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Archive for : Repair in the News

The State of Volunteering in North American Jewish Not-for-Profit Organizations

Repair the World is pleased to announce the results of its survey: The State of Volunteering in North American Jewish Organizations.

This is the first major assessment of the state of volunteering in the Jewish not-for-profit community. More than 200 Jewish not-for-profit organizations from across the country participated in this survey and these results establish important baselines for the field. The results also highlight opportunities for Jewish not-for-profits to make use of volunteering best practices.

The top-level findings generally support the hypothesis that volunteering programs provide more benefits for organizations that support them with intentionality and investment:

  1. The better a Jewish nonprofit organization supports its volunteers the more it benefits from them: Organizations that report increased use of the best practices for supporting volunteering find directly proportional benefits in capacity, impact and cost savings.
  2. Volunteer managers drive volunteer growth: Volunteer participation numbers are more directly  connected to having dedicated volunteer management than to any other variable, including even an organization’s size and its enthusiasm for volunteers.
  3. Training drives benefits: Having any kind of volunteer training program more than quadruples the benefit of volunteers through increased organizational capacity and impact.
  4. Jewish volunteers are tackling Education and Poverty Alleviation: Education and poverty alleviation are, by large margins, the most common social issues Jewish nonprofit organizations address through their volunteers.

Despite the strong correlation, however, between how organizations support their volunteers and how much value they get from them, the survey results illustrate that most organizations have a long way to go to achieve the additional capacity, impact and cost-savings volunteers could provide.

For Repair, these results boost our determination to provide the resources, tools and best practices to make Jewish volunteering easier, smarter and more impactful for individuals, organizations and communities.

We encourage you to take a close look at this report and use the findings to assess your organization’s current deployment of volunteers.

As always, we are eager to hear your ideas and thoughts!

Fall Fix Up young adult crew tackles Detroit’s Delray community

By Ben Falik, Special Thanks to The Jewish News

On Nov. 10, Jewish Family Service and Repair the World partnered to go where Fall Fix Up had never gone before…


Connected Through Service

Stephen Donshik’s article on the Jumpstart study, “Connected to Give,” highlights several key issues and raises a number of key questions. In particular, the following are three big ideas we at The Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies (AJFCA) want to echo from the article and how we have shifted our focus to address these exact needs in the community:

We need to be reaching out and engaging young people (especially graduates of intensive Jewish experiences like birthright israel) in our institutions, educating them on our mission and organizational structure and inviting them to participate in actual decision making at a high-level.

Will this happen overnight? No. Obviously, as Donshik pointed out, we need to invest in leadership development and strengthen the role of volunteers of all ages in our Jewish institutions. AJFCA made just this investment when we partnered with Repair the World to launch our Volunteer Initiative, hiring a dedicated full time professional in February 2012 to elevate the role and impact of volunteering within AJFCA’s member agencies, manage the expansion of outreach to young adults, and increase professional development and support to network volunteer managers. We have created a Community of Practice of approximately 75 agencies throughout North America that share ideas and resources on community volunteer engagement. Our agencies report that support from AJFCA and their peers helps to enhance their strategy for engaging young people in their communities in a meaningful way.

Once we had a strong sense of how our agencies were faring in the area of young adult engagement, we decided to pilot a Young Adult Ambassador program which would provide the structure and resources to allow the Volunteer Manager of three select agencies to focus on young adult recruitment and engagement in service. Although the pilot year is not yet complete, we have already seen significant returns for the participating agencies. For example, Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit had been reluctant to create volunteer programming specifically targeting young adults since the market for such opportunities in Detroit was surprisingly saturated. The Ambassador pilot helped them work through their perceived roadblocks, allowing them to identify ways to partner with existing programs in the community as well as giving more focused direction to the talented young adults who they had already successfully engaged on their board.

As a national association, we are also very interested in how we might partner with the leaders of the intensive Jewish experiences like birthright, Avodah and the new Repair Community Fellows model to connect their alumni with meaningful opportunities in our member agencies to further their Jewish community connection following their life-altering experience.

We need to prove to young adults that Jewish organizations are not just here for the Jews.

This one is easy for AJFCA and our 125 member agencies. Jewish family service agencies are strongly rooted in Jewish tradition and values. Judaism provides the underpinning of our missions and the foundational guide to our services, but not a limit to whom those services may benefit. In fact, more than half of our member agencies serve a client base that consists of at least 50% non-Jews. Collectively, Jewish family service agencies provide a strong Jewish response to human need. Yes, in case of disasters such as Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, our agencies are there to meet the needs of the general community. But every day they are open, they are serving the needs of the general community by caring for the elderly and disabled, the unemployed and addicted Jews and non-Jews alike. There are many recent studies which back up the fact that younger Jews raise this up as a core value. We need to make them aware that the Jewish family service agencies can connect them to the service opportunities they are seeking.

We need to be open to innovation in our organizations, no matter how large or historic the agency might be.

One of the aspects of institutions that actually attracts rather than repels young adults is that the organization is doing innovative work on issues that the young person finds meaningful. The concept of inviting young adults into the board rooms of our agencies might seem innovative to some, but our hope is to make that piece of our initiative old news and focus our innovation on how volunteers are helping our agencies produce value by filling a void or improving a process. This is something we spoke to in detail in the most recent issue of the Journal of Jewish Communal Service on big ideas and bold solutions. Here again, Jewish family services are continually innovating, and we need to publicize widely this opportunity for young people to engage with a Jewish organization in a way that works for them.

We whole-heartedly agree with the points made by Stephen Donshik in his recent piece. We invite Jewish organizations to partner with us in spreading the word to our future Jewish leaders of the many meaningful and relevant opportunities they can find to engage in the Jewish community through their local Jewish family service agency.

Jennie Gates Beckman is Manager of Civic Engagement and Repair the World Programming of the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA), Lisa K. Budlow is the Director of Programs of AJFCA and Lee I. Sherman is the President/CEO of AJFCA.

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Jewish Women International’s “Women to Watch”

Lisa Eisen

Working for Systemic Change in Jewish Life


Lisa Eisen knew she would spend her life “working for the Jewish people” as a teenager in 1979 when she spent the summer in Israel. “It was the pivot point in my life, to experience Jews from all over the world building their homeland and forging a strong Jewish future,” she says.

Today, Eisen helps make it possible for thousands of people to “see themselves as part of a dynamic, vibrant Jewish community” as the national director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Since 2001, she has spearheaded numerous projects for the 25-year-old, multimillion-dollar philanthropic network, which has become one of the leading proponents worldwide of innovative programs for young Jewish adults. Responsible for overseeing the foundation’s support of Hillel, BBYO, Moishe House and other prominent global Jewish organizations, Eisen has also jump-started additional new ventures, including the Israel on Campus Coalition, the Israel Institute, the national service organization Repair the World, and the iCenter, a cutting-edge initiative devoted to Israel education, for which she currently serves as board chair.

“I see myself as working for systemic change in Jewish life,” says the 49-year-old Washington, D.C.-based Jewish activist and innovator. “It’s a privilege to help the Schusterman family realize their philanthropic vision, and I feel an enormous responsibility to get it right.”

With a passion for entrepreneurialism and fulfilling the philanthropic vision of the foundation, Eisen spends her days developing grant-making strategies, helping organizations grow, evaluating the impact of current investments and launching new ventures. “I’ll serve as HR director or fundraiser or PR person until we get the organization staffed up. I’m willing to work hard in any way that’s needed,” she says, and credits the foundation’s co-chairs, Lynn Schusterman and her daughter Stacy, for serving as “inspiring role models. They have shown me that leadership comes down to being authentic and having a strong, clear voice.”

Raised in Louisville, Ky., Eisen also found role models in her parents, who tirelessly volunteered for Israeli and Jewish causes and taught her to fight anti-Semitism. When a boy at her high school called her a “kike, I gave him a piece of my mind and told him he should never use that word again,” she recalls.

Eisen developed her leadership skills through her involvement with the youth groups BBYO and USY, where she served as her local chapter’s president. As a history major at Yale University, she became a Jewish and Israel activist, working for Hillel and writing her thesis on U.S. foreign policy during the Yom Kippur War. “I was accused by my professor of being biased toward Israel, and that experience gave me a real passion for making sure that college students can study Israel in a positive, unbiased and multidisciplinary manner,” she says.

During college, Eisen interned for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and later received her master’s degree in Israel and Middle East studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At 28, she became the executive director of Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee that organizes seminars in Israel for global leaders. There she became experienced in the dynamics of the Jewish nonprofit world. Always, “I have been grounded in hope, opportunity and optimism for the Jewish future,” she says.

The mother of Ariella, 20, Tamar, 18, and Jonah, 14, Eisen does her best “to carve out sacred space” for her children and husband Mitch. “There’s no such thing as balance,” she admits. “But I want my daughters and other young women to know they can be professionals and leaders and still have a family life. It is important to me to be a role model to them.”

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— Grants to support Alternative Break programs that help rebuilding efforts  —

NEW YORK, JUNE 3, 2013 — Repair the World, the country’s leading national nonprofit organization mobilizing Jewish volunteers, is offering micro-grants to support alternative break programs that focus on relief efforts in the aftermath of the tornado that recently tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, Oklahoma. The grants are being offered to inspire nonprofit groups to organize alternative break programs to help the battered region recover from the horrific natural disaster that left 24 people dead, destroyed more than 1,200 homes and businesses, and damaged another 10,000.

Alternative breaks are volunteer programs that offer young adults hands-on service-learning opportunities and give them the chance to experience how the integration of service, education and reflection can create a meaningful and positive personal change that can positively affect the communities they serve.

The micro-grants, which will range from $1,000 to $5,000, are being offered to cover costs involved with running alternative break programs such as travel, supplies, staff time and local housing. In addition,

Repair the World will provide participating organizations with service-learning curricula tailored to disaster relief.

To be eligible for the grants, programs:

  • Must be fully committed to engaging young Jewish adults (ages 13-35) in disaster response efforts
  • Commit to at least 200 hours of service (e.g. 20 participants at 10 hours each or some other combination)
  • Should utilize the disaster response service-learning curriculum developed by Repair the World
  • Must be operating under 501(c)3 status or connected with an organization that does

For applications, visit or contact Mordy Walfish at 646-695-2700 x 23 or [email protected].

“When people are enduring the worst of devastations, others must use the best in themselves to help them heal. These grants will enable additional people in the Jewish community to pitch in and help those affected by the tornado during school breaks. We salute everyone putting energy and resources into supporting our fellow citizens in Oklahoma,” said David Eisner, CEO of Repair the World.


Dara Lehon/ Repair the World/646.695.2700 x18/[email protected]

Jacob Berkman /DKC / 212.981.5187/ [email protected]


Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to address the world’s most pressing issues through volunteering. Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter @RepairtheWorld.


Community of Service in Boulder County

Bonai ShalomWhat do people serving in the US military, the homeless community, and cats in Longmont have in common? They were all recipients of acts of Chesed (loving kindness) during Boulder’s Community of Service.

This school year, Jewish supplementary schools from around the county are participating in a Community of Service – simultaneous Tikkun Olam projects under the unifying themes of Chesed (loving kindness) and Gevurah (boundary setting and self-care).

One of the core principals of the community of service is that “participants engage in meaningful, authentic service that addresses genuine and unmet community needs”. This ensures that the service outcomes are valued by those being served. Har HaShem’s fifth grade class, made care packages for soldiers living away from their families, followed this principle by inviting a soldier to their class to find out what a soldier would want in a care package.

B’nai mitzvah students from Nevei Kodesh and fifth graders from Bonai Shalom worked with Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow (BOHO) to identify needs and ways they can help. The students at Nevei Kodesh took the lesson even deeper by discussing the difference between helping someone with a donation and examining the root causes of a problem to work toward a long term solution.

There were so many exciting projects happening this year. The cats residing at the Longmont Humane Society received an unexpectedLongmont1gift of catnip toys lovingly made by the students at the Longmont Hebrew School. The students at the BJCC preschool learned about pe’ah, leaving the corners of your fields available for people in need, while they tended their yearly garden. Teens from Hebrew High are volunteering at the Boulder Homeless Shelter after having attended the Panim El Panim Conference in Washington DC where they meet with members of congress on the issue of homelessness. Students in Beth Ami’s Jewish Cultural School worked with Jewish Family Service to provide hand-tied blankets to seniors and donated food to the Weinberg Pantry after learning about the specific needs in those communities.

Mitzvah Dubi, a stuffed bear, learned about mitzvot alongside the kindergarden and first grade Bonai Shalom2students at Bonai Shalom getting to help with chores, take care of family pets, and making food for those who are sick.

Children who are placed in emergency foster care received a decorated shoebox creatively crafted by Bonai Shalom’s second grade class. The third and fourth grade class at Bonai Shalom learned about Pirke Avot when they collected food for the Community Food Share.

All of the projects will be featured at the Boulder Jewish Festival on June 9th. Festival goers can learn more about these projects from displays housed at each organization’s booth and during a brief presentation on the festival stage just before noon.

The students and their teachers utilized principles from Repair The World, “the leading authority on volunteering and service in and by the American Jewish community”, to organize their projects and optimize the service learning components.

According to Rabbi Will Berkowitz, Senior Vice President for Repair the World, Boulder is one of the first cities to implement a Community of Service using their materials and resources. Berkowitz visited Boulder for the 2012 Chidush Teacher Workshop.


In 2012 Repair the World, the leading national nonprofit organization mobilizing Jewish volunteers in the U.S., released a research study, entitled “Serving a Complex Israel: A Report on Israel-based Immersive Jewish Service-Learning,” which highlighted the potential of Israel-based immersive Jewish Service-learning programs (IJSL) to serve as “a core strategy for Israel engagement, demonstrating significant positive gains in connection to Israel and an enhanced sense of connection to other Jews.” This year, Skilled Volunteers for Israel and theConservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem are partnering with Repair to transform the Volunteer and Study program into an immersive Jewish Service-learning program (IJSL). Volunteer & Study was launched in 2012 to enable participants to “live and learn Israel.”

Volunteer & Study (V&S) offers the opportunity to spend 3-6 weeks in the summer in Jerusalem learning at the Conservative Yeshiva and volunteering in a Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization. Participants, who range in age from 18 through pensioners, divide their time between formal learning focused on Hebrew language, Jewish text and values, and customized volunteer experiences. The 2013 program has added courses associated with service in the Jewish tradition and strengthened the connections between the program’s service and learning components.

“Serving a Complex Israel” suggests that respondents’ reasons for volunteering often resonated more strongly with universal values (such as “working to make the world a better place is my responsibility as a human being”) than they did with particularistic Jewish values or ideology (such as “I consider working to make the world a better place to be a Jewish act”).

The changes to V&S attempt to offer participants an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between their Jewish values and service. Four V&S courses – Torah in Action, Jewish Theology of Human Rights, Creating Inclusive Communities, and Engaging with Israel – together with reflection activities and a “Torah in Action” themed Shabbat are structured to deepen participants’ understanding of the Jewish tradition and values of service and Tikkun Olam.

V&S’s parallel emphasis on study and service will provide an experience that reinforces the relevance and centrality of service in Jewish tradition while providing the opportunity for participants to engage in service that speaks to their universalistic desire to contribute.

Skilled Volunteers for Israel’s process to identify real community needs for volunteer placements reflects Repair the World’s standards for authentic service. For the service portion of the program, V&S places participants in volunteer positions within Jerusalem-based organizations, and invites leaders from the non-profit sector to present to the Conservative Yeshiva community. Skilled Volunteers for Israel develops the volunteer positions through its network of relationships with Israeli non-profits and its expertise in developing customized volunteer engagements that match the interests and skills of the participants with the needs of the receiving organizations.

Examples of volunteer service done by the 2012 V&S cohort include working with refugee children in a summer kindergarten, facilitating strategic planning for an organization that specializes in inclusionary programming for children with special needs, contributing to the annual report for a social justice organization focused on monitoring fair employment practices, and abstracting interviews for an oral history archive dealing with World War II and holocaust survivors.

The program’s volunteer experience and contact with nonprofit leaders exposes participants to the complex issues and challenges of Israeli society. The “Serving a Complex Israel” study looked at the potential impact of such exposure to Israel’s challenges and problems and found that “in the context of service, such exposure did not weaken participants’ commitment to or interest in the country. On the contrary, connection to the country and its people seems to have been consistently intensified by exposure V&S 2012 participant Gabriella Meltzer, a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate interested in the African refugee issue in Israel volunteered at the Reform Movement’s Beit Shmuel preschool which cares for the children of foreign workers and African asylum seekers. Gabriella’s experience echoes this finding, saying that her “eyes were opened to the issues that children of refugees and their families face while in Israel.”

“Serving a Complex Israel” highlights a few key elements: The importance of Israel experiences within the array of immersive Jewish service-learning opportunities as having the potential to deepen participants’ understanding of and connection to Israel. IJSL programs can be “a significant Jewish experience” for participants, particularly those who come to the programs with less active engagement in Jewish life. It also describes the influence of Israel-based IJSL programs on participants’ service, Israel, and Jewish identities. The findings are most clear on the impact of these programs on participants’ service and Israel identities. Less consistent is the impact on participants’ Jewish practice and attitudes.

The V&S program is designed to maximize impact on participants’ Israel, service and Jewish identities leverages the diverse expertise of the three program partners. The Conservative Yeshiva is an inclusive and egalitarian Jewish learning environment with experience in teaching Jewish text. Skilled Volunteers for Israel specializes in authentic service through customized volunteer placements. Repair the World is an expert in Jewish Service-learning.

Volunteer & Study provides a rich, substantive experience for participants and just as important, a fun and meaningful experience in Israel.

For more information write [email protected] or visit

Marla Gamoran is the Founder and Director of Skilled Volunteers for Israel.

Can Service be a Tool to Engage Next Gen Jews?

Young Jews today have been raised on too much of the “what” of Judaism and not enough of the “why”, contends Rabbi Sid Schwarz in his ELI Talks: Finding the Chosen People in Haiti. This conversation explored this statement as well as many other questions to deepen the conversation about service and Judaism.

Streamed live on Apr 24, 2013

Watch this rich conversation of the potential of service in engaging Generation Y, and if service work is imperative to living a Jewish life. Participants included:
Rabbi Sid Schwarz (Clal)
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz (Uri L’Tzedek)
Rabbi Will Berkowitz (Repair the World)
Abby Levine (Jewish Social Justice Roundtable)

Former Head of Federal Volunteer Agency to Lead Small Religious Charity

David Eisner was a senior executive at the high-flying Internet company AOL in the late 1990s and early 2000s before he was tapped by then-President George W. Bush to run the $1-billion Corporation for National and Community Service.

He left that post in 2008 to make room for the next appointee and moved into the top spot at the National Constitution Center, a federally established museum in Philadelphia with a budget of less than $20-million.

Now, Mr. Eisner has taken the helm of a small religious nonprofit with just over $6-million to spend this year. He is the new chief executive of Repair the World, a New York organization aimed at mobilizing Jewish volunteers across the country.

His career path, he says, reflects a growing trend among people in their 50s and 60s.

“They are moving from success to significance,” says Mr. Eisner, 52, “shifting the size of their portfolio to focus on intensity and outcome.”

Often, he adds, their efforts, like his, are “framed around entrepreneurship and impact.”

Repair the World itself reframed in that mode in 2009, growing out of a mostly moribund one- or two-employee trade association of Jewish volunteer organizations.

The group changed its name from the Jewish Coalition for Services, broadened its mission and programs, and attracted new foundation support. It also introduced itself to Mr. Eisner, hoping to hire him as the first CEO of the repurposed group.

Mr. Eisner demurred, but he says that Repair the World “always stayed in the back of my mind” and that when he resigned from the National Constitution Center last year at the end of his three-year contract, he took notice of the Jewish group’s “strong brand and expertise in the field.”

“I wanted to jump back into the service world,” Mr. Eisner says.

Not only does working with the group allow him to connect more deeply than ever with his Jewish identity, he says, it also gives him a foothold in the broader world of faith-inspired nonprofits.

That might help him find solutions to one of the biggest challenges he says he faced at the Corporation for National and Community Service: Trying to more powerfully link religious organizations into the national service movement.

“If we could make stronger, better, and more sustainable connections on all sides, we’ll create an explosion of capacity in the volunteer field,” he says.

Geoff Lieberthal, chairman of Repair the World’s board, writes in an e-mail that trying to recruit Mr. Eisner again for the top job was “an easy choice.”

“David is a charismatic national leader in volunteering and service, with extensive experience in nonprofit, for-profit, government, and grant-making sectors,” writes Mr. Lieberthal, a principal at Lee Equity Partners, a private equity firm in New York.

“Repair the World has spent its first three years experimenting and growing,” he adds. “Now we are entering an exciting new phase to build a broad-based Jewish service movement and we think David has the track record, depth of knowledge, and experience to take Repair the World to a whole new level.”

In the next 100 days, Mr. Eisner says he is hoping to make two sets of announcements: one about a new strategic plan and another about the group’s plans to diversify sources of revenue.

The four grant makers that gave money to establish Repair the World—the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation—still account for nearly all of its support (88 percent of last year’s budget).

Mr. Eisner sees a strong and passionate audience for Repair the World’s work, ready to be tapped. “We are moving beyond articulating our space and to getting things done,” he says.