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Archive for : Homelessness

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.

Help Provide Kids with Shoes and Backpacks for School with “Back to Basics”

This fall, help kids get ready for school across the globe. Join Office Depot and Samaritan’s Feet in their “Back to Basics Initiative” which provides new shoes and backpacks for students in the United States and internationally.

Office Depot donated 40,000 colorful backpacks to Samaritan’s Feet – a humanitarian organization that provides underprivileged children with new shoes. They then distribute the backpacks filled with school supplies along with shoes and socks. Since July 4th, more than 38 donation events have been held in more than 30 communities.

Join the effort by supporting Samaritan’s Feet – click here to donate. Or, coordinate a backpack drive locally in your community. Learn how here.

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! Hopefully the soggy weather, which left much of the East Coast water-logged over the last couple of days, didn’t cramp your weekend style. To inject a little sunshine into the beginning of the week, here’s your weekly dose of inspiration from around the web.

  • The New York Times published an article by the inimitable Samuel Freedman about a Jewish summer camp focused on young Jews of color.
  • The JTA posted the latest news about the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters crowding the streets – and not just in Tel Aviv.
  • Meanwhile, The Forward offered an op-ed by J.J. Goldberg which recounted Israeli novelist, David Grossman’s thoughts on the protests and his experiences from the front line.
  • GOOD offers a bit of fascinating (and comparatively hopeful) environmental news about how humans are helping animal populations around the world adapt to a changing global climate.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle to end on a bright note, shares how a seven year old kid decided to donate his piggybank money to a local environmental nonprofit.

Leiby Kletzky’s Family Turns Tragedy Into an Opportunity to Help

Several weeks ago, New York City was rocked by a stunning tragedy when an 8-year old Brooklyn boy named Lieby Kletzky was kidnapped and killed by a fellow community member while walking home from camp.

This type of violence is always shocking, but Kletzky’s young age and innocence made the situation even more painful – for his family, for the community, and for everyone who has followed the story.

Now, the Kletzky family has set up a memorial fund to raise money for other at-risk children and families. Specifically, the fund supports orphans, needy families, children falling behind in school, and critically ill young children. As the website says:
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Repair Interview: Steven Weinberg of Will Work for Food

Since 2007, an organization called Will Work for Food – which was founded by students at the University of Michigan – has worked to raise funds to combat global child hunger and malnutrition. And they do it in a very unique way.

Instead of simply raising money, WWFF participants engage in a local volunteer project and encourage friends, family and neighbors to pledge money in support of their service. Think a cancer or MS walk – but replace the walking with community service. To date, WWFF and their partners (mostly student groups) have raised over $70,000 to support the global hunger relief work of Doctors with Borders.

WWFF co-founder and pre-med student, Steven Weinberg, took the time to talk to Repair the World about the importance of doing tangible work, how WWFF doubles an individual’s service impact, and what in the world Plumpy’Nut is.
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Repair Essay: Serving in Argentina with JDC

This essay was originally published on JDC’s In Service Blog (JDC is a Repair the World partner grantee), and was contributed by Ariel Bronstein who served in Argentina with Tufts Hillel and JDC Short-Term Service in May.

On the flight home from Argentina I had a lot running through my mind. As I recalled moments on the trip that really stuck with me, I thought to myself that I must join JDC’s efforts and continue helping the Jewish community in Argentina once I return home. I thought about the homes I visited and life stories people told.

One such story was a single mother living in a small one-room home that she shared with her 5-year old son, Maximo. The room was just big enough to fit two mattresses, a small round table and a small refrigerator. The mother and son had to walk down the hall to the communal bathroom and kitchen.
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