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Archive for : Labor

Join the Fight for Domestic Workers’ Rights

In this guest post, Sarah Rosenthal writes about her experiences volunteering for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

When I got involved in Jews For Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), I already had a strong identity as a feminist, progressive, observant and (occasionally) radical Jew. I was participating in AVODAH, the Jewish Service Corps, after 13 years of Jewish education and additional four years active in my college’s Hillel where I’d been the social justice chair. To say I was firmly ensconced in the progressive Jewish community was a bit of an understatement. Yet despite the amazing work I was doing at AVODAH (direct service as a paralegal dealing with elder issues) and the full-scale immersion in the Jewish nonprofit world in New York, I still felt that something was missing. As much as I talked about advocacy work, grassroots organizing, and systemic change, I was still only helping a one client and problem at a time, and I kept seeing the same issues repeating themselves.

At the ripe old age of 24, I was becoming cynical. I felt frustrated with the Jewish progressive movement, including the kind of issues it was willing to tackle and the scope of its work. But more than the institutional bounds, I was frustrated by myself. I had been imposing limits on the kind of work I thought I could do.
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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 patriotism.org,

“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 911dayofservice.org 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.

Repair Interview: Beth deBeer and AJWS

Beth deBeer found meaningful work – and a surprising connection to community – during her time volunteering with Shan Youth Power, a grantee organization of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) in Burma. Read below to find out more about her experience and check out a short video she made to raise awareness about the issues facing the Shan State population.

How did you end up volunteering with AJWS?
In college I was part of a cultural exchange program that sent participants to Ghana. Because of that trip, I decided to go to Ethiopia where my cousin was living. While there I volunteered with the Jewish Agency and JDC and realized I wanted to go back to the developing world again and do that same kind of [service] work. A friend of mine had been on AJWS’ summer program and that’s how I got involved.

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Thursday Link Roundup

Looking for a little inspiring news as the weekend draws near? Look no further – here are some interesting service-related reads from around the web, and a couple opportunities to get involved!

CHECK IT OUT

  • (NY Jewish Week) Take a behind the scenes look at Eden Village Camp, a brand-new environmentally-focused summer camp for Jewish kids.
  • (NY Times) An uplifting piece from Times’ opinion columnist, Gail Collins, on why “the kids (or 20-somethings, rather) are alright.”
  • (Huffington Post) Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of the Orthodox social justice organization, Uri L’Tzedek on sustainability and Jewish tradition.
  • (NY Times) Micro-loans are typically associated with supporting small business owners in developing countries – but micro-financing also makes a big difference here in America.
  • (Haaretz) Dozens of Orthodox rabbis sign a “statement of principles,” encouraging the acceptance of LGBT-identified people within the Jewish community.

GET INVOLVED

  • (Mashable) A new website encourages people to get a little “daring” with their fundraising. Try it out!
  • (The Jew & The Carrot) Check out a great new film pitch about Haiti’s agricultural crisis – then donate to help the film makers make it happen!

Influential Women Rabbis: In Service as Well as Congregations

Last month, Newsweek released it’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. And as in other years, the list fell short in fully capturing the accomplishments of the country’s female rabbis. So the Forward took things into its own hands, releasing the Sisterhood 50, which focuses solely on 50 women rabbis in America (and 5 in Israel for good measure).

Just like the New York Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 list, the Sisterhood 50 is chock full of women rabbis who are using their influence to inspire strong service-minded communities. Of course, becoming a rabbi is in itself a lifelong commitment to service, but these women are going above and beyond. Here are some of the highlights:
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Weekly Torah: Parshat Balak 5770

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

This week’s parshah opens in a panic. Marking with dread the refugee nation swelling along his border, Balak, king of Moab, seeks counsel from the elders of Midian. The Midianites, Rashi reminds us, have privileged information about Israel’s unlikely success. Moses had fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian; his wife was a Midianiate and he was devoted to her father Yitro, Midian’s high priest. “The leader of [the Israelites] was raised in Midian,” Balak mused. “Let us ask [the Midianites] what his character is.” ((Numbers 22:2-4; Rashi on Numbers 22:4.))

Midian has its answer at the ready, divulging that Moses’s “strength is solely in his mouth.” Thus does Balak decide to retain the prophet-for-hire Balaam to curse Israel and arrest its advance, reasoning: “We too will come against them with a man whose strength is in his mouth.” ((Ibid.))
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Monday Morning Link Roundup

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day, and in honor of the special occasion, here are some inspiring reads and service opportunities, both dad-related and not, from around the blogosphere.

CHECK IT OUT

  • (Robyn Stegman) A blogger gushes about the influence her dad has had on her service work, and embarks on a unique fundraising project to say thanks. (You can help out with the fundraising efforts here.)
  • (Take Part) The state of Florida gets one step closer to shedding its title as the only state in the nation with an explicit ban on gay adoption.
  • (JTA) In related news, next week (June 27-29) three Jewishly-focused LGBT advocacy groups will join together in the Bay Area with more than 100 leaders of the Jewish LGBT movement for a first-of-its-kind visioning meeting.
  • (Good) Writer and business-management theoriest Tony Schwartz is fighting back on behalf of the long-lost lunch break. Starting June 23, every Wednesday is Take Back Your Lunch day – join the fight by enjoying your lunch.
  • (How to Change the World) An oldie-but-goodie essay discusses how to change the world by being a mensch.
  • (JTA) Philanthropists Eli and Edyth Broad recently pledged to donate 75% of their personal fortune (which stands at about 5.7 billion) during their lifetime. Read more about the incredible couple here.

GET INVOLVED

  • (JustCoz) A new online platform JustCoz enables non-profits to expand their social media reach by “donating” a tweet a day to the site. Register here to begin spreading the word about the causes your NGO or charity is passionate about on JustCoz. (FYI – Judging by names alone, at least two of the three founders, Yotam Troim and Ronen Raz are members of the tribe.)

Friday Morning Link Roundup

Looking for a dose of inspiration? Check out these stories and get-involved opportunities from around the Jewish and service blogospheres.

CHECK IT OUT

  • (jweekly) The Bay Area’s four foundations for Jewish teens raised a staggering $176,000, which will be distributed to 32 international non-profits doing work in sustainable agriculture, health care, and helping underprivileged youth in Israel and Southeast Asia.
  • (Huffington Post) Paul Loeb, author of the wonderful book The Impossible Will Take a Little While, writes an inspiring piece on the importance of engaging in service, even if one is unsure of the outcome.
  • (NY Jewish Week) Over the last decade, “mitzvah projects” have helped bring a meaningful service component to bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. Now the innovative non-profit Storahtelling is revolutionizing the actual service with their Raising the Bar program.
  • (NY Times) The mega-chain, Walmart – which is often criticized for its treatment of workers – is launching an affordable web-based college program for its employees.

GET INVOLVED

  • (Share our Strength) Vote today in the No Kid Hungry Innovation Awards, and help a non-profit doing work around hunger alleviation win $25,000.
  • (FOJNP) Calling all Jewish non-profit people: Register for the Future of the Jewish Non Profit Summit and join other professionals and lay leaders in a one-day (Tuesday, July 27) summit committed to making substantive positive change in the non-profit arena.

JOI Alumni Reflect on Community Organizing and Tikkun Olam

The Jewish Organizing Initiative (JOI) in Boston is a year-long fellowship that teaches the next generation of Jewish leaders about community organizing: helping empower under-served communities to organize themselves, build leadership from within, and bring about systemic change. Many JOI participants are new to the idea and/or practice of community organizing before joining the program. And many alumni say that their exposure to these techniques and philosophies deeply impacted them during their fellowship year, and continue to influence their work and life after the fellowship ends.

We asked four JOI alumni to share their thoughts and perspectives on how community organizing has shaped them as practitioners of tikkun olam. Below the jump: find out what they had to say:
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