Archive for : Repair in the News

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 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

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

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.


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


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




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 ( 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”, 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.”

Shalom TV Daily News 11/6/12

Chanukah: A Time to Rededicate Communities

On Chanukah, the Jewish community celebrates the rededication of the ancient Temple that was desecrated by people who did not tolerate Jews and their practices. We learn about the miracle of the oil following that military victory – but truly, the triumph of Chanukah is that the Maccabees managed to create social change. Specifically, they fought for a society that would allow them to live, learn and worship as they pleased.

Before winning that important victory, educating their young children was still a priority for the Jewish people – to the point where, when forbidden from engaging in Torah study, the Jews hid in caves and risked their lives to study and teach Torah. Today, we commemorate the determination of the Jewish people to educate their children by playing with a dreidel (a top). Jewish children would play with a dreidel when soldiers would approach them to see if they were learning.

These were the priorities, even when oppressed: education, legacy, maintaining their community.

While circumstances are very different today, we live in communities where children living in poverty do not have access to high-quality education. Communities throughout our region have encountered desecration: crime, poor academic achievement, lack of job opportunities; the list goes on and on. We can either accept this status quo, or like the Maccabees, fight to ensure that education is improved and accessible to all.

The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL)’s Department of Community Engagement, through a Jewish service-learning fellowship program created by Repair the World, is launching a project that will increase impact and meaningful service opportunities for Jews living in the South. Repair the World, like the ISJL, aims to make service a more defining part of American Jewish life by infusing service-learning with Jewish sources, values and traditions.

The ISJL is in the early stages of piloting an initiative that will work closely with several congregations to develop ongoing and meaningful Jewish service-learning projects that will impact the educational experience of youth in each of their communities.

After conducting some preliminary surveys and research we decided to focus on education, because it is an area of great need in our region and of great interest to ISJL’s partner congregations. These congregations will benefit from Repair the World’s established service models and tools.

Each participating congregation will convene a group of congregants who will commit to meet monthly to discuss potential project ideas, learn about their local community and join in Jewish text studies. The outcome of these conversations is that the congregation will select a project that can meaningfully impact their community.

As we celebrate the rededication of the Temple, congregations throughout the South can envision rededicated communities where all children have access to education of the highest quality.

The ISJL seeks to assist congregations develop existing or new programs that will foster social change in their communities. Can you imagine this program in your community? If you can, please contact Malkie Schwartz at 601.362.6357 or [email protected].

Respectively, Repair the World is piloting a national education campaign aimed at connecting American young Jewish professionals as volunteer tutors and mentors assisting our nation’s students, and seeks to collaborate with the ISJL on this important endeavor.

To learn more about Repair the World and to read more about the Repair Fellowship and other service programs being implemented around the country, please visit

About Malkie Schwartz

Malkie Schwartz is the director of Department of Community Engagement at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss.

Hurricane Sandy, Google and a Message From the Whirlwind

I’m looking at a Google map that showed up on my Facebook feed. It is filled with multi-colored virtual thumbtacks on my desktop that says Hurricane Sandy Recovery — Volunteer Opportunities. The colors represent the type of help needed. Red pin: volunteer opportunities at food banks and evacuation shelters. Yellow pin: donation sites for emergency supplies and food. Teal pin: volunteer opportunities to clean up damaged neighborhoods.

Between phone calls with colleagues, photos and new reports, and live Twitter and Facebook feeds, I felt I had entered the fourth dimension and was personally in the heart of Sandy’s path as it thundered up the coast and pounded the northeast.

But I wasn’t. I am based in Seattle and by next week I suspect my Twitter and Facebook feeds will return to their normal rhythms of witty comments, and photos of smiling people and cats (being a dog owner, something I just can’t understand). And that is the challenge all of us not living in a flooded neighborhood without power or fresh water face — those of us who are not face with children’s or simple questions of “why?” and “what’s next?” Those of us not forced to look at destroyed neighborhoods and needing to answer the same questions for ourselves. Very quickly, as if having passed an accident on the highway that makes us pause our conversation and shutter, we will, as we must, continue along down the road of our lives.

But we can’t just keep driving along. Commandedness — the demand of a response both as an individual and as a community — is one of the most powerful ideas the Jewish tradition has brought into the world. A felt obligation to pull off the road and to not keep driving. The acceptance that no matter who I am or where I am, I can’t be a bystander. A response is obligated by nature of the skills, talents and gifts I’ve been given; we as a community have been given; we as a country have been given.

And yet, I suspect those colored thumbtacks on Google will increase like a visual manifestation of urgent need. In fact, the truth is the world is populated with multi-colored thumbtacks, but unless the disaster is so merciless and the photos so compelling to activate our fascination with abomination we will never react to them. Most of us will never bother to look. And that is, as it always has been, our challenge. For us not in the recovery zone the question isn’t “why,” but what are we going to do about it? Not just today but always.

Here is a list of ways you can get involved now in recovery efforts in the northeast.
Follow Rabbi Will Berkovitz on Twitter: