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Archive for : Genocide

Three Voices, One Goal: Jewish Service in Participants’ Own Words

What does Jewish service look like? Turns out, the answer to that question is as varied as the people engaging in the service itself.

For some, it’s about digging their hands in the dirt and literally repairing the world by planting a community garden; for others, it’s about helping under-served Jewish populations connect to their faith; and for others still, it’s about deepening their understanding of an important – and sometimes painful – global issue, and then acting on what they’ve learned. Below the jump, you’ll find quotes from participants of three recent service trips. Their inspiring words and stories help to illuminate the many diverse faces and experiences of Jewish service today.
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Repair Interview: A Young Filmmaker

By day, Jonathan Shepard, 27, works for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the sector responsible for the majority of foreign aid used for humanitarian relief and development. By night, weekend and during any other spare time, Shepard creates documentary films with a social justice bent. His most recent effort is called The Sharecroppers, which demonstrates the financial damage inflicted on poultry farmers in Texas who raise chickens for Pilgrim’s Pride. He has also made a short about the Lost Boys of Sudan called, We Died On Our Mothers’ Laps.

“I grew up in a relatively affluent community,” said the West Palm Beach, Florida native, “and somehow it imbued me with a certain desire to explore the world and try to understand those who suffer from genuine hardship.”

He started making short films in high school with his friends (“silly movies” by his own admission), which is how he learned how to edit. Though Shepard didn’t major in filmmaking while a student at Rice University, he did take a class in documentary production and fell in love with the genre. After working on some projects with others, “I felt confident enough in my abilities to start working on my own documentary subjects,” he said.

Shepard was kind enough to answer a few questions from Repair about his filmmaking and goals.
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Service in Pictures

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is perhaps best known for its international charitable work, bringing volunteers, supplies and services to foreign countries where Jews live, no matter how small the population may be in those parts. Their JDC Short-Term Service programs focus not on only those in need but on engaging the younger set – North American college students and young professionals — by sponsoring service trips all over the globe. They have sent missions to Morocco, Cuba and Haiti, just to name a few. But now, after all of this service work abroad, they’re finally coming to a (New York) City near you. At least their pictures are.

From now until January 26th, the Bronfman Center at NYU is hosting a photo exhibit called “Caution: Children at Play.” The pictures were culled from a short-term service trip to Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood, which was run in conjunction with JDC’s Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI). In June, 19 student volunteers from NYU, the New School, FIT and SVA traveled to Israel to work with children of parents who are refugees, asylum-seekers, and foreign workers from Sudan, Eritrea, Ghana, the Philippines, and other countries. Though in the late 90s, there were just 100 asylum seekers in Israel, that number has increased many times over and at present, they are over 22,000 such individuals.
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Skilled volunteers sought for Rwandan youth village

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) is a safe and structured residential community for orphaned children in Rwanda. The Village, which opened its doors to its first class of students in December 2008, is a place of hope where traumatized youth can “dry their tears” (Agahozo) and “live in peace” (Shalom). In December 2010 the third class will enter the Village, for a total of 378 students.

Within this caring environment, the rhythm of life is restored, so that youth who have been through great trauma find a home and a community, as well as a place to learn and become leaders for tomorrow. The youth who come to live and learn in the ASYV will grow into healthy adults who are not only able to care for themselves and their families, but who are also committed to making their community, their country, and indeed the world a better place.
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Examining global examples of youth leadership

The following post is by Amy Schwartz, a volunteer reporting from her summer fellowship at the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya, a project of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Differentiating what leadership means for the youth in America compared to the youth in Africa is a clear topic of discussion.

As you might already know from reading my previous blog posts for HIAServe, I have come here to East Africa as a HIAS Young Leader, a volunteer program of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that I’ve been active in for the last three years. HIAS Young Leaders use advocacy, education, community service, and fundraising to continue HIAS’ longstanding mission of rescue, resettlement and reunification of immigrants and refugees. Young Leaders usually have quite busy professional schedules, yet in their free time they find it extremely important to create awareness on issues that affect immigrant and refugee populations globally.
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Citizenship Day Coming Up This Friday 9/17

This Friday night, September 17th, is Erev Yom Kippur – the start of the Jewish calendar’s most sacred day. But September 17th also marks another notable event: Citizenship Day.

Founded in 2004, Citizenship Day marks the anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It’s history, however, stretches back a bit further. According to,

“The roots of Citizenship Day stretch much farther back beginning in 1940 when I am an American Day was initiated by Congress for the third Sunday in May. The day of September 17th was reached by citizens themselves. In 1952 Olga T. Weber of Ohio successfully convinced her municipality to name the date Constitution Day. The next year she went a step further and petitioned the Ohio government to celebrate the holiday statewide as Constitution Week from September 17-23 and the movement was soon passed.

Citizenship Day, which will celebrate its 14th year this year, gives all Americans an opportunity to express their pride in their citizenship and their country. And what better way to do that than with service? There are many ways you can get involved this Friday – from volunteering at a local retirement community or health center, to getting involved with a local campaign, or organizing a day of learning. And because of the timing, celebrating with service on Friday morning or afternoon is also a great lead into the spiritual services of Yom Kippur.

9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance

Last year, President Barack Obama amended the Patriot Day proclamation to make September 11th a nationally recognized day of service and remembrance. In the proclamation he wrote:

As we pay tribute to loved ones, friends, fellow citizens, and all who died, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and ideals that united Americans in the aftermath of the attacks… I call upon all Americans to join in service and honor the lives we lost, the heroes who responded in our hour of need, and the brave men and women in uniform who continue to protect our country at home and abroad…

Originated by the family members of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the National Day of Service and Remembrance is an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks, and rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.

In honor of the 9/11 day of service, people in towns and cities across the country are planning acts of service – large and small – to strengthen their communities and build stronger bonds with the issues and people they care about. The range of service projects being posted on includes everything from reading to kids in an after school program, to organizing food drives, donating blood, spending a day visiting elderly people in the hospital, and giving funds to cancer research organizations.

Find out how you can help to make 9/11 more than “just another day” by doing an act of service or adopting a local charity here.

Read President Obama’s full proclamation here.

Report from the Field: A HIAS Volunteer in Kenya

Amy Schwartz, PR/Communications fellow at the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya (HRTK), is blogging from Kenya this summer for HIAServe and Repair the World. Amy will be a fellow at HRTK until the end of August, and will continue to update us from the field.

Chapter 1: Karibu To Kenya

Arrival into Nairobi: 13:30 on Monday, the 31st of May to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

See in the distance: Steven, a driver at the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya, holding my name up boldly and smiling. “Karibu!”, he says.

What is Karibu do you ask?

Swahili for ‘Welcome.’

Okay makes sense; he was waiting for me to arrive for my fellowship with HRTK and wishes me Karibu! But what I found out instantly was Karibu doesn’t just mean the standard. ‘Welcome’ that you might see on signs, storefronts, and border crossings.

Karibu also means ‘you are welcome here’. You are welcome here in Kenya. Karibu! A greeting not only to say hello, but that I was wanted here in Kenya. For a moment, I was almost confused! And it wasn’t jet lag.
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Young Judeans Reach Out to Israel’s Sudanese Refugees

Young Judea’s Year Course – a nine-month program for recent high school graduates who want to immerse themselves in learning, cultural exchange and service in Israel – is an increasingly popular way for students to spend their “gap year” between graduating high school and starting college. There are numerous program options that allow students to tailor their trip to their interests. And then there are students like Noah Berman and Sean Macdonald who start their own.

A year prior to starting Year Course, Berman and Macdonald participated in a Young Judea summer program Machon, where they were exposed to many facets of life in Israel, including the community of Sudanese and Darfurian refugees living in Israel. Inspired by the plight of this community, many of whom have faced discrimination and poverty throughout their lives, they and a group of other students decided to create an extra volunteer track for Year Course participants.

The result was Garin Tzedek, a program that engaged more than 50 Year Course volunteers in working with the refugee community. According to Berman, there are approximately 20,000-25,000 African refugees currently living in Israel, of which 35-45% are Sudanese or Darfuri. They primarily live in Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, Eilat, Be’er Sheva and Arad (where the Year Course participants primarily worked.) During their year, the volunteers taught English to members of the community, helped to set up a health clinic, fundraised and raised awareness across Israel about the community’s needs.
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NY Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” Full of Service Heros

It’s that time of year again: 36 Under 36 time! Each year the New York Jewish Week profiles 36 Jewish visionaries and innovators under the age of 36.” In the words of the Jewish Week:

“We shine a spotlight on a new crop of three dozen forward-thinking young people who are helping reshape the Jewish community. They’re revitalizing established Jewish organizations by launching new models of young leadership programs, empowering micro-entrepreneurs here and in Israel, fostering new forms of spirituality, and raising our eco-consciousness. Welcome to the future.”

This year, more than half of the impressive bunch were people working on the front lines of service – a clear indication that service work is an integral part of the Jewish community today, and will be into the future. Check out the list’s service super stars below the jump, and find the whole list here.
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