., when they started talking about family members who were particularly hairy.

“Why would you want to talk about that?” their daughter, Aviva, asked from the back seat. “There are much better things to talk about than someone’s looks.”

For many people, including children, talking about physical attributes would be no big deal. But for Aviva, this kind of talk sounded an alarm, mostly because she had not heard it at camp.

At Eden Village, staff members and campers follow something called the “no body talk” rule. “The specific rule is while at camp, we take a break from mentioning physical appearance, including clothing,” said Vivian Stadlin, who founded the camp six years ago with her husband, Yoni Stadlin. “And it’s about myself or others, be it negative, neutral or even positive.”

On Friday afternoon, when the campers, girls and boys from 8 to 17, are dressed in white and especially polished for the Sabbath, they refrain from complimenting one another’s appearances. Rather, they say, “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be around you” or “Your smile lights up the world,” Ms. Stadlin said.

Signs posted on the mirrors in the bathroom read, “Don’t check your appearance, check your soul.”

more…

Repair Inspiration: Meet Detroit Fellow Michael Evers of the Bagley Book Brigade

Collaboration is a beautiful thing! Case in point: Recently Michael Evers, one of Repair the World’s Fellows reached out to the good folks at Chalkfly, a socially responsible school and office supply company in Detroit that works tirelessly to find ways to give back to the community, about finding pen pals for a reading program he was starting at a Bagley Elementary School. They were in!

For several months, Chalkfly crew members exchanged pen pal letters with students – getting to know one another through their notes, and inviting the students to visit their headquarters. They also attended a Bagley Book Brigade meeting to help students dream up ideas for a short film they will shoot and edit in the coming months.

All in all, that’s an inspirational story if we’ve ever heard one. Find out more about this great collaboration. Check out what Michael had to say about it on the video below, and learn more about Chalkfly at their website.

Dear Class of 2014…. #RepairGrads Crowdsourced Commencement Speech is Back!

Hey graduates! (And parents, siblings, besties, and buddies of graduates…) These are exciting times, and now is your time to shine.

Around the country, graduating seniors are getting ready to walk down the aisle, receive their diploma, and head off into the wild world. But before they do that, they will listen to a commencement speech (or 7) that is supposed to launch them towards greatness. Don’t get us wrong, we loooove a good commencement speech given by some luminous figure. But we firmly believe you don’t have to be famous to inspire others. So we’re turning to you! 

Last year, Repair the World asked the class of 2013 to tweet their wisdom and inspiring words – in 140 characters or less, of course – to create a crowdsourced commencement speech like no other. Now with another school year come and gone, we’re at it again. As a member – or loved one – of the class of 2014, what would you like to say? To yourself and your classmates? To the students coming up under you? Or to the whole world?

Tweet your thoughts and wishes to this year’s grads at #RepairGrads14. The most ReTweeted wishes are eligible to win amazing prizes from Repair the World!

Need some ideas to get you started? Before twitter and viral videos, the 1997 Kurt Vonnegut commencement speech went viral. (Ok, it may be an urban myth that it was at MIT. And, yes, we know that many of you weren’t yet out of middle school – but it’s a great read). Three years ago, Stephen Colbert rocked it out at Northwestern University, while Ellen DeGeneres got everyone laughing and thinking at Tulane in 2009.

Now it’s your turn!