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Archive for : Repair in the News

New Study Finds Exposure to Israel’s Social Challenges Boosts Commitment to Serve

Contrary to a common assumption in the organized Jewish world that exposing young Jews to the complex issues underlying Israeli life diminishes their commitment to the country, a newly released study found that more deeply understanding these dynamics intensifies a bond to the Jewish state.  Commissioned by Repair the World and The Jewish Agency for Israel, the study,Serving a Complex Israel: A report on Israel-based Immersive Jewish Service-learning, shows that the more these young men and women learn about Israel – warts and all – the more they are motivated to engage in more Israel-based service.

According to the study, IJSL programs, which integrate full-time direct service with structured learning and reflection, offer alumni of Birthright Israel and other short-term Israel programs an opportunity to return to Israel for a longer immersive experience. Moreover, these programs answer a widespread desire among millennial Jewish adults to create change in the world, grow as leaders and connect to Jewish life.

The study found that volunteering in Israel often deepens versus distances a young Jew’s feelings for the country precisely because of its social complexity. Exposing young Jews to multifaceted issues underlying Israeli life like the divide between secular and ultra-Orthodox society, the security situation, the status of Arab-Israelis, and the growing income gap in Israeli society can, in fact, bolster their desire to serve and enroll in future opportunities. For example, as a result of participating in IJSL programs, 82% of respondents reported that they have strengthened their commitment to social justice and at the same time, 92% said they felt more attached to Israel.

Key findings include:

  • 96% of respondents gained a more nuanced understanding of Israel;
  • 79% felt more connected to their Jewish heritage and identity;
  • 78% more connected to global Jewry;
  • 85% want to learn more about Israel; and
  • 85% of respondents reported that their conversations about social justice have increased.

The study demonstrates that respondents, like many Jewish young adults, place a premium on social change work. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the survey respondents indicated that it did not matter to them if they were serving Jews or non-Jews. Their primary motivations were to serve and to grow, which is the basic value proposition of any service-learning experience.

The study was funded in part by the Jim Joseph Foundation and The Morningstar Foundation.

PRESS RELEASE: YOUNG ADULTS WANT IT UNVARNISHED: NEW STUDY FINDS EXPOSURE TO ISRAEL’S SOCIAL CHALLENGES BOOSTS COMMITMENT TO SERVE

— Repair the World and The Jewish Agency for Israel Release Findings on Impact of Volunteering in Israel —

 NEW YORK, NY; January 30, 2013—Contrary to a common assumption in the organized Jewish world that exposing young Jews to the complex issues underlying Israeli life diminishes their commitment to the country, a new study released today found that more deeply understanding these dynamics intensifies a bond to the Jewish state.  Commissioned by Repair the World and The Jewish Agency for Israel, the study, “Serving a Complex Israel: A report on Israel-based Immersive Jewish Service-learning”, shows that the more these young men and women learn about Israel–warts and all–the more they are motivated to engage in more Israel-based service.

“There’s no need for program providers and funders to present a rose-colored version of Israel to our young people,” said Dyonna Ginsburg, Director of Jewish Service Learning at the Jewish Agency. “Quite the contrary, we should be looking for additional ways to present Israel as it really is. Immersive Jewish Service-learning (IJSL) participants have not been shying away from Israel based on their time there. They are clearly strengthening their connections to Israel, their heritage and the Jewish people.”

According to the study, IJSL programs, which integrate full-time direct service with structured learning and reflection, offer alumni of Birthright Israel and other short-term Israel programs an opportunity to return to Israel for a longer immersive experience. Moreover, these programs answer a widespread desire among millennial Jewish adults to create change in the world, grow as leaders and connect to Jewish life. Conducted by Rosov Consulting, LLC and funded in part by the Jim Joseph Foundation and The Morningstar Foundation, the study surveyed 332 young Jewish adults who participated in at least one of 12 different IJSL programs in Israel from August 2009 to June 2012, representing 62.5 percent of the total number of program participants who were eligible to complete the survey.

“When it comes to developing service programs, authenticity is key,” said David Eisner, CEO of Repair the World. “The more people understand about their service, the more committed they will be to it. What’s more, we know that young people—particularly those from affiliated households—become more passionate when their service brings a connection to their own personal heritage. We hope these insights will spur collaboration among providers and funders in Israel to build content and positive experiences for those motivated to volunteer.”

The study found that volunteering in Israel often deepens versus distances a young Jew’s feelings for the country precisely because of its social complexity. Exposing young Jews to multifaceted issues underlying Israeli life like the divide between secular and ultra-Orthodox society, the security situation, the status of Arab-Israelis, and the growing income gap in Israeli society can, in fact, bolster their desire to serve and enroll in future opportunities. For example, as a result of participating in IJSL programs, 82% of respondents reported that they have strengthened their commitment to social justice and at the same time, 92% said they felt more attached to Israel.

In particular, the study showed that as a result of participating in IJSL programs:

  • 96% of respondents gained a more nuanced understanding of Israel;
  • 79% felt more connected to their Jewish heritage and identity;
  • 78% more connected to global Jewry;
  • 85% want to learn more about Israel; and
  • 85% of respondents reported that their conversations about social justice have increased.

The study demonstrates that respondents, like many Jewish young adults, place a premium on social change work. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the survey respondents indicated that it did not matter to them if they were serving Jews or non-Jews. Their primary motivations were to serve and to grow, which is the basic value proposition of any service-learning experience.

“I absolutely think it is important for North American Jews to come volunteer in Israel,” said a 27-year-old study respondent. “They will be exposed to elements that they certainly will not see on [other programs]. Understanding what issues are swept under the rug, and why, is very important to understanding Israel, and understanding Judaism.”

 To download the complete study, visit: repairlabs.org or www.jafi.org.il

ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD

Established in 2009, 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. Visit weRepair.org to learn more. Follow us on twitter @repairtheworld.

ABOUT THE JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL

Established in 1929, The Jewish Agency for Israel was instrumental in founding and building the State of Israel. Today, The Jewish Agency for Israel secures the Jewish future by confronting the critical challenges of our time: growing detachment of young Jews around the world from Israel and the global Jewish family; increasing social gaps in Israel; and Jews at risk in the Diaspora and Israel.

CONTACTS:

Tali Aronsky / [email protected] / 212.339.6069

Jacob Berkman / [email protected] / 212.981.5187

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DC Jews react on Obama inauguration, honor MLK with service

Monday’s 57th Presidential Inauguration officially sent off Barack Obama into a second term as America’s 44th President and the country’s first African American commander-in-chief. After being formally sworn in Sunday at the White House, Obama gave his inaugural address to about one million people Monday, according to a recent White House estimate. This day also coincided with Martin Luther King Day.

Click photo to download. Caption: Framed by the classic arches of the Capitol balcony, President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address Jan. 21, 2013. Credit: Maxine Dovere.In addition to participating in inauguration-weekend activism and service events, members of the Washington D.C. Jewish community shared with JNS.org a variety of views on the President’s reelection and upcoming second term.

In the 1960s Jewish activists, such as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement. Nearly half a century later, the Friday before the presidential inauguration, a women’s leadership event, the Women’s Leadership Network luncheon of the National Jewish Democratic Council, kicked off the inaugural weekend in Jewish Washington. The discussion panel included former White House Communications Director Ann Lewis, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and The Jerusalem Post Washington Bureau Chief Hilary Krieger.

It was “one of the most inspirational events I’ve attended in a very long time,” Click photo to download. Caption: First Lady Michelle Obama embraces her husband the President immediately following his public swearing in Jan. 21, 2013. Credit: Maxine Dovere.NJDC board member Barbara Goldberg Goldman told JNS.org.  “Proud Jewish women of all ages came together to share their desire to perform tikun olam and make a difference in the world in which they live.“

Goldman isn’t worried about Obama’s recent decision to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for defense secretary in the president’s second term. Hagel has made controversial statements such as “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people in Congress,” and critics are concerned with his questionable record on Israel.

Hagel’s “record has been distorted and twisted,” she said, and President Obama is “has done more for Israeli defense than any other president,” she said.

As the 57th Presidential inauguration unfolded Jewish U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) spoke of the “American tradition of transferring or re-affirming the immense power of the United States…as an enduring symbol of the American democracy.”

But even among those attending inaugural functions, not all members of the Washington D.C. Jewish community supported the President and his policies. One law student and Republican named Dan, who asked not to reveal his last name, spoke with JNS.org at a special Inaugural Ball organized by the Washington D.C. JCC Monday. He is deeply concerned with the on-going growth of social assistance programs he feels remove individual responsibility and harm the American work ethic. “The drive to succeed will disappear,” he said. But “even if I don’t agree, you’ve got to see democracy in action, and hope that people will stand together to make the country grow,” he added.

Though Obama did not mention Israel in his inaugural address, the President emphasized his administration “will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”

However, just recently Jewish American columnist Jeffrey Goldberg reported Obama has said in private conversations that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” when it comes to construction beyond the Green Line. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded in an interview that he is “confident that President Obama understands that only a sovereign Israeli government can determine what Israel’s interests are.”

Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine Jonathan S. Tobin recently wrote that “there are good reasons to believe that tension between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will continue to simmer during their respective terms. The disconnect between the president’s view of the region and the consensus of the overwhelming majority of Israelis about the future of the peace process has created a gap between the two countries that continues to cause trouble. The fact that the two men don’t like each other also doesn’t help.”

Scott Perlo, rabbi and associate director of Jewish programming at the historic Washington, D.C. Synagogue Sixth and I, is also less certain about the President’s second term but optimistic.

“I am conscious of the stratified society and social and economic inequities…Whatever your feelings are about the election, the new president is a vindication of the fact the democratic process works,” Perlo said.

Click photo to download. Caption: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. Credit: David Monack via Wikimedia Commons.The Sixth and I synagogue’s combined Moorish, Romanesque, and Byzantine-styled building was dedicated in 1908. After the congregation moved to another location, the building became a church, but was returned to the Jewish community in 2000. The building was restored, and now functions not only as a synagogue but also as a venue for lectures and exhibitions.

Inaugural festivities at the historic shul began with a January 16 NPR “Political Junkie Road Show” hosted by Neal Conan and Ken Rudin. “We have people whose perspective tends to be an inside-the-belt-way one. If you were a Jew in America in the 80’s, the presumption was you were a Democrat, but strongly pro-Israel.  That demography is changing,” Perlo said.

Leading up to the inauguration Washington’s Jewish community also participated in the National Day of Service Saturday. Erica Steen, Director of Community Engagement at the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center (JCC), spent Shabbat afternoon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Fair in the National Mall speaking with thousands of participating visitors about the outreach efforts of the Washington Jewish community. Repair the World, a New York City organization dedicated to Jewish community service, also represented the Jewish community at the fair.

Among the beneficiaries of the JCC’s outreach efforts is the Temporary Emergency Residential Resource institute for Families In Crisis (TERRIFIC, Inc.).  As part of inaugural weekend activities, more than twenty-five volunteers painted and repaired apartments for homeless families.

“It’s a community weekend,” Steen said, “an opportunity for the nation to come together to celebrate the presidential inauguration, remember Martin Luther King and really give back to the community.”

“Judaism believes strongly in service – a basic critical elements of what makes someone a Jew… a sense of obligation to make the world a better place,” Perlo added.

Gil Steinlauf, Senior Rabbi of Washington’s largest Conservative congregation Adas Israel, said “it is a great honor to be attending the inauguration, representing one of the oldest congregations in the District – truly a joy and a celebration.” Both American Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, attend the synagogue, he said.

Click photo to download. Caption: As U.S. President Barack Obama prepared to take the oath of office, the United States Marine Band lifted spirits and emotions at the 57th inauguration ceremonies. Credit: Maxine Dovere.Steinlauf believes Obama’s selection of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, “is of concern” and “attention must be paid.” Although he is optimistic about “the United States’ continued support for Israel” and does not think we will see “some of the alarmist situations that some in the Jewish community fear,” he said, “the President will pose certain challenges,” Perlo agreed.

 

 

Obama to take oath of office in private

US president to recite official oath of office for second term, out of public view, a day before repeating it before the masses.

US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
WASHINGTON – Because of a quirk in the calendar, US President Barack Obama will recite his official oath of office for a second term Sunday, out of public view, before repeating the act for hundreds of thousands of spectators on Monday.The US Constitution requires that the inauguration take place on January 20, but because that date falls on a Sunday this year, when federal offices are closed, there is only a private event that day with the tradition public version conducted the next day.Accordingly, on Sunday morning, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are participating in official swearings-in at their homes, the White House and the Naval Observatory, respectively. The swearings-in is proceeded by an official wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in nearby Virginia.

Later Sunday, there will be an inaugural reception where both men will deliver remarks.

On Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will re-administer the oaths on the steps of the Capitol before assembled dignitaries, the press and a crowd expected to number close to one million spectators, far fewer than attended in 2008. Obama will then deliver his second inaugural address.

The event will be proceeded by a church service attended by the first and second families, and followed by a public parade. In the evening, the Obamas will make appearances at just two inaugural balls, a sharply scaled back number in contrast to previous years.

Already on Saturday, however, the inaugural festivities had kicked off with a day of service.

The Obamas participated themselves by visiting a local Washington school in the morning to help make it over.

This year’s inauguration coincides with Martin Luther King Day, and the day of service is seen as a way to promote King’s legacy. Obama began the tradition with a hope that it would become an inaugural tradition.

To broader the day’s scope, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton is chairing a volunteer summit on the National Mall Saturday that also includes performances by famous musicians and actors, and volunteer events have been organized by the inaugural committee throughout the country.

Jewish groups Repair the World and the Washington DC Jewish Community Center are among the 100 participating organizations.

Jewish groups will also be getting in on the inaugural action on Monday. J Street, for one, plans to have volunteers stationed throughout the Mall to recruit supporters to join their campaign to lobby the White House and Congress for work toward a two-state solution.

Shabbat Supper with Dr. King

This weekend, in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service, more than 1,200 people from New York to Knoxville to San Francisco symbolically invited Dr. King to Shabbat dinner.

Initiated by Repair the World–a national organization that mobilizes American Jews to address global and local needs through volunteering and service–the dinners were part of the Points of Light’s Sunday Supper campaign, designed to inspire dialogue and action on key issues affecting our communities.

The MLK Shabbat Suppers focused on the theme of educational inequity, which Dr. King considered inextricably linked to the struggle for equality and justice. It is disheartening that more than half a century later, the achievement gap continues to plague our country, as an average of 7,000 students drop out of school every day and 89 percent of children growing up in low-income households read below grade level.

I believe the Jewish community can and must play a central role in addressing this critical issue. One powerful way we can do this, as the participants at the MLK Shabbat Suppers learned, is by volunteering our time as mentors and tutors. It is striking to see the magnitude of impact mentorship and tutoring can have on student performance and young lives. Consider these two facts in contrast to those above:

  • 62 percent of students with a formal mentor improve their self-esteem, which can have a significant impact on their academic success and likelihood of graduation; and
  • 40 percent of below average readers improve with an average of just 1.5 hours of tutoring per week.

For too many students, however, their needs go unmet because access to quality mentors and tutors depends on volunteers. Rather than throwing up our hands in frustration at the problem, let’s roll up our sleeves and be a part of the solution.

Many organizations, including the Harvard School of Public HealthMENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Corporation for National and Community Service, are working to raise awareness and match volunteers with year-round opportunities during National Mentoring Month and beyond.

Across the Jewish community, the MLK Shabbat Suppers are part of Repair the World’s multi-year effort to mobilize Jews across the nation to serve as tutors, mentors and college access coaches for public school children.

This initiative is in the spirit of the Jewish community’s legacy of leadership on social action and civil rights. Indeed, in March 1965, so many rabbis marched with Dr. King from Selma that hundreds of the freedom marchers actually wore kippot in solidarity. Foremost among the rabbis was Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched arm in arm with Dr. King.

“What we need more than anything else,” Heschel once said, “is not textbooks but text people.” We become “text people” by putting the values that form the moral and ethical foundation of Jewish life–tzedek(justice), chesed (loving-kindness) and tikkun olam (repairing the world)–at the forefront of our efforts to serve the common good.

It was another great Jewish thinker, Maimonides, who helped us understand that there is no greater gift you can give a person than the opportunity to become self-sufficient. A high school and college degree are linked to greater employment prospects, higher earning potential and the ability to contribute more to our communities. In this spirit, giving our time to help today’s youngest learners prepare to become tomorrow’s skilled workforce and engaged citizens is among the deepest manifestations of the Jewish imperative to pursue justice.

The statistics may be daunting, and the questions they raise about the social and economic fabric and future of our country overwhelming. But the Shabbat Suppers this weekend served to highlight the power we have as individuals and as a community to make a difference, even if we have not devoted our professional lives to the classroom.

Today, as we consider the role we can play in helping to foster a more equitable, caring world, we think of what Dr. King called his audacious belief that “peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

It is time for each of us to get up from the table and do our part to carry that belief forward.

 

Follow Lynn Schusterman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/schustermanfoun

Repair the World names David Eisner president and CEO

(JTA) — The Jewish service group Repair the World has named David Eisner its new CEO and president.

“Repair the World is a young organization with a limitless potential to help others and to have a profound impact on Jewish volunteerism and service in the United States,” Eisner said in a statement. “Global issues related to education, health, poverty, and the environment require innovative ideas and hands-on solutions. We are building a movement to capitalize and build on the ingenuity of individuals and the commitment of organizations on the ground dedicated to making a difference.”

The organization, which has a $6.2 million annual budget, was launched in 2009 through the founding partnership of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Jim Joseph Foundation and Nathan Cummings Foundation. The stated goal of the funders was to boost volunteerism among Jews and strengthen the growing network of organizations building Jewish identity through social action projects.

“It’s going to be all about a smart strategic plan with a really strong focus and execution,” Eisner told JTA about his first duties in his new role. “I think within the first 100 days we will be able to share great work that board and staff is doing.”

Eisner succeeds Jon Rosenberg, who left the organization in October and is pursuing career opportunities in education.

Last year, Geoff Lieberthal, principal at Lee Equity Partners and a founder of the volunteer consulting group Inspire!, was tapped to serve as chairman of Repair the World’s board of directors.

Eisner brings to Repair the World several years of executive experience in the public sector. From 2003 to 2008, he was CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, now a $1 billion federal agency established by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. More recently, Eisner was tapped by President Bill Clinton to serve as CEO and president of the nonprofit National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which he from 2009 until stepping down last August.

Eisner was a vice president at AOL Time Warner from 1997 until 2003, where he founded and directed the company’s philanthropic division, the AOL Time Warner Foundation.

He has served on the boards of several national nonprofit organizations, including Independent Sector, the National 4-H Council, Public Allies, Points of Light and Network for Good. Eisner said his current board obligations are being reviewed as he transitions into his new role.

“We are thrilled to have a leader of David’s stature and experience taking the helm of Repair the World,” said Lynn Schusterman. “Under his leadership, Repair will help to mobilize a generation of young Jews committed to making an impact on the world, as well as ensure that service and volunteerism are central to Jewish life.”

For the time being, Eisner will commute from Philadelphia, allowing his four children, aged 9 to 16, to finish the school year before the family contemplates a move to New York.

 

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PRESS RELEASE: REPAIR THE WORLD NAMES DAVID EISNER PRESIDENT & CEO

– Former Head of Corporation for National and Community Service and National Constitution Center to Lead Jewish Service Movement –

EisnerJANUARY 16, 2013, New York, NY – Repair the World, the country’s leading national nonprofit organization mobilizing Jewish volunteers, today announced the appointment of David Eisner as its new president and CEO. Eisner, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the Corporation for National and Community Service and tapped by former President Bill Clinton to lead the National Constitution Center, joins as the organization embarks on a new strategic direction.

“We are thrilled to welcome David, a well-known, visionary leader with extensive experience in the non-profit, for-profit, government and grant-making sectors who embodies a passion for Jewish culture and learning,” Geoff Lieberthal, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said. “His track record of enhancing the efficacy, programming and positioning of leading organizations is extraordinary and makes him the right leader for Repair the World.”
Eisner’s appointment, which follows an extensive search, is the latest step in Repair the World’s evolution. In 2012, Lieberthal, Principal at Lee Equity Partners and a founder of the volunteer consulting group Inspire!, was elected as Repair the World’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, and the organization is finalizing the details of its new strategic plan in the coming months.

“Repair the World is a young organization with a limitless potential to help others and to have a profound impact on Jewish volunteerism and service in the United States,” Eisner said. “Global issues related to education, health, poverty, and the environment require innovative ideas and hands-on solutions. We are building a movement to capitalize and build on the ingenuity of individuals and the commitment of organizations on the ground dedicated to making a difference.”

A former executive at AOL Time Warner and America Online, Inc., where he established and directed the AOL Foundation, Eisner has helped build and raise funds for start-up organizations that have become the platform for innovation in the philanthropy and service worlds.

As the CEO of the independent, federal Corporation for National and Community Service from 2003-2008, Eisner helped drive America’s national service programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America. Appointed to lead the $1 billion organization by President George W. Bush, Eisner is widely recognized for strengthening the agency’s accountability, improving customer service, increasing public trust, and positioning CNCS for significant growth with a strong focus on volunteer recruitment and mobilization. At CNCS, Eisner worked with Points of Light and others to expand MLK Day into the National Day of Service it has become today.

He is also credited with success at the National Constitution Center, the museum, education hub and civic venue that engages all Americans in smart conversations about freedom and civic responsibility. He led the Center from 2009 to 2012, transforming it into a national leader in meaningful online and on-site discussion about the Constitution and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Early in his career, Eisner was a senior vice president for Fleishman-Hilliard Communications, directed public relations and field communications for the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C., and served on Capitol Hill as the communications director and press secretary for several members of Congress.

He has served on many boards of national nonprofit organizations, including Independent Sector, the National 4-H Council, Public Allies, Points of Light and Network for Good.  He received his B.A. degree from Stanford University and his J.D. from Georgetown Law.

Repair the World began operations in 2009 through the founding partnership of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Jim Joseph Foundation and Nathan Cummings Foundation. It has been highlighted in The Slingshot Guide, a resource guide for Jewish innovation for 50 of the most creative and effective organizations and leaders across the country.

“We are thrilled to have a leader of David’s stature and experience taking the helm of Repair the World. Under his leadership, Repair will help to mobilize a generation of young Jews committed to making an impact on the world, as well as ensure that service and volunteerism are central to Jewish life,” said Lynn Schusterman.

To learn more about Repair the World, visit www.weRepair.org

 

ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD

Established in 2009, 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 weRepair.org. Follow us on Twitter @repairtheworld.

 

CONTACTS:

Jacqueline Broder / [email protected] / 646.695.2700 *13

Jacob Berkman / [email protected] / 212.981.5187

 

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A Resolution to Serve and Innovate

One of the grace notes in an otherwise grim close to 2012 was the powerful human urge to help others who were suffering. That beautiful impulse came shining through the darkness. We have a need to respond and not be bystanders. Like a gravitational pull, our humanity seems to demand it.

In New York and New Jersey thousands of volunteers traveled to assist in areas that were hardest hit by the storm. Creative thinkers, local activists, innovators — individuals, corporations and small businesses — those with that indescribable urge to DO something thought outside the box came up with solutions to help those in need.

After months of training, when one marathoner, Conley Downing, realized that hundreds of hotel rooms would be left vacant by the eventual cancelation of the New York City Marathon, she quickly organized a popup nonprofit, Race2RecoverNYC.com, that matched up those displaced by Sandy with already paid for hotel rooms. It went viral immediately.

When millions of New Yorkers were left without power and unable to buy batteries for flashlights because stores were closed, Sun Giant, a New York-based solar power startup, initiated a drive to donate solar powered lanterns to New Yorkers without light.

And building on its high-end food truck phenomenon, in the days after Sandy, JetBlue and the New York City Food Truck Association worked to turn the cottage industry into a mobile soup kitchen, distributing some 25,000 meals by 20 trucks throughout the region.

When done in partnership with the local community, these types of social innovation form bonds between organizations and communities. They inspire smart thinking. They simply help. That’s why after a disaster, we must first assess the actual needs of the community with the community, and then collaborate to create a solution that meets those needs. And, to have the most impact, we should challenge the way things have been done in the past.

Social innovation can help create smarter, stronger solutions. It can connect first responders with the tools they need to effectively help. It can bridge a community and create an action plan when the Internet goes down. It can help us build better materials, push forward smarter planning and foster an experienced volunteer corps.

Catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy have forced us to think about new ways to address old problems like flooding, power outages and disaster preparedness. While we’ll never be able to prevent the kind of potential damage wrought by natural disasters, we have an opportunity to rebuild more than the physical structure in our communities. We can rebuild a person’s hope.

As the new year begins, instead of just making a resolution to lose five pounds or to call your mother more often (both fine objectives), make a commitment to think differently. Pledge to look around your community and think about what is needed. Ask your neighbors what they need. And resolve to innovate — to use your skills, your expertise and your desire to do good to find both new and old solutions to our biggest challenges — crisis or not.

Follow Rabbi Will Berkovitz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@CitizenRabbi

 

JRR & Repair the World to Host Sandy Recovery Benefit Concerts!

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 10.20.31 AM

Repair the World is excited to announce that we will be part of the upcoming JRR Rock Your World Web Concert Series!

The concert series will occur over six nights and will showcase six of the top Jewish music artists, each partnered with a great Jewish cause! We are thrilled to join the series kickoff event, with a benefit concert on January 9th at 8:30pm featuring an intimate, live, and unplugged performance by Sheldon Low. All proceeds will go to benefit Repair the World’s Sandy Recovery efforts. One week later on Jan. 16th, we hope you’ll join us again for a second benefit concert featuring singer/songwriter Jay Rappaport.

Not only will these concerts be entertaining and supporting a great cause, but they will also be INTERACTIVE. By donating and watching the concerts online, you will have the opportunity to interact LIVE with each artist during the show. Ask questions, comment, and even request songs throughout the experience.

Jewish Rock Radio (JRR) is a 24/7 international Jewish rock online radio station broadcasting Jewish rock artists from the US, Israel, and the rest of the world, as well as celebrity interviews and interviews with youth from around the U.S. JRR is the flagship program of St. Louis-based Judaism Alive, a nonprofit formed in 2009 to strengthen Jewish identity and connection for youth through their love of music, musical instruments, and online interaction.

Purchase tickets for the Repair the World & JRR Rock Your World Web Concert Series for only $1.00

Learn more about Repair the World, and our Sandy Recovery efforts

True Help – Letter to the Editor

In his recent piece “Who Benefits From Service Trips?” (November 16), Brent Spodek highlights an issue that has long troubled many of us in the Jewish volunteer world: Sometimes service-learning trips for Jews in their 20s and 30s focus more on cultivating “effective Jewish citizens” than on working with communities that could benefit from volunteer service.

Spodek explains that this is often by design and that the ultimate goal of these trips is to transform young Jews into lifelong advocates for curing social ills. This end-goal, we agree, is invaluable. But his assessment that “alleviating suffering, however, should not be the goal of most of these programs” is troubling. If we are training young people to think, to care and to act, they must also engage in genuine service.

Imagine that a hypothetical service organization takes a group to Hurricane Sandy-torn Rockaway Beach. Participants see the destruction, meet Sandy’s victims and are taught about the Jewish principle of helping the other. If they spend only a fraction or none of their time working with the people they meet, the lesson is hollow.

Service-learning programs, our research shows, are most successful when they work actively with local partners to solve real problems and then engage with their participants over the long-term.

An organization that in any way minimizes the realities of those with whom participants are working — even if for positive long-term aspirations — is questionable, if not destructive.

Will Berkovitz
Interim CEO/Repair the World
New York