Archive for : Philadelphia

Shabbat for a Fair Trade Cause

This article originally appeared on Reconstructing Judaism on June 15, 2018.

On the Friday night before World Fair Trade Day, people from across Philadelphia gathered in the reception hall of the Philadelphia Ethical Society for a night of Jewish learning, locally-sourced food, and provoking conversation about ethical purchasing. Inspired by her work in our Fair Trade Reconstructionist Learning Network, Jessica Herrmann, team leader at Repair the World Philadelphia, crafted a Fair Trade Shabbat dinner to coincide with the worldwide celebration. World Fair Trade Day, which occurs annually on the second Saturday in May, celebrates fair trade learning and practice. For many Jewish communities across North America, the holiday offers a chance to take a closer look at Jewish values present in fair trade, and Repair the World’s Fair Trade Shabbat dinner took this opportunity in stride.

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News Briefs: Repair the World Names Director, Mayim Bialik Meets Rivlin, and More

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Exponent on March 28, 2018.

Repair the World Names New Philadelphia Executive Director

Repair the World: Philadelphia announced the hiring of Rachel Berger as its new executive director.

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Haggadahs Blend Traditional, Modern Topics

This article originally appeared March 28, 2018 in The Jewish Exponent.

By Selah Maya Zighelboim

Haggadah means “telling,” and different versions of the Passover seder script, translated and retold in countless languages countless times, can certainly be telling about the state of the world.

And this year’s crop of new haggadahs and supplements are certainly no different. Though the reading of the haggadah is a custom thousands of years old, these are all relatively young, as they place this ancient story in a contemporary context.

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Repair the World: Philadelphia Welcomes Rachel Berger as New Executive Director

Philly Native Returns Home to Lead Jewish Service Organization and Work with Local Non-profits

Philadelphia, PA – Repair the World: Philadelphia, the local workshop of the largest Jewish service organization in the country, Repair the World, welcomed Rachel Berger as its new Executive Director. Rachel will work closely with Program Manager, Dani Horn; Workshop Coordinator, Kari Collins and Repair the World Fellows in Philadelphia who engage peers and work with local non-profits addressing food justice, education justice, and other social service needs.

“I am thrilled to return to my hometown of Philadelphia and to join an organization that taps into my passions of social justice and service alongside community building” says Rachel Berger, Executive Director of Repair the World: Philadelphia. “The Fellows here are deeply committed to serving with our partners in West Philly, Center City, and the Greater Philadelphia Area. I’m really looking forward to joining their efforts with the many organizations in Philly that make our work impactful and meaningful.”

Rachel has dedicated her career to building Jewish organizations that serve the underserved, advance justice, and deepen the connections between Jewish communities and their neighbors. She previously worked as the Director of Community Engagement at Footsteps, which supports and affirms those making the transition from ultra-Orthodox communities to the secular world. Rachel oversaw Footsteps’ community building and leadership programs, large scale public events, and foundation relations.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rachel completed her BA in Fine Art at Yeshiva University and her MSW at Columbia University. In 2011-12 Rachel was a Dorot Fellow and is a current Wexner Field Fellow (Class 1). She recently moved back to Philadelphia with her family and is looking forward to returning to her roots.

“Repair the World: Philadelphia is fortunate to have someone with Rachel’s experience, passion, and hometown connection leading its efforts,” adds Adina Mermelstein Konikoff, Senior Program Director for Repair the World. “She will elevate the work and community relationships of our Fellows and will continue to make Philadelphia a model city for Repair’s Communities program.”

Repair the World’s Communities’ year-long Fellowship program connects Jewish young adults with local opportunities to make a meaningful difference in their community. Philadelphia, with eight fellows on the ground this year, is one of seven cities where the program operates. You can volunteer with Repair the World: Philadelphia next Tuesday, March 27th from 4:00-7:00 pm in an effort to #RockTheVote.

Philadelphia residents and neighbors can meet Rachel Berger in person at a welcome event with light snacks and refreshments on April 16th, 2018 at 6:00pm at the Repair the World: Philadelphia Workshop at 4029 Market Street.

Additionally, in advance of Passover, Repair the World: Philadelphia and HIAS Pennsylvania are hosting Immigration Stories: A Passover-Inspired Shabbat this Friday, March 23rd at 6:30 PM. Inspired by the Passover narrative, the event will explore past and present immigration stories in varying faith traditions. Guests will hear from local advocates doing important immigration and refugee resettlement work in Philadelphia.

Nationally, Repair the Word is teaming up with Be’chol Lashon to offer specially designed seder supplements this Passover (weRepair.org/Passover). The materials, part of the Passover campaign, #MemoryToAction, encourage seder participants to engage in meaningful, sometimes difficult conversations about how we talk about individual and systemic struggles for freedom in the context of the Passover story.

 

Rachel Berger is Repair the World:Philadelphia’s new ED.

This article originally appeared on Generocity on March 22, 2018.

By Julie Zeglen

Power Moves is a semi-regular column chronicling leadership movements within Philly’s social impact community. Send announcements to [email protected]

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Tu B’Shevat Promotes Sustainability

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Exponent on February 7, 2018.

By Selah Maya Zighelboim

A Tu B’Shevat Midrash recounts the story of an old man planting a carob tree.

When confronted with the question of why he’s planting the tree, as it probably won’t bear fruit until after he has died, the old man responds that he’s planting it for future generations, as his ancestors planted trees for him.

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7 places to volunteer in Philly this holiday season

This post originally appeared on Generocity on December 18, 2017.

By Jim Irby
With the joy of the “giving season” as an inspiration to care for those around us, many Philadelphians will reach out to organizations to volunteer. According to data from the American Time Use Survey, 9 percent of women and 7 percent of men participate in holiday season volunteering — that’s a 40 percent increase over the rest of the year.

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Friends Say ‘Feh’ to Fried Foods for Chanukah

This post originally appeared in The Jewish Exponent on December 18, 2017.

By Miriam Steinberg-Egeth

Dear Miriam,
I’m having a Chanukah party for the eighth night, but all my guests have indicated in one way or another that they’re sick of fried food. Do you have any alternative party ideas for a festive night with friends?

Signed,
Too many latkes

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Why Service Makes Me Tick

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Exponent on December 14, 2017.

By Becca Lerman

Like many little girls, I looked up to my father. I loved watching him wake up every morning excited for work and I always hoped I could find a job that made me tick in the same way my dad did each day.

With this in mind, only a couple of weeks into the beginning of college, I committed to leadership positions in both Hillel and Greek life at Penn State. To me, being Jewish meant attending Hillel events and Shabbat every week. This made me tick. Social justice was a separate part of my life that I found in Greek life through service, philanthropy and the Penn State Dance Marathon. This made me tick, too.

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Coming Home: Reflections on the Jewish Multiracial Network Retreat

The following post is by Rebekkah (Bekkah) Scharf, food justice fellow with Repair the World: Philadelphia. Bekkah identifies as a SF-born Hapa and Jewish Chinese-American; she attended the University of California: Santa Cruz, and is member of Kol Tzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia.

 

“It is beautiful and rare to have Jewish spaces where I walk through the door and think: I belong.” Sabrina Sojourner is a Chazzan, chaplain, and attendee of the 18th annual Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) family retreat on May 12th-15th.

I felt a sense of relief wash over me, filling every pore of my skin, every braciole in my lungs, and a lump in my throat, as her words resonated with me and every other person in the space. It was a breath of fresh air: I had found my people.

Finally.

In August I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Philadelphia, yet to find a space where Jews of Color and patrilineal Jews like myself, felt welcome. I had met Tamara Fish, the current president of JMN, at the Repair the World: Service Matters conference last year. According to Fish, JMN “is the only grassroots Jew of Color organizing group run by Jews of Color, whose demographics range from every permutation of family imaginable, both progressive and traditional from renewal, and everything in-between.” Several months later, she encouraged me to attend their family retreat.

I did not only feel welcome, but celebrated. I did not only feel comfortable, but like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I discovered something critically important missing in my life, something I had recently heard of, but never seen with my own eyes: a thriving, multi-ethnic, intergenerational Jewish community. And a space where I was allowed–no– empowered, to unravel, reflect, discuss, and most importantly, celebrate our shared experiences, with 70 other Jews of Color and white allies, of all ages.

davened, studied, and learned with young adults, parents, teens, kids, and entire families, Orthodox and progressive alike. African, African  American, Filipino American, Chinese American, and Latinx American Jews, LGBQ Jews, from six months to elderly, were in attendance. Traditional and progressive Shabbat services were held on Friday night and Saturday morning, where we counted the Omer and read from the Torah.

I hugged babies and played with the children, shared, listened, and met people who now feel like family. I exchanged stories and life experiences with other Jews of Color and their families, most of whom I had just met that weekend.

I grieved, raw, emotionally, and unexpectedly, with people who truly understood, grateful for every single moment, the Shehecheyanu playing in my head like a broken record.

As Rabbi Mira Rivera, the first Jew of Color at Jewish Theological Seminary to be ordained (two years ago), said afterwards: “The community we have here is every rabbi’s dream.” Rivera is a Chaplain Fellow at DOROT in New York City, and teaches Jews of Color, allies and co-conspirators through Harlem Hevruta.

When we gathered for Shabbat dinner, it indeed felt like a dream come true. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who looked like me, families that looked like mine, and children running around and playing together, like it were any other Shabbat. I had to remind myself that it was real, that I there as well, not an outsider looking in.

Together we sang a nigun as we lit the candles, parents held their children’s heads and said the brucha, and Rabbi Mira and Sabrina Sojourner raised the tallit over their heads and called for the children to gather underneath. We sang and celebrated the children, their beautiful faces. We celebrated each other, in their presence our unity, together, as a people. Our skin colors a spectrum, our families all shapes and sizes, our children, smiles, joy and unquestioned belonging.

It was overwhelmingly…normal.
It was perfect.
It was beautiful.

It was feeling that I could not put into words, until a song returned to my memory: Hinei ma tov uma naim shevet achim gam yachad.

“How good and pleasant it is for people to sit together in unity.” How precious was is to celebrate every single person in the room, exactly as they are, white, Black, AAPI,Latinx, and mixed. Orthodox and progressive, Jews by choice and by birth, patrilineal and matrilineal, single and coupled, families and individuals, young and old.

The babies, clueless to the miracle surrounding them, the children, who will not begin to comprehend the sacredness of this space, until they are years older.

And the teens, parents, and young adults like myself, who do know, savoring every note, laugh, smile, and clap, holding every moment tight in our hearts.

Knowing of the looks, actions, questioning, and isolation to come, subtle and unsubtle, as they always have, in which remembering this moment will keep us grounded in our very sanity.

And knowing that we are loved, belonged, and matter. And I know this because I was there, taking it in all at once, living in the moment.

And in that moment, I felt me.
I felt holy.
I felt everything.
I felt home.

 

A special shout-out to Chava Shervington, Tamara Fish, Sabrina Sojourner, Rabbi Mira Rivera, all of the JMN leaders, organizers and volunteers, and everyone else who made the 18th annual JMN retreat possible. Thank you for helping create such a meaningful and transformative experience for so many individuals and families seeking a brave, inclusive space, for the past 18 years. Thank you to the many individuals not mentioned here, who offered your listening ears and hearts, genuine selves, support, trust, friendship, and open arms.