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Archive for : Featured

Shabbat Service: Supporting Women Leaders and Entrepreneurs

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Shlach tells the story of God instructing Moses to send men to the land of Canaan – the Israelite’s future home – to scope out the situation. Unfortunately they come back with a mostly negative report – of fierce people, fortified cities, and an inhospitable land. Not surprisingly, the report discourages the Israelites from entering Canaan and God punishes them with 40 years of desert wandering.

According to 16th century commentator, Kli Yakar, the tragedy might have been averted if Moses sent women spies instead of men. Why? As Dvar Tzedek author Sigal Samuel writes, “The Kli Yakar’s reasoning is simple: whereas the male Israelites show a lack of investment in the land, the female Israelites show great love for it. Had Moses sent female spies, the Kli Yakar suggests, they would have seen the same terrifying sights as their male counterparts; but, driven by their love for the land, they would have focused on long-term solutions instead of becoming discouraged in the face of difficulty.”

The takeaway: Samuel writes, the parsha reminds us that “like the Israelite women, the women of today’s world [ed. note: and particularly in developing countries] show a great aptitude for creating and implementing the future-oriented plans their nations need—when they are given equal opportunity to do so.” They tend to invest in education and long-term strategies for the health of their communities. (Read more evidence about that here.)

The “to-do”: Invest in the world’s shared future. Donate to micro-loan organizations that support the work of women (and men!) farmers, small business owners and entrepreneurs in the America and across the developing world. Orgs to check out: KIVA, WomenVenture, and Accion.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.

Pursue: Making Summer School Fun with Justice and Jewish Thought

This time of year, when high schools and colleges across the country are closing up shop for the summer months, the idea of summer school might be the last thing anyone wants to think about. But what if you could learn about justice and Jewish thought this summer with small groups of other great people?

This summer in New York City, starting July 9 and going through August 27, Pursue is hosting Justice and Jewish Thought – a city-wide program exploring race, class, gender, sexual identity and anti-semitism through the lens of Jewish identity and social justice. The classes will run weekly for eight weeks and give participants a chance to build community and deepen their understanding of social change.

Best of all, the program is participant-led – so there’s no teacher grading papers. Instead, participants take turns hosting the program in their homes and facilitating the group discussion (with lots of curriculum ideas and assistance provided by Pursue).

So don’t miss this unique opportunity to make new friends, learn about justice and, yes, go to school, this summer. To find out more about participating in Pursue’s Justice and Jewish Thought Summer School, click here.

A Recycled Status: Reflections from a recent college graduate

Around this time last year, I remember reading an overflowing newsfeed of status updates along the lines of: “done with college,” “never going to the library again,” “just finished my last final ever” and my personal favorite, “boom.” And I remember updating my own status, which read: “ARIA AUERBACH IS DONE WITH COLLEGE!!!!!!!!!!” (obviously showing my excitement with all capital letters and an unnecessary number of exclamation marks).

A year later, I’m wondering: how long after you graduate is still acceptable to say: “I just graduated college”?

In addition to the excitement and craziness of holding a Diploma with my name printed on it—which, in retrospect, really just looks like an oversized picture frame with the calligraphy branding paper inside—I remember being a bit worried that all the academic knowledge I stored in my brain from my Psychology degree, wasn’t the same kind of information I was going to need when I moved to New York City.

Things I learned in college:

  • Statistical equations I’m not sure I will use
  • To memorize the MLA and APA style guide
  • Theories named after people who seem especially important
  • Read and highlight. Read and highlight. Read and highlight.
  • Bring coffee to the library

Things I wish I learned in college:

  • Rules of the Microwave: Is it aluminum or plastic that can’t go in? Why is the Popcorn button always 30 seconds more than time than it says on the bag?
  • Do your checks get signed on the bottom right or bottom left?
  • The difference between business casual and business attire
  • How to install a cable box
  • How can I participate in organized volunteer days outside of college?

I learned very quickly that aluminum should not go in the microwave. The popcorn button burns the popcorn. Checks are signed on the bottom left. Business casual can mean anywhere from nice jeans to kitten heels, while business attire does not include jeans and almost always requires a nice jacket. And the cable box…well, I learned to call a handy man.

Three hundred and sixty five days without a science class or a practicum trip to a nearby pre-school, has challenged me to immerse myself in a different kind of learning without a concrete syllabus. A course that is timeless and in which I will always be enrolled: exploring day-to-day “real world” experiences as they come.

So far, some of my most valuable post-college learning has come from experiences of helping others. I’ve begun to learn that the simplicities of my life may be privileges for others. By volunteering at the HOPE Count in early January, for example, I realized that complaining about the tininess of my NYC bedroom is selfish, when clearly there are plenty of folks who do not have a real room to consider home.

In the same way, working for an organization that promotes service and volunteerism has taught me that this is just the beginning. Learning about different kinds of service – whether in my own community or around the world—and understanding that these experiences are powerful for both the person volunteering and the community it helps, has taught me that we can make a difference. And that even I – and other college graduates like me – can be creative, in how we choose to promote and change the world.

Even though I completed my last undergraduate college class a full year ago, I still just graduated college. Sure, I have a different routine now and I don’t spend my weekends in the library. But I still enjoy learning and being stimulated in educational ways—whether it be through working, volunteering, cooking, or exploring new adventures that come my way.

And now, in addition to my academic education in college, and through my initiation into the working world, I’ve also started working toward a degree in RWE, “Real World Exposure.” This is a degree I’ll pursue throughout my life.

So this year, I am eager to recycle part of my college graduate status from last year: “STILL a recent college graduate, with an enhanced understanding of life!”

Can’t wait to see what it will be in 5, 10 and 15 years…

What words of wisdom do you have for this year’s graduating seniors? Tweet us your bits of wisdom for our latest grads using #RepairGrads12.

This post is written by Repair the World Development Assistant, Aria Auerbach.

Do One Green Thing for World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day – an annual event that rivals Earth Day as the world’s biggest celebration of environmental action. The United Nations Environment Program launched the day in 1972 as an opportunity for global awareness around environmental issues, and it hasn’t slowed down since.

This year’s WED theme is “Green Economy: Does it Include You?” (hint, the answer is: yes!). And what is a green economy exactly? It’s an economy that doesn’t pit human needs against the health of the planet. One that supports the development of society and technology, without degrading ecosystems or disrupting plant and animal life. So…supporting electric cars and developing better public transportation options that help us get around while reducing are carbon footprint? Those are part of a green economy. And eating sustainable seafood and supporting the development of wind power? Those are too.

Find out more about the 10 sectors of a green economy here. Then, commit to doing one green thing to celebrate World Environment Day and register what you and your friends are up to here. Need a little inspiration? Check out some photos of WED projects going on around the world, right now!

Need a little more? Check out UNEP Ambassadors Giselle Bündchen and Don Cheadle’s competition to see who can rally more people to get involved with WED. The winner gets to plant the first of 50,000 trees that will get planted today in honor of World Environment Day.

Repair Interview: Mariel Venhuizen on Joining the Peace Corps

Right now, 25-year old Mariel Venhuizen is in the air, flying to Mongolia. It’s a long way from her home town in Los Angeles, but she’s used to traveling – and service. 10 days ago, she got home from a year-long stint in Seattle with AmeriCorps, where she also worked as a Repair the World J-Connect intern at the University of Washington’s Hillel. And now she’s on her way to Mongolia to join the Peace Corps for the next two years.

In between her adventures, Mariel – a self described “nonprofit obsessive” – took the time to speak to Repair the World about her passion for travel and helping others, and why she’s particularly psyched to take this next step.

What made you decide to apply for the Peace Corps?
Travel has always been a big passion for me. I studied abroad in Italy during my junior year of college, and having that opportunity to travel internationally heightened my awareness of the world and what was out there. I also did a service trip with [Repair the World grantee-partner] JDC and spent two years with AmeriCorps, one in Louisiana and one I just finished Seattle. Believe it or not, a year goes by really quickly, so I’m looking forward to spending two years away and having a chance to acclimate somewhere while doing meaningful service work.

Where are you going?
I’m going to Mongolia – I’ll be amongst the 23rd group of volunteers to go with Peace Corps. I didn’t jump up and down when I found out that’s where I’d be going, but I’ve since learned that volunteers there seem to have an incredible experience. A lot of them request to extend their service for a third year and find other ways to return. I’m really excited for the challenge.
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