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Archive for : Labor

On Yom Kippur, Service is the New Fasting

Yom Kippur, the Jewish calendar’s most sacred and solemn day, begins this Friday night. The first thing most people think about when they think about Yom Kippur is fasting. And for good reason – many Jewish people refrain from eating and drinking throughout the 25-hour holiday.

But what we sometimes forget to ask is, why do we fast? What purpose does it serve – either for our own spirituality and for the world? One of the verses we read and recite during services on Yom Kippur is a passage from Isaiah, which dives into this very question. It reads:

Is such the fast I desire a day for people to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. It is to share the bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to ignore your own kin.

In other words, fasting one’s body may be an important way to connect to the holiday. But the real fast that God desires is for people to work for justice: to shake up the status quo of oppression, share bread with the hungry, take the poor into our homes and clothe the naked. According to the text, these actions are the truest and most profound way to “fast.” Not eating on Yom Kippur, then, is an intense physical reminder of the type of work we should be doing all year round.

This year, take your Yom Kippur fast to a new place by committing to serve, volunteer or donate for justice. Here are some ideas to get you started – both during the high holiday season, or throughout the year.

Let the oppressed go free

  • Donate to or volunteer with Repair the World grantee-partner American Jewish World Service, another international development organization working for justice.
  • Advocate for rights and justice. Get involved with community organizing, either locally or through an organization like Repair the World grantee-partners, the Jewish Organizing Initiative and the Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice.

Share bread with the hungry

  • Volunteer with City Harvest, a food rescue organization dedicated to feeding New York City’s hungry people.
  • Donate to Mazon, a Jewish nonprofit dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds.
  • Donate to Hazon Yeshaya an Israel-based humanitarian network dedicated to feeding, healing and training the country’s poorest residents.
  • Check out Hazon’s Food Guide, a compilation of resources and practical ideas to help Jewish people and institutions make good, healthy food choices. (There’s a whole chapter dedicated to food justice)
  • Learn about the 2012 Farm Bill, a bill passed by congress that impacts the lives of farmers and eaters (especially people in low-income communities and people who rely on food stamps and other forms of government food assistance) across the country.

Take the poor into your home

  • Volunteer with or donate to Dorot, a Jewish Federation-supported organization which, among other services, offers safe transitional housing for Jewish seniors who are facing homelessness.
  • Donate to Coalition for the Homeless, or another advocacy and direct service organization working to help homeless men, women, and children.

Clothe the naked

  • Donate your gently used clothing to Project Machson, a Jewish federation-supported clothing center on wheels that brings new clothing directly to the poor in their neighborhoods. Or find another Jewish clothing donation organization in your neighborhood.
  • Volunteer with Dress for Success, an organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing them with professional attire and career development tools to help them thrive in the workplace.
  • Donate your next haircut to Locks of Love, and organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged kids suffering from hair loss from cancer treatments and other medical diagnoses.

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! Hopefully you had a wonderful Rosh Hashanah celebration and a restful weekend. Stay in the High Holiday spirit with Repair the World’s Marathon of Good: 10 opportunities to serve between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. To get you geared up, here is your weekly round up of inspiring service stories from around the web.

The Clinton Global Initiative Promotes Worldwide Service, Leadership and Action Sept 20-22

Employment for the over 205 million unemployed, redefining consumption and girl and women’s empowerment are just some of the vast topics to be discussed next week at the The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York City.

Founded in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, CGI is a network of global leaders working to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, and with a focus on global health, economic empowerment, energy & climate change, and education. The Annual Meeting, which takes place over three days –  September 20-22 – is sure to be informative as it attempts to make headway on dealing with deep economic and demographic challenges facing our planet’s 2011 projected population of 7 billion.
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Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! With autumn around the corner, these last summer weekends begin to feel more precious – so hopefully you had the opportunity to make the most of it. As always, to jump start your week, here’s a weekly round up of inspirational service links from around the web.


  • Pursue
    published a touching poem by Avital Aboody called “A Farewell Poem: Concluding a Year of Service.”
  • The Huffington Post published a piece by Sara Vogel about how one-on-one tutoring has the potential to make a big difference in Mexico’s schools.
  • The Forward’s website features a video that gives and in-depth look at Crown Heights, Brooklyn – 20 years after the riots that threatened to split the neighborhood apart.
  • JSpot published an evaluation of the new movie The Help and its implications for today’s domestic workers community.
  • GOOD shared some promising news: solar power is getting cheaper all the time, making it a more viable energy source.

Weekly Torah: Parshat Naso 5771

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Jimmy Taber.

The conversations at the seder table tend to stay with me long after the proclamations of “Next year in Jerusalem” have stopped echoing in my ears, as I draw new inspiration every year from the Israelites’ bondage-to-freedom narrative. This year, I found myself confronted with an issue that dug deeper than usual.

Helping us relate our people’s experience of slavery in Egypt to examples of modern-day oppression, a relative brought up the plight of orange harvesters in Florida who are exploited by commercial producers who sell to many of the most well-known orange juice companies. Initially, the story did not make a huge impression on me. I added orange juice to the growing list of unethical products of which I am aware, unsure of whether or not I would feel compelled to pay a few extra dollars for a more responsibly produced juice on my next trip to the supermarket.
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Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday and day after Mother’s Day! However you spent your time yesterday – hanging out with your mom, your kids, or your friends, or just celebrating the beautiful May Sunday, we hope it was spectacular. To help ease you back into the week, here is your dose of inspiring posts (including a couple mom-focused stories) from around the web.

  • The Huffington Post shared a Q&A with philanthropist and humanitarian-extraordinaire, Melinda Gates, where she muses about the importance of her mom (and other strong women role models) in her own life, and what’s going on in the field of maternal healthcare across the world.
  • The JTA included an op-ed calling to elevate more female rabbis into leadership roles – and to celebrate the distinct gifts and perspectives women rabbis have brought to Jewish tradition.
  • eJewish Philanthropy reports that The Shalem Center in Jerusalem received a generous matching grant to establish Israel’s first liberal arts college – one focused on learning, service, and leadership.
  • The Forward and Southern Jewish Life magazine both included coverage about the ongoing tornado clean-up in Alabama (and elsewhere in the South), and how Jewish groups are stepping in to help.
  • Jspot, the blog by Repair the World grantee-partner, Jewish Funds for Justice, featured a video of a recent flash mob in New York City, promoting workers’ rights.