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A Perspective on Social Justice Changed through Service

A reflection written by Jack, Repair the World NYC Teen Service Corps Member.

What is social justice? On paper, it means to enact justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. In reality, social justice is significantly more complex than that. As we all know, the growing popularity of social media has affected our lives drastically, but in my opinion, it has affected our perception of social justice the most. Due to social media, the term “social justice” and the ideas it preaches have been politicized, and the true message behind social justice: to serve one’s community, has been clouded by infographics and Twitter rants. As such, my perception of social justice before entering this program was not the most positive, since 99% of my knowledge of the topic came from social media. I saw it more as a dividing force than a uniting one. I would see people post infographics about issues ranging from racial justice, to food justice, as well as links where you could donate to those causes. As much as posting these thing were good steps towards enacting social change, I began to wonder how much impact they really had. Most infographics are simplified at best, and outright false at worst. For a long time, social justice seemed political, frustrating, and disunifying to me. 

Over the last few months in this program, this view has significantly changed. Participating in activities like volunteering at Bushwick City Farm and phone banking with Hunger Free America, I have realized that social justice is more than just posting and arguing on social media. Social Justice requires some sort of personal sacrifice. Clicking a few buttons on my phone to post an infographic was certainly not as eye opening as turning compost for two hours by myself at the farm, and although I would rather not spend my weekend turning compost, for one of the first times in my life I actually felt that I was truly helping a cause. Not just spreading information about it, but actually taking action. In my opinion, action is one of the core pillars of social justice. A phrase I’m sure many people here are familiar with is: It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.” Finishing the work requires direct action, or else it will never get done. That is the lesson I’ve learned from this program. 

 

Growth on Uncertain Ground

Reflecting on my semester with the community of Repair the World Teen Service Corps, I chose to create a zine! This mini-zine, titled Growth on Uncertain Ground, focuses on how service and learning create community, even in times of distance or conflict. Throughout this semester, my perspective has evolved and expanded. I wanted to express that feeling and viewpoint through this zine. I am excited to take what I have learned and use it to continue serving my community. 

— Eliza Baron-Singer

              

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sharing an Office to a Lasting Partnership

Last year, Marissa Fogal embarked on a journey to work within spaces that were aligned with her Jewish values. “As a Jewish person, the value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, was presented to me as my purpose in life. It’s a value that is both so personal but also a value of the community,” said Marissa. Wanting to fulfill her passion for growing food and dedicate her work towards strengthening her Jewish values, Marissa found what she was longing for at 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh. Now, the Vice President of Food Rescue Operations at 412 Food Rescue, Marissa has been a key connection to Repair the World’s partnership with the organization.

412 Food Rescue has been a service partner of Repair the World Pittsburgh for 7 years. They work with food retailers to prevent surplus food from going to waste. A relationship that grew out from sharing office spaces several years ago, Repair the World Pittsburgh and 412 Food Rescue were a perfect match. With a shared mission to provide vital resources to community members in the Pittsburgh area, this partnership has continued to evolve. 412 Food Rescue has provided a space for Repair the World fellows to grow and learn about food insecurity in Pittsburgh and ways to combat it. Repair the World continues to provide a thriving volunteer network to amplify the work 412 Food Rescue is doing in the community.

“Fellows are dedicating their time to serving their community with Repair the World and are also choosing to serve with and alongside countless service organizations that are directly providing resources to community members,” said Marissa. “Something I believe makes the fellowship unlike any other is the entrepreneurial spirit that is incorporated into serving. I’ve witnessed our Repair the World fellows really grow and learn key professional skills at 412 while engaging in Jewish learning, connecting with volunteers, and providing vital resources to the people of Pittsburgh.”

This past year was a time when many service organizations were forced to adapt and find new ways to reach their communities while making their services accessible. “Because of the pandemic we have had to shift and make changes to many of our programs in some hard but really cool ways. While stricter COVID-19 restrictions were in place, our fellows were unable to cook meals to be distributed throughout the community. Instead they created TikTok videos and other cool social media content about food waste reduction and cooking education which had a lasting impact on moving this work forward,” said Marissa. 

One year into working at 412 Marissa sees her values in action everyday. “Seeing my values lived out is centered around my being surrounded by people who have deeply committed themselves to serving others. I saw my values as I witnessed the fellows this past year use their skills to strengthen our work and I see them lived out with every volunteer I interact with.”

Repair the World Announces Expansion to Align with Program Priorities, Organizational Growth, and Unprecedented Opportunities for Jewish Service Movement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2021
Contact:  Jason Edelstein
510/239-1102

Repair the World Announces Expansion to Align with Program Priorities, Organizational Growth, and Unprecedented Opportunities for Jewish Service Movement

New York – Repair the World, a Jewish non-profit that mobilizes Jews and their communities to take action to pursue a just world, igniting a lifelong commitment to service, today announced program priorities for the coming year, along with realignment and growth of its professional team reflecting the expansion and additional strategic opportunities. A recent $7 million gift from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett to Repair the World will help grow its work to an unprecedented scale as many American Jews say that working for justice and equality is essential to being Jewish. 

In the wake of the pandemic, volunteers stepped up boldly to serve their communities in incredibly meaningful ways. As we enter this moment following the pandemic, we believe the Jewish community is entering a transformed ‘Service Era’ where they are building on the support and continued strengthening of their communities demonstrated last year by so many,” said Cindy Greenberg, President and CEO of Repair the World. “We are excited that Repair’s expansion can further build thriving Jewish life and meaningful social change through service infused with Jewish values and learning.”

Repair the World reached over 17,000 volunteers who contributed over 100,000 hours of service and learning to nonprofit partners across the country between August 2020-April 2021, thanks in part to last year’s launch of Serve the Moment powered by Repair the World in partnership with 44 coalition organizations. Repair is now positioned to expand these and other meaningful service efforts. Key pieces of the alignment to the organizational growth and adaptive strategy include: 

  • Mobilizing through direct programming 
    • Building a local presence in the 20 communities (currently operating in 13 communities) with the largest population of Jewish young adults
    • Curating a menu of program options for local communities (full-time Fellowship, part-time Service Corps, episodic service)
  • Catalyzing through national partnerships & field activation
    • Strengthening customized partnerships with the largest national Jewish engagement organizations to engage their participants in meaningful service and Jewish learning
  • Inspiring through national service campaigns
    • Facilitating issue-area based campaigns grounded in Jewish wisdom to promote and catalyze service 
    • Digitally engaging with audiences to activate the field to lead to acts of service and learning

Repair the World will invest in its Jewish educational strategy by further centering Jewish learning in all of its service opportunities. Repair the World will also continue to prioritize its racial justice and equity commitments, rooted in solidarity and responsibility to amplify the voices of marginalized communities and offer support to those communities.

To help achieve these new goals and expanded program offerings, Repair re-aligned its current senior strategic executive team to include:

  • President & CEO | Cindy Greenberg (she/her) – Will continue as President & CEO of Repair; Cindy was the founding executive director of Repair’s NYC program. Previously, she was the executive director of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life. 
  • Chief Strategy Officer | Kate O’Bannon (she/her) – Has led Repair’s growth over the last few years and most recently served as senior director of strategy. Prior to joining Repair, Kate worked at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. 
  • Chief Program Officer | Jordan Fruchtman (he/him) – Most recently senior director of Jewish Service Alliance and helped launch Serve the Moment; prior to joining Repair, Jordan served as the Chief Program Officer for Moishe House. 
  • Senior Director of Finance | Neeraj Nagpal (he/him) – Has 15 years of experience leading complex finance functions for nonprofits, including Habitat for Humanity, NEO Philanthropy, and Amnesty International. 
  • Senior Director of Jewish Education | Rabbi Jessy Dressin (she/her) – Worked as a community rabbi in Baltimore, MD, for ten years, most recently as Baltimore Repair’s executive director; received a Covenant Foundation 2020 Pomegranate Award and was named as one of The Forward’s “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in 2016. 
  • Senior Director of Mobilize | Zack Block (he/him) – Worked many years  for large public accounting firms and as a long-time board member of the Hillel JUC in Pittsburgh, Zack was instrumental in building and sustaining J’Burgh, Pittsburgh’s social and professional network for Jewish graduate students and young professionals. He now leads the mobilization strategies at Repair the World. 
  • Senior Director of Philanthropy | Wendy Rhein (she/her) – Was chief of staff of world food program, and previously was with UNICEF and Points of Light; has been development consultant for the last two years with Repair and is now joining the team full time.

Repair the World also seeks to add the role of Chief Operating Officer and is looking to fill the existing role of Senior Racial Justice Advisor.

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Repair the World mobilizes Jews and their communities to take action to pursue a just world, igniting a lifelong commitment to service. We believe service in support of social change is vital to a flourishing Jewish community and an inspired Jewish life. By 2030, Repair will inspire and catalyze one million acts of service towards repairing the world.

What It’s Like to Get Millions of Dollars From MacKenzie Scott

This article originally appeared in TIME on June 17th, 2021. 

“When I got the call, I literally just lost my breath,” says Cindy Greenberg, president and CEO of Repair the World, a faith-based organization that promotes local community service among Jewish youth, to which Scott gave $7 million in mid-June. “As [Scott’s representative] told me the amount of the gift, I felt all the breath come out of me. And when she had finished speaking, I said, ‘Can you please repeat that?’ It was such incredible news, I felt like I had to hear it a second time.”

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Faith groups among those granted money from US billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

This article originally appeared on Sight on June 17th, 2021.

In her post, Scott listed the 286 organizations and institutions that received funding but did not disclose the amount she gave to each group. Faith in Action, Faith in Public Life, HIAS, Repair the World, Inner-City Muslim Action Network, Muslim Advocates, Pillars Fund, Homeboy Industries and Repairers of the Breach were faith organizations listed among those receiving funding.

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6 Events That Celebrate Juneteenth Through a Jewish Lens

This article originally appeared in The Detroit Jewish News on June 18, 2021.

A virtual Juneteenth havdalah option is being hosted by the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue based in Detroit and the non-profit volunteer organization Repair the World.There will be a discussion on both the importance and history of Juneteenth.

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Daily Kickoff | MacKenzie Scott donates to Repair the World and HIAS

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Insider on June 16th, 2021.

MacKenzie Scott, known for her record-setting charitable donations, has now become — with her husband, Dan Jewett — a supporter of two Jewish organizations: Repair the World, a service corps for young people, and HIAS, the immigrant support and advocacy group. Repair the World, whose annual budget was $5.9 million, will receive an unrestricted grant of $7 million from Scott and Jewett, CEO Cindy Greenberg told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.  It was part of $2.74 billion in new gifts Scott and her husband announced yesterday.

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Community Liberation through Farming

Last summer, Zohar, a Repair the World fellow, began working with the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden, a local farm and service partner in Baltimore, Maryland. Working at a community garden was a new experience for Zohar. “Through the fellowship, we jumped right into the work of organized gardening and cleaning the surrounding areas,” said Zohar. They recalled the moment they met the farm steward at the garden for the first time. The farm steward asked, “Are you willing to dedicate your time towards fighting for the protection of Black land and food sovereignty?” As Zohar reflected on what calls them to serve, they said, “Yes. I really don’t see any other way.” 

It was at this moment that Zohar knew their next year as a Repair the World fellow would be like none other. Zohar has dedicated their service to food access equity ever since the start of the fellowship. “If we want to move forward with liberation for everyone through food equity and taking care of the earth, Black farming and food sovereignty need to be protected.” For Zohar the moment they met the farm steward is one they also think about often when reflecting on why they truly serve. “The work I do in my community is about solidarity, organizing with my neighbors to better protect one another, and building healthy communities.” 

This past year Zohar has committed their time to strengthening the work of farmers in the Baltimore area by showing up for Black farmers who are meaningfully transforming the food system by serving alongside them. “What motivates me is believing that tomorrow, we will be a step closer to liberation for all people. I wake up every morning thinking about what I can do today to make that happen.”  Zohar’s Judaism plays a significant role in their passion for uplifting community members, as someone who grew up witnessing Jewish organizers serving their communities everyday. “I look to my ancestors and those who came before me to guide me in my pursuit for a more just world.”

Zohar who spends most of their time at the garden and with other community food access organizations truly feels their values in action on Farm Crew Work Day when working with a farm crew, a cohort of volunteers who regularly serve at local farms and community gardens. A new initiative for Repair the World Baltimore, on Farm Crew Work Day, Zohar and other volunteers prepare seedling beds for growing during the year. Community members pay little to nothing to grow their own food. “This project directly aligns with my values. I believe that we should give financially when we’re able to and dedicate our time and labor when we are physically capable of doing so.”

Food access equity and combating lack of food resources can be an uphill battle that Zohar witnesses their community facing. “My experiences serving pushes me to reach into my Jewishness when progress feels far off and suffering is ongoing. Whatever community role I take on will be one where I am serving others.”

Zohar is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where they were a Middle Eastern Studies and Politics double major. They are a social justice educator, a Yiddishist, and a Jewish community leader. They have a passion for creating a collective imagining of eventual liberation and implementing practices of indisposability in everyday life. Zohar loves historical dramas, making bubble tea, and collecting patches and pins for their denim jacket.

Opening Up About Mental Health is a Jewish Value

This article originally appeared on Alma on May 25th 2021. 

Organizations like Repair the World are working to combat some of these factors by creating new opportunities for digital volunteering and socially distant service programs. Volunteering is known to support mental health: According to Ricky Lawton, associate director at Simetrica Research Consultancy, volunteering “boosts our sense of social connection,” but can also be intrinsically rewarding — that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you’ve done something to help something else is a protective factor for your mental health, in addition to making a positive impact.

 

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