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Archive for : Homelessness

Shabbat Service: Housing is a Basic Human Right

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Terumah, opens with the Israelites building the Mishkan – a portable sanctuary for God. Despite being a temporary/portable structure, it’s a remarkably elaborate piece of construction: “Speak to the children of Israel,” God commands Moses, “and have them take for me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take my offering… you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson wool; linen and goat hair.” (Exodus 25:2-4)

The takeaway: This week’s dvar tzedek commentator, Leil Leibovitz writes that there are some startling comparisons between the parsha’s story and today’s modern day economic woes. “[Today’s economic catastrophe] was brought about largely due to unhealthy mortgage practices that allowed individuals without much capital to buy houses well beyond their means. And here, as the story begins, are the Israelites acting like the most irresponsible of homeowners. Despite being a nomadic desert tribe, they squander their fortunes on erecting [the Mishkan.]

But, Leibovitz writes, God’s request for a lavish dwelling place acutally helps teach the Israelite’s some important lessons – namely, the importance of sacrifice and of respecting home. He writes, “for a collection of ancient tribespeople becoming progressively accustomed to life on the move, insisting on one particular, fixed structure as holy sends a powerful message: housing—whether Divine or human—should never be taken lightly. Home is imbued with holiness. A home is a basic human right.” It’s a message we would do well to remember today.

The “to-do”: Work to realize God’s lesson in parsha Terumah that “home is a basic human right.” Learn more about the Fair Housing Act, and get involved with organizations like Housing Rights Inc, and Fair Housing Justice Center which fight for equal access to housing for everyone.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website.

Make a Fashion Statement: Donate Your Clothes

Let’s face it: fashion is everywhere. Last week was the Golden Globes…which means that now, we’re all checking out the best and worst-dressed of them all. And sure, it’s totally fun to get some new winter gear–pick out some great new kicks, hot new trends, find a good sale, or make a bold fashion statement. But we also know that some people aren’t worrying about being chic or making a statement. Thousands of people hardly have enough to keep themselves clothed at all – especially during the colder winter months.

This season, instead of focusing on what’s new, what’s chic, and what “must-haves” to buy, why not focus on what we think the hottest trend is this year: giving back.  Yes, Jewish texts remind us to “share bread with the hungry,” and “clothe the naked.” In other words, we should help provide comfort with those who are less fortunate. But it also just feels kind of good.

So why not start a new trend and get a get a jump on your spring cleaning? Take a look through your closet for those “gently used” items to donate, or launch a clothing drive at your school, synagogue or in your community. You will be all the rage.

A few great organizations that accept clothing donations, and use the proceeds to help those in need:

  • Teens for Jeans: ( FYI, we learned from DoSomething that one in three homeless people in the U.S. is under the age of 18). To help  out, has teamed up with Aéropostale to run their annual Teens for Jeans donation program . Start a donation program at your school to help others and potentially win some cool prizes.
  • Housing Works: This NYC-based organization takes donations of clothes, shoes, accessories and more and sells them at their 12 thrift shops across the city. The money raised helps to fund their work around HIV/AIDS advocacy and services.
  • Brown Elephant: The proceeds of donated items purchased in this Chicago-based network of thrift shops help fund under-insured or uninsured patients at a local health clinic.

Pretty amazing stuff.

We’re no  experts, but we think sometimes the boldest  statement you can make has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re wearing.

Know of another great clothing donation opportunity? Let us know about it below, or on twitter at @repairtheworld.

8 Nights of Service: Keep Others Warm This Winter

Welcome to Repair the World’s 8 Nights of Service: awesome volunteer projects, donation opportunities and tikkun olam ideas to bring service to the center of your Hanukkah celebration!

Winter can mean many things. Warm stuff, like hot cocoa, turtlenecks and home-knit scarves. Cold stuff, like snowboarding, pretty snow (which here in NYC pretty quickly becomes up-to-your-ankles muck) and delicate icicles. But for too many Americans, winter also means painful choices–often one between paying rent and putting food on the table, or buying coats for themselves and their families.

With the recession putting an extra strain on families this winter, we think there’s a need for a little extra warm stuff this year. Fortunately, there’s something you can do.

Got a new or gently used extra coat in your closet? Instead of letting it hang around collecting moth balls, put it to good use in a local coat drive that redistributes gently used gear to those in need.

  • New York Cares’ Coat Drive: Help this New York City-based organization collect 100,000 winter coats through December 31 to help the 18.7 percent of NYC families living poverty keep warm.
  • One Warm Coat: This national organization helps individuals and local charities organize coat drives for men, women and children in need. They’ve helped distribute more than 3 million coats since 1992. Help them do even more!
  • Clothes4Souls: This national clothing donation organization teamed up with outdoor retailer, The North Face, this holiday season. Through December 24, bring your gently used clothing and coats to participating North Face retail locations and help give the gift of warmth.

Hanukkah’s candles bring light and warmth into our homes – this year, share that warmth with others by donating a winter coat!

Know another winter clothes donation spot? Share it with us by tweeting @repairtheworld and #8Nights.

Torah Tidbit: A Taste of The Week’s Portion Vayishlach 5770

This Torah Tidbit is brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Check out the full dvar tzedek on which this excerpt is based at AJWS.

In Hollywood, happy endings are pretty much guaranteed. In life – not so much. This week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, tells the story of Jacob and Esau: two feuding brothers meeting for the first time in years. (The reason for the rift? Jacob stole first-born Esau’s blessing and birthright from their father Isaac. Kind of a big deal.)

At the meeting, Jacob brings his brother lots of apology gifts – camels, goats, cattle you know, the usual stuff – in hopes that the bounty will make up for everything he took years before. But, as this week’s dvar tzedek author, Leil Lebovitz writes, “In putting together his gift, it doesn’t occur to Jacob that his brother—who he knows had, since their last parting, grown wealthy and powerful—might have no use for all these animals. Jacob isn’t thinking rationally; he just wants the problem to go away.”

Leil goes on to say how this story of Jacob and Esau’s reunion can offer insight to those of us concerned with global hunger. Read on to find out how:

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Repair the World’s Top 10 Posts for Sukkot

The eight-day holiday of Sukkot – the “Feast of Tabernacles” – recalls the Israelites’ fragile dwellings during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after their exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Beginning at sundown on October 12, this “hut holiday” has many service and social justice themes: it is a joyous festival, which celebrates a healthy harvest and an appreciation for nature; it also encourages us to embrace shelter – even if it is just a hut – as both a blessing and a basic human right, and reminds us to be generous to those who are less fortunate.

Sukkot may only be eight days long, but we know these themes last year round. For some holiday inspiration, check out Repair the World’s Top 10 posts from 5771/2011 on homelessness, poverty and hunger, as well as sustainable agriculture and the environment — and share them at your sukkah tables!

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