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Showing up for Pride and beyond

By Jaz Twersky, Education Justice Fellow, Repair the World Brooklyn

The first time I found Stonewall, I stumbled across it by accident. I was looking for the library and turned a corner onto a building covered in rainbow flags. Stonewall is smaller than I expected for a place that feels so momentous. It’s here that 50 years ago, queer and trans people threw bricks back at the police, and in turn claimed their space, their lives, and their defiance. Their pride was quite literally revolutionary.

I am the eldest child of a lesbian couple, I’ve been living as an out and proud bisexual for years now, and I publicly came out as nonbinary this year. I couldn’t live as I do without the activists who for decades fought systems of power — at Stonewall and beyond.

It’s about to be Shavuot, the holiday celebrating the Jewish people receiving the Torah, and it’s traditional to stay up all night and study. There is a Jewish story in which a group of rabbis is asked, “is study or action greater?” They debated it among themselves and concluded that study was greater because it leads to action. I consider this story as I remember Stonewall and the activists there, and apply those learnings to my present-day life. At Repair, we ground our volunteering in service learning, so study, action, and connection motivate us to stay engaged.

This year will be my first Pride in New York City, and there’s something special about being here on the 50th anniversary of the raid and riot, in commemoration of that iconic moment of struggle. While I was not at Stonewall, I hope to contribute to building a better world for future queer generations. You can be part of that process too.

Pride month reminds us to recommit to learning and to action. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, you can send a queer book to an incarcerated person with one of my service partners NYC Books Through Bars, attend the Dyke March, a protest of the discrimination, harassment, and violence against the queer community, or participate in an anti-discrimination training facilitated at Borough Hall.

You can also attend events by some of Repair the World’s partner organizations such as:

We build a holy community by consistently showing up for each other, both in the small everyday moments and in the big events of celebration and struggle. I hope you continue to show up for queer communities during Pride Month and beyond.

Announcement from Board Chair Larry Brooks

The following note was written from the Chair of our Board of Directors, Larry Brooks, on March 15, 2019. 

As an important partner in Repair the World’s mission to engage young people across the country in service and volunteerism, I wanted to update you about a significant change for our organization.

After more than six years of invaluable leadership, David Eisner, our president and CEO, has decided that now is the right time for him to begin transitioning out of his current role, as well as the right time for Repair to identify its next leader.

David’s efforts have helped position Repair as the leading Jewish Service provider, the platform organization for the Jewish Service field, and an important contributor to envisioning a Jewish future that is robust, relevant and truly engaged in improving our communities and our world. We are truly grateful for David’s leadership and know that his accomplishments have set us up for a strong next phase for Repair. We’re also excited that David will be staying on as an adviser until the end of May to help ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

In addition, I’m very pleased to announce that Cindy Greenberg, current executive director of Repair the World, New York City, will be stepping in as interim CEO. Cindy has been a crucial contributor to Repair the World’s success in recent years through her leadership of our New York City programs, and we’re confident she’s the right person to lead us at this time of transition for our organization.

As Cindy transitions into her new interim position, we will also shift our focus to the search for a permanent CEO. We look forward to updating you as that process moves forward.

The Board, Cindy, and David are all committed to working hand-in-hand as we go through this next period of change. We’re deeply grateful for your continued support as we work to put into place a new, permanent leadership team to ensure a strong future for Repair. Should you have any questions, or if you would like to reach out to Cindy, David, or me, please feel free to reply.

Thank you,
Larry Brooks

Below is the Board Resolution on this Leadership Transition:

“The board expresses its tremendous gratitude for David’s six years of leadership, which has meaningfully contributed to Repair the World’s current position as the leading Jewish Service provider, the platform organization for the Jewish Service field, and an important contributor to envisioning a Jewish future that is robust, relevant and truly engaged in improving our communities and our world.”

A Drop in the Bucket: Moishe House Changes Approach to Tikkun Olam Programming

 

By Molly Cram, Senior Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager, Moishe House

 

For many, tikkun olam is not only a component of their Jewish identity but a way to live their Jewish values; however, it can also be a daunting task to have an impact as just one person or just one community. At times, it feels like a drop in the bucket.

In an effort to come together to have an impact on a few of these important issues and provide tailored resources, Moishe House residents, Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) hosts, and Moishe House staff voted on four pillars of Tikkun Olam for 2019.

 

 

These are four themes upon which we can all focus and build meaningful programming for our communities. As an organization, our goal is to have every Moishe House, 100 Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) hosts, and every Moishe House staff member participate in at least one pillar in 2019.

“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot 2:16)

We may not solve global climate change or provide clean drinking water for all, but we do feel we have an obligation to do something.

To date, in 2019, 29 Moishe Houses, five MHWOW hosts and eight Moishe House staff members have participated in one of the four Tikkun Olam Pillars.

14 Moishe Houses and MHWOW hosts across North America hosted Pink Shabbats in partnership with Sharsheret and in line with the pillar Mental and Physical Health & Wellness to bring awareness to breast and ovarian cancers.

Moishe House Baltimore engaged in the pillar, Prejudice, Discrimination & Oppression, and in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day, by watching the Netflix documentary, 13th and discussing the Baltimore justice system with the former Deputy Attorney General of Maryland.

The Charlotte Moishe House office came together for a lunch and learn to discuss how to go green as an office and do their part in the pillar Environmentalism and Global Climate Change.


We are hopeful that, collectively, we will have a true impact on a few of the important issues facing us today.

To see more of what the Moishe House community is up to visit: www.moishehouse.org/tikkun-olam or contact Molly Cram, Senior Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager at [email protected].

Activists spread message to fight discrimination, hate in Brooklyn

This story originally ran on News12 Brooklyn on November 19, 2018.

PROSPECT HEIGHTS – Activists joined together Monday to spread the message of fighting discrimination and hate by handing out flyers at four key points in Brooklyn.

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Self Care During Hard Times

It’s important to find times to unplug and reflect. For many, that time is Shabbat. We encourage you to think about the times you can set aside for self-care. We reached out to our friends and partners at OneTable for some suggestions and resources. See below for resources related to meditation, and a special piece compiled by Rabbi Jessica Minnen. While in places Shabbat is mentioned, each resource can be used about self-care more broadly.

Let’s support each other as much as we can now and always.

Shabbat Resources

Shabbat and Self Care
Compiled by Rabbi Jessica Minnen, OneTable, [email protected]

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde

Even as the popularity of the word self-care has risen, many people have stopped believing in the value of the practice. Our incredible capacity to commit to one  another’s struggles is only as strong as our ability to care for ourselves.

This Shabbat, check in with yourself with these self-care questions:

  • Did I eat well today (as defined by myself and not the rest of the world)?
  • Did I move my body in some way that could be helpful for my body’s needs?
  • How much sleep did I get?
  • How do I feel in my body?
  • How much water have I had today?
  • Have I been outside at all today?
  • What is one emotion that I can identify feeling today?
  • When is the last time I was in nature?
  • When is the last time I did a self-focused activity (reading for fun, listening to music, meditation, cooking for myself)?
  • Can I identify one hope I have for my immediate future (today, this week, this month)?

“Finding ways to be kind to ourselves is a gift we can offer to ourselves and our community because of the space it gives us to engage in the emotional labor of deconstructing oppressive structures related to a seemingly endless list of ‘isms.’ May these strategies for self-care, inspire you in your community to find your own path for healing yourself, and offer a template for healing our communities as a whole.” — Adapted from Lauren Lofton.

Lauren Lofton is a queer, genderqueer, person of color, social justice advocate and attorney born and raised in the Bay Area. They earned a J.D. in Public Interest Law from University of California, Davis in 2009. Lauren is dedicated to a legal practice with an intersectional, social justice lens that is grounded in compassion.


Days and weeks when stories of sexual assault and allegations make headlines and conversations in homes and offices can be particularly triggering and difficult for everyone, including survivors. In addition to self-care, we encourage anyone struggling, or feeling alone or confused, to look to the following resources:

Post-Election Service

At Repair the World, we’ve engaged thousands of Jewish millennials and our neighbors in meaningful service to address inequity in our four community hubs – Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit. In the past year, as our work began more explicitly focusing on racial justice, we’ve done a lot of listening; since the election, our listening has intensified. We’ve gathered community members for open space meetings and for conversation over the Shabbat dinner tables, we’ve attended community gatherings led by community organizers and local politicians, and we’ve talked to our neighbors and our community partners.

Here’s some of what we’ve been hearing:

  • Fear. We’ve heard fear that people of color, Muslims, immigrants, people that identify as LGBTQ, and members of the Jewish community are not safe. The fear is real and palpable, and it comes from both those groups and those who consider themselves allies. The uptick in violence since the election — racist threats and actions, and violence against individuals based on whom they supported — has heightened their concerns.
  • A desire to act. People, especially young people, want to take action and shift their priorities. Some are interested in getting more involved politically, and some want to take action locally to stand in solidarity with their neighbors.
  • A desire to connect across difference, especially among white people. For some this means wanting to get to know more people in their diverse neighborhoods. Jews want to organize meals with Muslims. White people want to show up to connect with people of color. And, others are looking for ways to connect across the political divide, either locally or nationally.

At Repair, we believe that service has a more powerful role to play in America than ever before.

  • Serving together is one of the most effective opportunities for people to connect across differences to build and strengthen community. Whether building relationships with people serving alongside you or finding a better understanding of underserved individuals, service can expose us to those who hold different perspectives and life experiences, helping us to grow and become stronger.
  • Service offers a deeply Jewish response to addressing inequality and injustice. We recall that the Torah teaches us to care for the stranger and those who are vulnerable thirty-six times, invoking our memory of what it was like to be strangers in the land of Egypt. Service allows us to address immediate shortcomings, even when systemic or political change feels daunting.
  • Service allows everyone to take action in solidarity. There’s an obvious unevenness to how inequities impact us. For those less directly affected by these unfairnesses, addressing them through action and service can demonstrate that we stand with those who face more adversity.
  • Service heals both those of us who serve and those with whom we serve. When emotional strains pull at us, acting externally to repair society’s brokenness can help make us whole internally.

In the coming weeks and months, Repair the World will be recommitting to our efforts to make service a defining element of Jewish life.

In NYC, we are launching a new Volunteer Corps whose members will commit to volunteering at least twice a month with our service partners in Central Brooklyn.

In Philly, we’re holding a Post-Election Cocktails with a Conscience on the evening of Thursday, December 8 at our Workshop at 4029 Market St. In addition to offering each other support and comfort, we’ll have a chance to take stock of where we are, to determine what action steps we want to take to move forward as a community, and to advance and defend values and principles like fairness, justice, compassion, and kindness that are at the core of who we are. This gathering will be followed by a Day of Service on Sunday, December 18, in addition to other actions we’ll shape together.

In Pittsburgh, we are continuing to work with and listen to our community in the way that we did in holding an evening of healing on November 9th. As part of these efforts, we’ll be holding a Cocktails with a Conscience event on December 2nd at our Workshop at 6022 Broad Street. This will be followed by a dinner on December 8th, where we’ll talk about hunger in our city and outline specific work done to combat it. We will follow that up with a lot of service opportunities around MLK Day as well as ways to innovate for the social good in our community.

In Detroit, we are continuing to work with Freedom House to offer a safe space and educational workshops to the refugees and asylum seekers they house and planning Southwest Holiday Fest for December 10 to showcase the proud diversity and inclusion of of Mexicantown.

In Baltimore, we are continuing to work alongside our community partners to produce relevant and impactful action and learning. On December 9, in partnership with Jews United for Justice, we are hosting a Turn the Tables Shabbat Dinner where we will be discussing water affordability and accessibility, a major issue in Baltimore, as well as nationally and globally. We will also be holding days of service on Mitzvah Day (December 24-25) and on MLK Day (January 13-16) where we will be exploring racial injustices, religious tolerance, and other issues as they impact the Baltimore community.

Nationally, we are expanding Act Now for Racial Justice, a campaign to engage individuals and organizations in meaningful discussions and in action through service that shows solidarity and makes a difference in creating more cohesion in support of ending systemic racism.

We are committed to living and acting upon our values, no less now than before November 8. This call to justice binds us to vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities, and we hope that our answering that call through service will resonate with the Jewish community. We invite everyone to be a part of a stronger and more just world.

To the Repair the World Community

At Repair the World, we believe that serving together with communities to meet urgent needs can be a valuable path to understanding and building relationships across differences.

Today is a day to focus on for being there for each other, especially for communities experiencing pain and marginalization. Wherever we stand in response to the election results, it is clear that we are a country with deep divisions, a place in which we truly do not understand one another, yet where too many of us dismiss the depth of the others’ despair.

We need to reach out to each other, to our children and elders, to our neighbors and friends, and build community. And, with those we are close to, we prepare ourselves for the difficulty of reaching out and listening to those whom we do not usually hear. In the Repair the World Communities, we will open our workshops for these conversations – hosted by partners and ourselves – conversations that we hope will begin to heal our civic wounds.

We also invite you to reach out to us. Share your thoughts and feelings about the election. Our digital community is a place for dialogue and listening and we invite you to add comments to this post below.

In Jewish tradition, the telling and hearing of a story is one way we create understanding. We encourage you to share your stories today and to ask others for theirs. Through our collective stories, may we continue to build a narrative of understanding and national healing.

We look forward to all of the opportunities in the future to unite in service and solidarity in our local communities.

Repair Interview: Rachel Sumekh of Swipe Out Hunger

Repair the World recently launched our High Holiday campaign, focused on advancing racial justice and building relationships between communities. There are many different ways to get involved (Learn about the root causes of racial injustice in America. Host or attend a Turn the Tables dinner. Take action in solidarity with our neighbors as a multiracial Jewish community.) – and we encourage you to explore them all.

Meanwhile, we will be introducing you to some of our favorite change makers. Here’s Rachel Sumekh, the Founding Executive Director of Swipe Out Hunger. Sumekh co-founded the organization – which lets students donate unused points from university meal plans to feed peers and community members facing hunger – during her sophomore year at UCLA. Today, Swipe Out Hunger exists on 23 campuses across the country, and is changing the conversation about poverty and food insecurity on college campuses. Read on…

What was the inspiration behind Swipe Out Hunger?
It started out because we were annoyed with the university for creating meal plans where students who had excess points at the end of a semester lost them. It began informally, with students going into dining halls and buying meals to go, then giving them to homeless and other food insecure people. But the university had some issues with this model. Fortunately, rather than stopping us, they said we should develop a new model. Today, if a student has extra meal swipes, they can opt into the Swipe Out Hunger program and convert that money into resources to help food insecure students.

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A Summit on Jewish Service

This post originally appeared on Heritage Florida Jewish News on September 30, 2016.

By Heritage Florida Jewish News

At the inaugural Service Matters: A Summit on Jewish Service last week, more than 200 people joined together committed to elevate the place of volunteer service in American Jewish life. The Summit was hosted by Repair the World with more than 35 partners from across the fields of Jewish service, social justice, leadership development, and communal engagement.

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You, too, can help repair the world: Pirkei Avot offers inspiration for millennial do-gooders

This post originally appeared on JWeekly.com on Sept 15, 2016

By David Eisner

When lowering my shoulder, planting my feet and pushing hard to make something happen, I love to reflect on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s exhortation to act with “the fierce urgency of now.”

My feelings in those moments usually are not very MLK-like — self-righteousness, self-satisfaction and just a touch of self-pity make me feel both impatient and smug.

Over the last month, however, “the fierce urgency of now” has challenged me in a new way, as I struggle to process the violence, oppression, naked fear, hatred and cynicism that is dominating our national news and politics and spilling into our communities.

The sense of urgency and the desire to act immediately collides with two simple questions: What should I do?  What can I do?

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