Archive for : Repair in the News

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!

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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

AVODAH Releases Alumni Survey Results

AVODAH just completed a survey of AVODAH alumni in partnership with Repair the World and outside evaluators from Brandeis University. Providing a portrait of the impact of a year-of-service, this survey provides the organization a glimpse of the involvement of the next generation in social change work, the Jewish community and their assumption of leadership positions.

 

AVODAH is expanding its programs to develop more young professionals who have the knowledge, networks, and experience to support the Jewish community’s fight against poverty.

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A Thread in Detroit’s Jewish Fabric

It was always my hope to move to Detroit after graduate school. A frequent visitor from Ann Arbor, I have long been an advocate for strengthening the city’s already dynamic Jewish community.

A vibrant Judaism exists in Detroit. Though I cannot speak for an entire community, I would like to believe that most young Jews who live in the city have made a conscious decision to do so. This community wishes to impact the present. Many play an active role in their neighborhood and community, shaping a variety of institutions and networks. Through these venues, they are able to cultivate spiritual, cultural, educational and social opportunities for like-minded peers.

After I graduated from the Jewish Communal Leadership Program at the University of Michigan in May, I was looking to bridge my passion for a mindful Judaism with my thirst to live in tune with the rhythm that makes Detroit so unique. The Repair the World Moishe House in Woodbridge, aptly nicknamed the “Mitzvah House,” has allowed me to do just that. Here, I can engage with a form of Judaism that is energetic, introspective, and inviting of new experiences and ideas.

Co-founding a new Repair the World Moishe House dedicated to service enables my housemates and me to contribute to the depth of the Jewish community in Downtown Detroit and focus on direct service programming that helps address local needs.

Establishing our house’s communal identity has been an exciting challenge. We quickly learned that Detroit’s Jewish community is incredibly interconnected. Professional, personal and spiritual communities connect and grow through a myriad of Jewish and secular experiences.

In only a few short weeks, our house gained a reputation for its work engaging a diverse cross-section of young Detroiters. We now see many new faces at each of our events while also noticing the formation of a regular crowd. It is a strong start, and we are hoping to build on this momentum.

What comes next is difficult. It is our mandate to ensure that our programming adds value to both the Jewish and general Detroit communities. So we are working hard, meeting with members of these communities to discover what valuable roles we can play and what the Mitzvah House can bring to the table.

In October, we helped host a field day with a fifth-grade class of “change makers” from Plymouth Educational Center. We provided healthy food and facilitated an enjoyable afternoon for the kids and their families.

Engaging with Jewish culture, we hosted a shakshuka-making workshop at our house run by the Israeli nonprofit, Puzzle Israel. This led to a riveting conversation about innovative Israel travel programming. Through this and other similar programming, we have actualized our home as a hub not only for service, but also as a welcoming environment for Jewish experiences and dialogue to take place.

It is clear that there is a niche for us here in Detroit, yet we understand the importance of building strong collaborative relationships with existing programs. We must work together to generate creative outlets that provide opportunities for our peers to express and enact their desire to do social good.

Repair the World Moishe House must make a real difference by providing meaningful Jewish experiences around service, education and social justice for young adults in Metro Detroit. And it will.

Reach out to us at any time ([email protected]). Even better, come down to the house. We want to hear what our community is looking for, and we look forward to providing it in an accessible, fun and innovative way.

Josh Kanter lives in the Repair the World Moishe House in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit. He works in the NEXTGen Department at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Light Up the Night: Hanukkah Wisdom and 8 Organizations That Shine Light in the Darkness

Some people say Ha-nukha, and some people say Cha-nukah, but it’s holiday season and Hannukah is upon us, which means Jews everywhere are going to be lighting menorahs, playing with dreidels, giving presents and eating latkes. But besides the spinning the dreidel and raking in the Hannukah Gelt, there is a deep message to this holiday that is very relevant to today. Hannukah is called the “festival of lights.”

Hannukah celebrates the story of a small group of people changing the system when everyone else thought it was impossible. Back in the day, during the time of the Hannukah story, ancient Israel was considered to be a vassal state of the Greek-Syrian empire (a major world power in those days), the Jewish religion was being outlawed, circumcision and celebrating Shabbat were against the law under penalty of death, and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, had been defiled and turned into a temple to Zeus.

A small group of Jewish warriors, known as the Maccabees, rebelled against the rule of the Greek-Syrians and, against all odds, succeeded in igniting a revolution that drove them out from the land. This is where the Menorah, the symbol of Hannukah comes in. The final victory for the Maccabees came when they removed the foreign statues from the Holy Temple and rededicated it to the Infinite One. The word “hannukah” comes from the word “to dedicate.” The symbol of the Holy Temple was the seven branched menorah. The story goes that the Maccabees rekindled the lights of the menorah and a miracle occurred because even though there was only enough oil found to burn for one day, the light of the menorah burned for eight days.

Back to today, when you’re lighting the menorah this Hannukah, you’re not just playing with a window ornament that happens to use fire — you’re plugging into a story that is thousands of years old, you’re making a statement that you are going be a light in the darkness, that you are casting your vote with hope and change even when it seems impossible, that you stand for Jewish continuity even in the face of adversity.

We are also living in times of darkness, where change seems impossible, but there are also small groups of people who are working to make a difference. There is a famous quote by Margaret Meade, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, it is the only thing that ever has.”

To celebrate the eight nights of Hannukah, below is a list of eight inspiring organizations already shining lights of positive change for the Jewish community and the world. May Hashem bless us to plug in to our inner light and be the change we want to see.

 

Jewish Social Justice Organizations
2 of 9:

The Three P’s

Co-founder of Summer in the City works to ‘repair world’ in Detroit

In the summer of 2002, Ben Falik came home to Detroit after his sophomore college year with an itch to volunteer. He and two buddies scratched that itch by launching Summer in the City, a nonprofit that has mobilized more than 150,000 hours of service in Detroit since its inception.

The organization – with some 40 community partners in Detroit, including nonprofits, schools, churches, block clubs, businesses and city agencies – offers three “P’s” for young volunteers: Paint, Plant and Play.

Volunteers in Project Paint create bright, durable graffiti-deterring murals in parks and playgrounds, commercial corridors and historic neighborhoods. Project Plant partners with Greening of Detroit and more than 20 community gardens to plant, weed, water, harvest and landscape green spaces, ranging from inches to acres. Project Play pairs volunteers with kids to offers arts, athletics and academics – and Friday Field Trips to the DIA, Wayne State and the Detroit Zoo, among other exciting local destinations. An end-of-summer “Backpacktacular” sends each kid back to school with a new backpack chock-full of art and school supplies.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most incredible people on the planet,” Falik says. “I loved my college years at Columbia College in New York, but service motivated me to move back to Michigan and really try and make big things happen here. Volunteering, when it’s done right, can create a level playing field, a way for people from all different backgrounds to convene and gain from each other’s experience and perspective – through good humor and lots of sweat.” Service didn’t just bring Falik back to Detroit. It has kept him here and kept him motivated to be the change he wishes to see in the city and beyond. Now married with two children and degrees in law and public policy from the University of Michigan, he works as Manager of Detroit Service Initiatives for Repair the World, a national organization dedicated to making service a defining element of Jewish life, learning, and leadership.

Falik, who has received considerable recognition for his efforts – Silent Heroes Award, Do Something BRICK Award, Michigan Week Volunteer Leadership Award, and Red Cross Everyday Heroes Award – works full time for Repair the World to engage and empower the local Jewish community to serve. Currently, Repair the World is piloting a national campaign to help young people achieve greater academic success by recruiting volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors and college access coaches for the nation’s students. With Detroit serving as a primary hub for this activity, Falik is leading the on-the-ground efforts in the region. Through partnerships with schools, synagogues and community organizations, he strives to “turn our shared values into shared value – the kind that transcends all the differences that tend to keep people apart.”

“I’m a professional volunteer – as paradoxical as that may be,” Falik says, adding that the skills he learned from U-M Law School stand him in good stead in his work. “I hope both organizations grow, in an organic and dynamic way by developing more partners, more stakeholders, more equity in the community. It’s exciting to think about all the things the future holds.”

Voluntarism is a family affair. Three unsung heroes are his wife, A.J., and parents, Falik says. His father Joe – retired from a long legal career in the insurance industry and working as an independent mediator – is a supporter and adviser. His mother, Deborah, is an accomplished artist.

“There would be no Summer in the City without my parents,” he says. “Their support was unequivocal, enthusiastic, and they were instrumental in helping to launch it.”

Falik hopes his own two children, Judah and Phoebe, follow in his footsteps. Judah, 3, is “the official toddler” of SITC and Repair the World, accompanying his father to project sites throughout Detroit.

“Judah has already had shared experiences with people from all kinds of backgrounds,” Falik says. “I hope my kids will feel a call, on their own terms and in their own way, to be active citizens in whatever messy world they inherit from us.”

To learn more about Falik’s work and Repair the World, please visit WeRepair.org or follow them on Twitter @wassify and @repairtheworld.

By Sheila Pursglove