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Press Release: Repair the World Celebrates Ten Years of Making Meaningful Service and Building Bridges a Part of American Jewish Life

Event in Harlem Reflects on Impact and Kicks Off Opportunities to Serve Around the Country

NEW YORK, NY; October 23, 2019 — Hundreds of partners, supporters, and dedicated stakeholders who are passionate about the power of service celebrated Repair the World’s decade-long commitment to making meaningful service a part of American Jewish life last week. Emblematic of Repair’s roots in authentic service with local partners to address communities’ pressing needs, Repair is marking the occasion with #MoreThanService volunteer opportunities and community events throughout the country.

At the anniversary celebration in Harlem, which included a service project with the Community Kitchen and Pantry of West Harlem, Larry Brooks, Board Chair of Repair the World commented, “Our efforts depend on committed people that hold a shared vision–that service can be impactful across communities, meaningful to those involved, and powerful as a vehicle that strengthens relationships. Repair was founded to build a field of Jewish service, one that empowered individuals that seek to live their Jewish values in service to others. Today, we can look back with our partners and friends and see both how much we’ve accomplished and how much work there still is to do.”  

While Repair’s approach has evolved over ten years, what has never changed is the enthusiasm and energy of young adults to serve, learn, and make a difference in their communities, in partnership with those leading their local communities. Over ten years, Repair the World has impacted more than 1,750 Repair community partners, welcomed nearly 200 Repair Fellows and alumni, and engaged more than 160,500 participants. Repair the World has demonstrated that service, when done right, can amplify the impact of local service organizations and can be a meaningful way to engage in Jewish life and to build Jewish community.

Ruth Messinger, Social Justice Consultant and Global Justice Ambassador, AJWS, spoke at the celebration, remarking that everyone associated with Repair—its Fellows, community partners, staff, board, and funders—all played critical roles in making service a defining element of Jewish life. “Repair and its partners have helped to change the understanding that people have of Jewish life. Service is, in fact, the central way that so many of us live out and express our Jewishness–and Repair creates meaningful ways for us to do exactly that.”

Repair was founded in 2009 to make service a defining element of American Jewish life. In 2013, Repair began to engage directly with on the ground work in specific communities through its Repair Communities program, which placed cohorts of young adults in partnerships with trusted local service organizations and supported them in mobilizing and creating service experiences for other young adults. This peer-to-peer model, which is on the ground in nine different communities today, enables Repair Fellows and local staff to work closely with local nonprofits to address urgent community needs including food justice, education justice, criminal justice reform, housing needs, racial equity, and more.

“This year gives me an opportunity to build relationships with my Brooklyn neighbors, work with organizations tackling education justice, and engage young people in service work,” says Brenna Rosen, a Repair the World Fellow in Brooklyn. “I hope to finish my year as a Repair the World Fellow with an increased ability to make change in the world around me and amplify communities with change.”

Repair’s on-the-ground local community efforts are combined with its work building the field of Jewish service and its national partnerships with other organizations to support them in building meaningful and effective service into their work. At key moments in the year, Repair launches online campaigns as a way to galvanize an online community of changemakers. In the last year alone, Repair has reached 1.7 million individuals online through campaigns like MLK Day, encouraging individuals to #ActNow in solidarity with directly impacted communities, and through #ShareHerStory, an online campaign highlighting the untold stories of Jewish Women of Color in connection with the Jewish holiday of Purim. 

All of Repair’s initiatives and resources strive to empower people to engage in difficult conversations, to build deep and transformative relationships within and between their communities, and to translate those values into action through impactful service and learning. Especially in the Jewish community, a generation of young adults who increasingly connect their passion to create change with Jewish heritage and tradition are moved to live out their values through Repair the World. 

“When we talk to others, learn about their struggles, have our eyes opened to different life experiences, we begin to understand the work that needs to be done to make our communities more equitable and better places to live for all,” adds Cindy Greenberg, who recently was named Repair’s President and CEO, following 5 years as executive director of Repair the World New York. “Young people see the challenges in communities and want to be a part of the solution. I’m thrilled to continue Repair’s work with our partners and with our Fellows who envision the change they want—and then commit to making it happen.” 

Repair is grateful for its 10th anniversary sponsors and funders, including the Himan Brown Charitable Trust, Jim Joseph Foundation, PJ Library, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation,  Marcus Foundation, and Insperity.

To learn more about how to get involved and volunteer with Repair the World, visit weRepair.org/volunteer. 

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412 Food Rescue, Repair The World, Circles Greater Pittsburgh Move To East Liberty

This originally appeared on CBS Pittsburgh on October 31, 2019.

The East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM) announced on Oct. 31 that nonprofits 412 Food Rescue, Repair the World and Circles Pittsburgh will join them at their East Liberty campus on 6140 Station Street.

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America Has Already Forgotten the Tree of Life Shooting

This originally appeared on The Atlantic on October 28, 2019.

By Emma Green

Last year’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue was a stone dropping in water, creating concentric circles of grief. At the center were the survivors and the families of victims. Then came the first responders, and the local leaders who handled the overwhelming logistics involved in the aftermath. On and on: members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community. Pittsburghers writ large. American Jews. And, finally, the whole of the country, which saw the attack as part of the long list of mass shootings that have already happened this decade.

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Strengthening Community One Year After Pittsburgh

By Zack Block

Zack Block is a lifelong Pittsburgher committed to building an equitable Pittsburgh.  Zack is also the Senior Director of Communities for Repair the World and the Executive Director of Repair the World Pittsburgh.

As a lifelong Pittsburgher, a Squirrel Hill resident, and a white Ashkenazi Jew, seeing my community in the news for a mass shooting was shocking, difficult, and hard to comprehend. On October 27, 2018, one year ago today, our community was violently attacked in one of the most horrific acts of antisemitism, white nationalism, and hatred this country has seen. I live a few blocks away from the Tree of Life building, and on the day of the shooting, I was first in disbelief, and then horrified. Then, quickly, I jumped into action. I took phone calls at the JCC from the FBI’s hotline and I spoke to the families of the victims. In the last year, I have replayed those phone calls and conversations over and over again in my head. In the last year, I witnessed the ways the Jewish community came together and the way the larger Pittsburgh community grappled with the massacre. In the last year, I have cried, mourned, grown, and learned. And in the last year, I have been pushed to understand that the outpouring of love and support my community received actively causes harm to communities of color, who do not receive similar outpourings of support when they experience their own horrific tragedies.

While the Jewish community is targeted by more hate crimes than other religious groups in the US, systems of government, society, and culture are set up to cause much more harm to communities of color than to white Jews and white Jewish communities. 

Crimes committed against communities of color do not get reported in the media with as much consistency and intensity as crimes committed against the Jewish community. Fewer eyes on the issues translates to less support for healing and recovery. No matter the community, we all deserve equal attention, love, and support during times of tragedy.

It is time for us to embody Jewish values and work alongside communities of color to create a more just and equitable society. Cross-community connections and relationships have been intentionally severed by white nationalism, which looks to pit different minority groups against each other for white nationalism’s own benefit. Showing up through service and ongoing volunteering helps to repair those crucial connections that we will lean on during times of acute and ongoing crisis.

At Repair the World Pittsburgh, we are shining a bright light on racism and antisemitism and islamophobia and xenophobia and all the hate that keeps people oppressed in the name of white nationalism. It has been one year since the horrific shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Please join us over the next year as we have hard conversations and serve with others to help heal, to show solidarity, and to strengthen our relationships and communities. 

Over the weekend, Repair cities across the country will mark the one-year commemoration of Tree of Life in service and learning alongside local communities. And, in Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, JCC of Greater of Pittsburgh, JFCS Pittsburgh, and other countless partners, we will facilitate learning at 30 service projects to serve in solidarity with our local neighbors.

Here’s A List Of Events Around The Country Commemorating The Tree Of Life Shooting

This originally appeared on Forward on October 25, 2019.

By Ari Feldman

his Sunday marks one year since the shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 people were killed. Anniversaries of deaths have great significance in Judaism. They are commonly called the _yahrzeit,_ a Yiddish word which simply means “the time of the year.” Jewish organizations across the country have organized commemoration events to mark the day, and many synagogues are dedicating their Sabbath services on Saturday to the memory of the 11.

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A Fellow’s Reflections from Pittsburgh–One Year Later

By Abigail Natelson
Repair the World Atlanta Fellow 2019-20

This October, some things feel the same, and some different.  Many of us observe Yom Kippur as we have done since childhood.  Many of us honor the change of seasons and the harvest from within temporary outdoor dwellings or Sukkot.  This October, Repair the World reaches a milestone as a national organization and will celebrate 10 years of focusing our Jewish community on best practices in volunteer service.  Amidst all of these occasions, one stands out as painfully unlike the others: the first anniversary of the White Nationalist terror attack on Tree of Life Synagogue. One of our Atlanta Repair Fellows, Abigail Natelson, grew up in Pittsburgh and shares her recollection of the event with us below:

Almost a year ago, I penciled a note into my calendar under Saturday, October 27th: “Halloween party with friends, dressing up as characters from Shrek, Pitt plays Duke.” Pittsburgh was ready for this regular weekend of rest, fun, and for many, Shabbat.

On the morning of the 27th, I woke up before my alarm to a calm fall day, with time to relax and appreciate the quiet morning. After a few deep breaths, I was jolted from my state of serenity by the blaring sound of what I learned later to be nearly every vehicle in Pittsburgh’s emergency fleet racing down the boulevard perpendicular to my street. Not too unusual for the city, but it seems off. Minutes later, I received an alert from the University: “Shots fired at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Wilkins Ave. Police operations are ongoing. Avoid the Squirrel Hill/Shadyside area.” Tree of Life Or L’Simcha? Where we celebrated my camper’s Bat Mitzvah last weekend? Is there more than one Tree of Life in Pittsburgh? I knew there was not. 

Then the notifications on my phone arrived, and for weeks they did not relent. The phrase “active shooter” appeared. Is this not everyone’s worst nightmare? Along with the slew of Groupme and Facebook messages was a text from my mom in the suburbs of Pittsburgh: “Rabbi ended services early. Headed home.” Call mom. When she picked up, I asked why someone would shoot at the synagogue, and it was her who convinced me that he had entered the sacred space with a weapon and was targeting actual human beings. “6 people are dead.” Dead. I hadn’t seen this word yet. Right down the street. Our community is being killed. Before I had even understood the situation, people were already dead. I was crying as I felt my community collapse. 

For hours, I sat with friends and roommates, refreshing the news stories over and over. The next few days were an indistinguishable fog of vigils, abundant communal support, and realizations about the danger all targeted minorities face in the US.  Today, our fear of the possibility of weapons harming our community and our neighbors has not subsided. Given that, I wish to amplify an article by Ilana Kaufman that initiates a discussion on how to keep synagogues safe for our multi-racial Jewish community, acknowledging the challenges of traditional security measures.  Continuing this dialogue is critical. 

As the weekend of October 27th approaches, it brings both the season of Halloween costumes and a time of heightened anxiety for the Jewish community. I am hopeful that, amidst the haunting and traumatizing memory of that Shabbat, the Jewish community, especially my insurmountable Tree of Life and Pittsburgh family, will experience some measure of peace and joy from the community’s outpouring of radical love and support.

9/11 Memorials And Events In New York City

This originally appeared on the Patch on September 9, 2019.

By Sydney Pereira

Wednesday marks eighteen years since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center site in 2001. Across the city, commemoration events will honor the 2,983 people who were killed in the attacks at the WTC site, the Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93, as well as those who were killed in the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center next week.

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Smarter Justice | Opinion

This originally appeared on the Pittsburgh Current on September 3, 2019.

By Jessica Semler

Last week, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission hosted hearings in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to hear from the public about a Risk Assessment Instrument. The state legislature mandated the commission to come up with an algorithm to assess a defendant’s risk for violence in 2010. They’ve gone back to the drawing board a handful of times after receiving scrutiny from various groups about the very nature of using a mathematical equations and data that could affect someone’s life.

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Reflections on JPRO19: What Connects Us

This originally appeared on The Jewish News on August 24, 2019.

By Robin Axelrod

JPRO Network, an organization that connects, educates, inspires and empowers professionals working in the Jewish community sector, sponsored an oversold conference, “JPRO19: What Connects Us,” at Cobo Arena Aug. 12-14.

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The true power of volunteer service | Opinion

This originally appeared on The South Florida Sun-Sentinel on August 26, 2019.

By Janu Mendel

One of my most formative memories from childhood growing up in Jamaica has to do with Labor Day. Not because of beaches and barbecues, but because back home, it is a holiday that takes the word “labor” quite literally — it’s a national day of service. All over the island people dedicate the day to volunteer projects that uplift the neighboring communities.

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