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Archive for : Repair in the News

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

 

Outreach Group Lends Literal Hand To Brooklyn Students

A city-based Jewish volunteer organization is lending a helping hand to one Brooklyn school hit hard by Sandy.

Volunteers with Repair the World spent Sunday putting together literacy kits for students at PS 253 in Brighton Beach.

The kits are filled with books, flash cards, pens and pencils.

The group says it hopes the kits will help keep students minds sharp over holiday break.

“You know I’m new to the city, wanted to feel like I’m making a contribution but most importantly I really wanted to give back through books, mostly because I think education is really important, not only in today’s society but also for the future,” said George Stein, a volunteer.

“Knowing that there’s kids somewhere that don’t have the books that I loved as a child and I can’t imagine anything that would make me sadder. And so this was something that I could definitely relate to. You know just wanted to let them share the beauty of ‘The Giving Tree,'” said Deborah Vishnevsky, a volunteer.

For more information on Repair the World, visit www.werepair.org.

Repair the World/Schusterman Foundation Announce post-Sandy Micro-Grant Program

Repair the World is offering micro-grants for winter and spring alternative break programs that focus on Hurricane Sandy relief and response efforts.

The micro-grants, ranging from $1,000 – $5,000, may be used by programs to help cover costs of the trip such as travel, supplies, staffing and local housing. Eligible groups should engage teens, college students and post-college-aged young adults (up to age 35) to serve at least 200 hours, to implement a disaster response service-learning curriculum developed by Repair the World, and to report on their experiences. All groups receiving a micro-grant must operate under or in connection to a 501(c)(3).

The grants are made possible through the support of The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

For more information, visit www.werepair.org/repair-now/sandy-recovery

Repair the World offering grants to encourage Sandy relief

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Jewish service group Repair the World is offering micro-grants to encourage students to volunteer for Hurricane Sandy relief.

The grants, which will range from $1,000 to $5,000, are intended to cover expenses for volunteers willing to spend at least 200 hours helping storm victims.

“We want young Jews across North America to dedicate themselves to hands-on volunteerism where it is most needed on the ground, responding to short-, medium- and long-term needs,” said Will Berkovitz, Repair the World’s interim CEO.

The grants are supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

A Not So General Assembly

Students and leaders of Jewish communities around the country gathered in Baltimore on Nov. 11 for the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The annual General Assembly (GA) is the largest gathering for American Jewish communal fundraising federations. At the event, the most important issues in Jewish communities around the country are discussed.

There were guest speakers and workshops related to topics of philanthropy, leadership, Jewish identity and support of Israel.

Philanthropy was a topic of great importance to three time GA attendee Sarah Kraut.

Since attending a Hillel alternative spring break trip her freshman year, Kraut, now a senior journalism major, has been involved in Maryland Hillel’s partnership with Repair the World.

“I think that [the GA] is a valuable experience for anyone because the worst thing that could happen is that you will come out knowing more about the Jewish landscape than you did before,” Kraut said.

Kraut attended the GA with a group of delegates sent by Maryland Hillel.

The Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life offers scholarships to urge students to attend conferences like the GA.

Maryland Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, according to its website, so Kraut said student attendance has been strong at the past three GAs she has attended.

Guest speaker David Gergen, a political analyst for CNN, gave the opening speech, titled “Changing the World,” about the post-election Jewish landscape for Israel.

Today, Israel has reached a cease-fire with Hamas after a week-long series of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other speakers at the GA included Governor Martin O’Malley, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Kraut said her favorite moment at the GA was a small group chat she had with the president of American Jewish World Service Ruth Messinger.

Messinger is the former Manhattan borough president and ran for mayor of New York City in 1997 as the first woman to receive the Democratic Party nomination for that office.

Junior business and communications major Lexie Kahn also attended the GA and is a member of the Jewish Leadership Council.

“Jewish life doesn’t end after college; it’s something that continues on for the rest of your life, and just seeing how people take that one step further and make it a component of their daily life is really inspiring,” Kahn said.

Kahn said she would love to attend next year’s GA, which will take place in Israel.

The GA offers students the opportunity to network with the wider Jewish community. The variety of Jewish professionals in attendance allowed students to get a deeper look into experts’ experiences.

Showing how the youth of a Jewish community can be involved, Kahn said, was something that meant a lot to the speakers at the GA. According to Kahn, some speakers believe the youth are not active enough.

One student who is arguably active enough is Joseph Ehrenkrantz, a junior English and government and politics major.

He is a member of Am Ha’Aretz, a Jewish sustainability club, Hamsa, a Jewish LGBT club and Hillel’s Campus Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Having never been to a GA before, Ehrenkrantz was surprised when his expectations weren’t met.

“I think that if the event is going to be successful in the future then there would have to be more communication between the students and the professionals there,” Ehrenkrantz said.

While he enjoyed speakers like Jacobs, who spoke about the modern Jew, Ehrenkrantz said the student’s voice was not very well represented. He said that some students felt they were more of an audience member than a participant in the GA.

Ehrenkrantz added that Gergen’s opening speech, which focused on events in history such as the civil rights movement, lost his attention.

“I think the students could vocalize the conditions of the present and emphasize that there is a lot to be done now, not just nostalgic memory of what was done yesterday,” Ehrenkrantz said.

REPAIR THE WORLD ANNOUNCES MICRO-GRANT PROGRAM TO HELP STUDENT GROUPS AID COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY SUPERSTORM SANDY

Jewish Teens and Young Adults Mobilized to Volunteer in Affected Areas over Winter and Spring Breaks

NEW YORK, NY, DECEMBER 3, 2012 – In the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s destruction, Repair the World, a national nonprofit that works to inspire American Jews to volunteer, is offering micro-grants for winter and spring alternative break programs that focus on Hurricane Sandy relief and response efforts. Alternative breaks offer young adults a hands-on service-learning opportunity and give them the chance to experience how the integration of service, education and reflection can create a meaningful and positive change in themselves and in communities.

The micro-grants, ranging from $1,000 – $5,000, may be used by programs to help cover costs of the trip such as travel, supplies, staffing and local housing. Eligible groups should engage teens, college students and post-college-aged young adults (up to age 35) to serve at least 200 hours, to implement a disaster response service-learning curriculum developed by Repair the World, and to report on their experiences. All groups receiving a micro-grant must operate under or in connection to a 501(c)(3).

 “As a national organization headquartered in New York City, we are committed to helping Jewish young adults connect their passion for service and get their hands dirty with real opportunities,” said Will Berkovitz, SVP and Interim CEO for Repair the World. “We want young Jews across North America to dedicate themselves to hands-on volunteerism where it is most needed on the ground, responding to short, medium and long-term needs.”

The grants are made possible through the generous support of The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, whose partnership with Repair the World has helped thousands of Jewish young adults participate in high-quality immersive Jewish service-learning programs. In the coming months, Repair will continue to assess and identify local needs as they evolve in Sandy’s hard hit communities.

For more information, visit www.werepair.org/repair-now/sandy-recovery or contact Mordy Walfish at 646-695-2700 x 23 or [email protected].

ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD

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 we enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org. Follow us on Twitter @RepairtheWorld.

 

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Eckerd College students take tikkun olam to new depths

There is a religious principle in Judaism called tikkun olam, which means “repair the world.” It teaches that it is a moral and religious obligation for Jews, as partners with God in creation, to repair the damage we humans have inflicted upon the world and make it a better place.

Jewish students at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg have taken their responsibility seriously in a way that is very appropriate for a school with a bayfront campus and whose largest major is marine science.

“Scubi Jew: Eckerd College Environmental Divers” is made up of students who are certified scuba divers and believe that it is not enough to just enjoy diving. Theirs is scuba diving with purpose. Sponsored under the auspices of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, Scubi Jew is Eckerd Hillel’s most popular club, with more than 50 members.

Thanks to a gift from a donor and a substantial grant from Repair the World, Scubi Jew members will spend one weekend a month during this school year volunteering for the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) in Key Largo.

Though students do not have to be Jewish to belong to Scubi Jew, the restoration trips to Key Largo are for Jewish members only. Eight Scubi Jew members went on the first trip in November and five more trips are planned during the school year.

The CRF is an international non-profit organization founded by Ken Nedimyer, recently named a CNN Hero for his innovative work developing a system of easily installed nurseries for coral propagation (www.adoptacoral.org). The students care for and tend to the coral in the underwater nursery operated by the CRF, and then transplant coral from the nursery to the reefs.

“Coral are incredible, beautiful organisms, and the fact that they are disappearing breaks my heart,” said David Steren, a sophomore majoring in marine science. “Scubi Jew and CRF are providing me with the opportunity to be part of saving these beautiful and essential creatures, and as a marine science major I intend to dedicate my life to their preservation.”

He said the experience has been enhanced with the Scubi Jews. “As a Jewish group, our main focus is tikkun olam, and Scubi Jew is committed to saving the underwater world … one baby coral at a time,” Steren said.

“The students travel by van from St. Petersburg to Key Largo, where members of the Keys Jewish Community Center have welcomed them with open arms,” said Suncoast Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Ed Rosenthal. “They let the students sleep in the synagogue and use their kitchen, and the Methodist Church next door lets them use their showers.”

The students participate in Shabbat services with the Keys JCC congregation, learn about tikkun olam, particularly as it pertains to the marine environment, have a Havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat, and of course they work underwater to restore endangered coral.

“These weekends offer an engaging and enriching spiritual and educational experience for our students, not to mention the excitement and adventure of scuba diving,” said Rabbi Rosenthal.

“The fact that this is an ongoing program also ensures that the value of Tikkun Olam is deeply instilled in the students much more so than a single alternative spring break experience. Since they come back every month, they don’t just participate … they’re invested in repairing the seas and saving the coral,” he said.

Scubi Jew has just launched a new web blog entitled, “Tikkun HaYam – Repair The Seas” www.repairtheseas.org, which is intended “to raise awareness, in a Jewish context, about the wonders of, and threats to the oceans and waterways of the world,” according to Rabbi Ed Rosenthal.

In even simpler terms, the blog explains its goal:

“The saying is: ‘As go the Oceans, so goes the Planet.’

The Reality is: Our Oceans are dying!

The Fact is: When Jews take action, change takes place.”