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Archive for : Holidays

High Holidays 2013: 10 Days of Awe, 10 Ways to Serve

The high holidays are nearly here! In just a few days (starting the evening of September 4), Rosh Hashanah – aka the Jewish New Year – kicks off of the high holiday season. A little more than a week later we come to Yom Kippur, which is considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

The 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, often called the “days of awe,” are a joyful time filled with family and celebration. They are also a very solemn and important time when Jewish people turn inward and reflect upon their lives, relationships, and spirituality. In doing so, they aim to return to the best versions of themselves, and set good intentions for the coming year.

The high holiday season also offers an amazing opportunity to make a commitment to service and helping others. So in honor of the 10 Days of Awe, Repair the World is bringing you 10 ways to serve during – and after – the high holiday season. To amp up the high holiday spirit even further, each service opportunity is linked to a symbol of either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

Learn more about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur’s significance, traditions, and connections to service, and have a shana tova / happy new year!

APPLES
Tradition: There is a custom of eating apples on Rosh Hashanah. Their sweetness and round shape represent our hopes for a sweet and full New Year.
How to serve: Help the farmers who grow those apples – and all the produce we eat! Shop at the farmer’s market, find where to get local food near you via Local Harvest, and check out our partner organizations, Jewish Farm School, Adamah, and Urban Adamah.

HONEY
Tradition: Those delicious apples get dipped in honey, which represents even more sweetness.
How to serve: Support the pollinators! Sponsor a honeybee hive through The Honeybee Conservancy.

SHOFAR
Tradition: The shofar, a sacred instrument made out of a ram’s horn, is blown throughout the high holidays to punctuate the services, focus our thoughts and prayers, and call people to justice and action.
How to serve: Volunteer for campaigns and organizations that work to “sound a call for justice” in their own way – check out the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, Bend the Arc, and Jews United for Justice.

PRAYER BOOK
Tradition: Throughout Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we read from a special prayer book called the machzor.
How to serve: Books and reading are important for everyone! Volunteer at your local Reach Out and Read chapter to support early childhood literacy.

SYNAGOGUE
Tradition: Many people attend spiritual prayer services during the high holidays – it’s kind of like Superbowl Sunday for synagogues!
How to serve: If you belong to or attend a synagogue, check out their event calendar online. Chances are, there are lots of ways to plug in and help out. And read this awesome story in Tablet about how a bar mitzvah boy focused his mitzvah project on saving a synagogue in Selma, Alabama.

POMEGRANATES
Tradition: Some communities have a custom of eating pomegranates on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. The bountiful seeds inside represent our wishes for abundant joy in the coming year. Some people also say that a pomegranate has 613 seeds, which represent the 613 commandments in the Torah.
How to serve: Think about ways that you could bring “abundant joy” to someone you love. Do one of them during the Days of Awe, and watch their face light up.

TASHLICH
Tradition: On Rosh Hashanah, there is a custom of symbolically casting off one’s sins, by throwing bits of bread into a natural body of water.
How to serve: Help to ensure that all people have access to clean water. Support the work of organizations like Charity Water and take action by writing a letter to Congress in support of the Water for the World Act.

FASTING
Tradition: There is a tradition of fasting on Yom Kippur as a way of putting aside bodily needs for the day and focusing instead on reflection and prayer.
How to serve: Make a commitment to ensure that people have access to the food they need to survive. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, contribute to the work at the Food Bank for New York City, or a local food bank near you, or make a donation to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

FORGIVENESS
Tradition: On Yom Kippur we ask forgiveness of others and of God for any wrong doings from the previous year. We also are asked to forgive – an act that can be even more difficult!
How to serve: Write a list of people in your life you would like to ask forgiveness from. Call them, email them, or meet them in person and tell them how you feel. You might be surprised by how good you feel after.

FAMILY
Tradition: Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer opportunities for people to gather together and spend time with family and friends.
How to serve: Support families by supporting women and children in developing countries. Check out the Half the Sky Movement to find out how you can make a difference.

Women’s History Month Events – 2013

March is halfway over! Have you celebrated Women’s History Month yet? If not, don’t fret – there are still tons of interesting lectures, panels, film screenings and other events going on around the country to honor Women’s History Month (which is especially relevant this year, because 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage march on Washington!). Check out the options below:

This month marks 100 years since the Woman Suffrage March in Washington, D.C.

  • Brooklyn, New York On March 20, the Brooklyn Museum will host a panel (moderated by Gloria Steinem!) called Gender and Genocide: Sexual Violence During the Holocaust and Other Genocides. The panel will feature co-editors of a book about the topic, among other speakers.
  • Brooklyn, New York On March 23, the Brooklyn Museum will host another fascinating panel discussion – this time on women, art and body image, and particularly the body mass index (BMI).
  • New York City On March 25, check out a screening of the film Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines at the Chelsea Recreation Center in Manhattan.
  • Rochester, New York The University of Rochester is screening Oma & Bella, a documentary by filmmaker Alexa Karolinski about her grandmother Regina and her best friend Bella, two Holocaust survivors who now live, reminisce, and cook together in Berlin. On March 25th, the school is also hosting a Women in Music concert that’s open to the public.
  • San Francisco On March 25th, Artists’ Television Access will host a screening of “Half the Sky,” an inspiring book based on the Nicholas Kristof book about global women’s issues.
  • San Francisco Did you know that the bicycle played a role in the suffrage movement? Celebrate women’s history month on two wheels, with a Women’s History Month bike ride coordinated by the SF Bike Coalition.
  • Washington DC On March 20, head to the United States Capitol Historical Society for a book signing. Author Maurine Beasley will be signing copies of her book, Women of the Washington Press: Politics, Prejudice, and Persistence.
  • Washington DC Celebrate women’s contributions to the world of jazz at the third-annual Washington Women in Jazz festival from March 20-27.

Know of other great women’s history month events in your community? Share the news in the comments below or by tweeting us @repairtheworld.

Green Your Passover Part 2: The Seders

Ahhh, spring is in the air. Which means so is the sweet smell of bitter herbs. Passover gives us a lot to chew on (literally—and not all of which is that tasty) as we retell the really, really ancient story of our exodus from Egypt, finishing on a note to plants seeds of hope for the future. So what better way to start this spring than by making your Passover green.

Our three-part Green Your Passover series gives you all the tools you need to bring eco-friendly style to your seder. (After all, the Passover talk about locusts and lice and vermin can get a little buggy.) Read Part 2 of the series – all about your seders – below, and check out Part 1 about getting ready for the holiday.

How are YOU greening your Seder? Send us your photos through Facebook or Twitter and you’ll be entered to win a gift from Repair!

PART 2: THE SEDERS

 

Green your charoset. Charoset is the sticky-sweet mix of apples, walnuts and cinnamon that represents the mortar the Israelites used to lay bricks while they were enslaved in ancient Egypt. This year, spice your charoset with fair-trade cinnamon, and use organic or locally-grown apples for an environmentally-friendly crunch.

Add something “green” to your seder plate. In the past several decades, many families have begun to add extra symbolic foods (like oranges and olives) to their seder plates to represent contemporary issues from gender equality to promoting peace. Pick a symbol that represents sustainability to you – like a leaf or a thimble full of clean water – and set it near or on your seder plate to spark conversation.

Use an organic free-range egg. The roasted hard boiled egg on the seder plate symbolizes both rebirth and the festival sacrifice that was historically offered in the Temple in Jerusalem. This year, use a free-range egg (ideally from the farmers’ market, where you can ask the farmer how he raises his chickens), and look for organic, hormone and anti-biotic free eggs as well.

Use potted flowers as your centerpiece. Skip the cut flowers – which are beautiful, but often grown unsustainably and shipped in from far away – and choose potted, seasonal flowers to make your seder table beautiful. They are kinder to the environment, and will last a long time after the seder ends!

Go vegetarian or source ethical meat. Go meat-free this Passover and swap out the chicken soup and brisket for homemade borscht and matzoh lasagna. Or, if you plan to serve meat, make sure it is ethically-sourced. There are several companies that produce ethical, kosher chicken and meat – serve them up, and let your guests rave!

Share food justice texts. The best seders are the interactive ones. This year, bring food justice and environmental-related texts to your seder and start a discussion around the table. Check out On1Foot’s text database or Hazon’s Food for Thought sourcebook to get you started. Plus, check out Repair the World’s roundup of awesome service and food justice-related haggadot and seder supplements.

For additional ideas and Passover inspiration, check out Hazon’s healthy and sustainable Passover resources, as well as Uri L’Tzedek’s, Bend the Arc’s, and The Shalom Center’s food, justice, and earth-focused haggadot.

It’s not too late to live the legacy! Sign up for MLK Shabbat Supper today

MLK Suppers

From Washington State to Washington Heights, we’ve been blown away by the response to our Shabbat Suppers initiative.

In case you haven’t heard it through the grapevine, Repair the World is partnering with Points of Light, NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, and hosts just like you to bring the issue of education inequality to the table. Your kitchen table, that is.

By signing up to host a Shabbat Supper, you won’t just be inviting your friends over for a great meal. You’ll be hosting a conversation around the legacy of Dr. King, education inequality, and how you can take action to make your community a better place.

And we’re here to help you make it happen with our toolkit to guide you through the discussion! Be sure to sign-up by 12pm Eastern on Wednesday, January 16th to receive your toolkit via snail mail.

Even if you miss the deadline, you can receive a digital toolkit which contains two discussion activities, and an access code to screen the fabulous documentary Brooklyn Castle (before it comes out on DVD!) by emailing [email protected]!

Make a Difference Without Leaving Your Living Room!

MLK SuppersBeyond posting an inspirational quote on facebook, when was the last time you did something meaningful on MLK Day?

We know you’re busy. And we know that your three-day weekend is sacred (and that you probably deserve the break!). But did you know that for over 15 years, MLK Day has been celebrated as a day of service by millions of Americans? Here at Repair, our team has partnered with NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, and with one of the organizations who pioneered the MLK Day of Service, the Points of Light Institute, to offer you a way to join the movement from the comfort of your own home!

MLK SHABBAT SUPPERS. JANUARY 18th. YOUR PLACE.

Repair is challenging you to become part of the living legacy of Dr. King by turning your kitchen table into a table of brotherhood the weekend of January 18th. Through our Shabbat Suppers initiative, you will be sent the tools to transform Friday night with friends into an opportunity for social action.

It’s ok if you’ve never held a Shabbat dinner. We know that not everyone “does” Shabbat. But you’ve gotta eat! Use this event, and this toolkit, as a foundation for a meaningful meal – whatever that means to you.

Shabbat Suppers will take many forms. They might be talks over take-out Chinese or screening parties with your friends from college. Some folks will have sit-down brisket dinners with friends of different faiths, and others will have potluck style meals in tiny apartments. At all of these events, food might get your guests in the door, but it’s the discussion will bring you together.

A SUPER COOL KIT…

On this year’s plate (we couldn’t help ourselves…) is of the defining civil rights issues of our time: education inequality. Once you sign-up as a host, Repair will send you a real, live toolkit via snail mail. These toolkits will contain a discussion guide, Repair swag for your guests, and a T-shirt as a thank you (just for you)!

Our discussion guide bears absolutely no resemblance to your AP Government textbook. Instead, it offers simple questions, real facts, and easy to enforce ground rules so that you can host a dynamic (and respectful) conversation around education and the legacy of Dr. King.

We want to arm you with the facts, and the tools to act on them. In honor of the MLK Day of Service, you will also receive information on how you can make a difference in the lives of public school children all over the country!

JOIN US!

Excited? Sign-up HERE to become a host, and we’ll send you a toolkit for free!

And there’s more exciting news for Birthright Israel alumni! Through our friends at NEXT, you can receive funding for your Shabbat Supper through the NEXT Shabbat program. Register your meal, and you will be able to click a box to receive our free toolkit.

As always, we want to hear you from you! Tell us about your Shabbat Supper plans, or send us a question, by emailing [email protected]

Repair’s HoliDay of Service

By Jacqueline Broder and Ilana Gatoff

During our celebration of Chanukah, we commemorate how thousands of years ago, people persevered with their traditions despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Each year brings forth new hardships and obstacles. But this year, the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy created a new urgency around rededication and renewal. When Repair the World decided to spend a HoliDay of Service packing literacy kits for the first and second graders of PS 253, it wasn’t only the devastation that touched our hearts and opened our eyes – it was the untold stories of people from different backgrounds joining forces to forge through the flooding.

Assessing the damage

PS 253, The Magnet School of Multicultural Humanities, is an elementary school located in the neighborhood of Brighton Beach that was hit by Hurricane Sandy. As the name suggests, the students come from diverse backgrounds; but they all experienced the same horrific aftermath of the Hurricane.

The school’s basement was completely flooded, damaging school supplies, including years worth of art materials and books. Beyond the school, families of students experienced severe destruction to their homes, businesses, and places of work. With the commercial strip in Brighton Beach shuttered, some parents even lost their jobs. The community is still struggling and grappling with longer-term recovery issues, but staff members like Parent Coordinator Gina Dacchille have been working overtime to bring comfort to their school community. With so many students displaced, PS 253 has become a community hub, with Ms. Dacchille, the heroic teachers, and award-winning Principal Lisa Speroni working tirelessly to manage donations, coordinate FEMA information sessions, and supporting the individual needs of families.

Repair in action

With many families struggling to provide their children with enrichment and entertainment because of the disruption to their daily routines, Repair, in partnership with PS 253, saw an opportunity. Using the experience and expertise from our current education campaign, Repair offered to pack literacy kits for the students to enjoy at home. The team at PS 253 were thrilled and pointed out that with winter break just around the corner, students would have an opportunity to share these kits with siblings and friends.

On December 9th, the first day of Chanukah, Repair the World staff joined up with an amazing group of volunteers from all over the tri-state area to participate in an important HoliDay of service at our NYC headquarters. Nearly forty volunteers buzzed about, together with our Repair staff, to transform stacks of children’s books into reading kits for first and second graders at PS 253.

From The Magic School Bus to Curious George, Repair the World backpacks were stuffed with well-known children’s books, handwritten flashcards written by volunteers that included words from the book to help students build their vocabulary skills, personal holiday notes from volunteers, a notebook, glittery pencil, rainbow crayons, and the coolest of all – a little book light to clip onto their new book and read in the dark. Our volunteers were packing machines, exceeding our original goal of 200 kits and ending up with a total of over 230 – one for every first and second grader in the school! Additionally, our partners at Midtown Workmen’s Circle School collected over 100 books that were given to the school for their library and classroom use.

Screen Shot 2012-12-18 at 6.00.47 PMBack to school

Fast forward a week later…this past Monday, Repair the World’s campaign team played hooky in order to visit the staff and students of PS 253 in Brighton Beach. The trip in and of itself, was eye opening – the destruction is still visible, and everywhere.

We arrived at the school just in time to present the kits to approximately 200 students right before dismissal. The staff graciously let us spend time with each class of students, who gleefully ooed and ahhed as we unveiled the contents of each kit. “We heard you liked to read,” we explained to each class, “is that true?!” Each group’s impassioned cheers of “yeah!” combined with their genuine enthusiasm around being able to create their own “word walls” with their new flashcards showed us that these students, and this school, were special.

While all kids love sparkly crayons, it takes someone who knows that learning is fun to rejoice over a book light or a vocabulary card. Each colorful classroom, hand-painted book mural, and shining bulletin board we saw at PS 253 spoke to the commitment of the teachers and staff to create a community where joy is equated with knowledge. Their team has maintained that same feeling, even while they collect cots and sleeping bags for children who still sleep on the floor of moldy apartments, or light-up shoes for kids who lost sneakers in the same eight feet of water that destroyed the schools brand new, $3 million heating system.  Whether it was packing hundreds of bags with make-up and toiletries for students mothers, providing water, housing FEMA agents, or giving a few extra hugs, the staff of PS 253 have turned their community into a hub of service. Different cultures, different religions, different beliefs – all have been inspired and united by the kindness of the PS 253 community.

The party’s just getting started…

Repair the World is currently assessing the needs of other local schools that have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. We will continue to work with PS 253 throughout the school year in a variety of capacities – everything from assisting with their famous science fair in the winter months, to collecting and distributing donated items.

The volunteer opportunities with PS 253 and other partnerships is just beginning, so stay tuned for future news on ways you can help! In the meantime, find out how you can spread the gift of literacy in your community by emailing Aaron Miner at [email protected].