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Value of Community During this Global Health Crisis

Dear Repair the World Community,

Never in my lifetime has the imperative to love the stranger felt so alive. As we adopt new practices of social isolation to protect ourselves and our greater community, we are practicing the essence of what it means to care for our neighbors. 

As a community, we are grappling with the question, “what can we do to support those around us?” We know that vulnerable members of our community and our neighbors require extra support and thoughtfulness during times of distress. Repair the World has put our in-person service and learning opportunities on hold, and we are shifting our focus to consider how we can mobilize Jews and our neighbors to take action to repair the world under our new circumstances.

We challenge you to consider how you can care for and love the stranger during these times of heightened fear and uncertainty.

While the situation is changing every day, here are three opportunities we see in this moment to make a difference.

1. Continue to Support Our Amazing Local Service Partners

We have been in touch with our 65+ service partners across nine communities. While they are all in different stages of planning, one theme is that they anticipate a dramatic increase in clients due to the pandemic and as a result are in need of financial support. Now is a good time to increase your donations to your local soup kitchen or food pantry. Some of our dearest partners in this work, who we know could use your support during this difficult moment are Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center (Atlanta), Baltimore Hunger Project (Baltimore), St. John’s Bread and Life (Brooklyn), The Night Ministry (Chicago), Gleaners Community Food Bank (Detroit), Food Bank for New York City (Harlem), Lotus House (Miami), Broad Street Ministry (Philadelphia), and East End Cooperative Ministry (Pittsburgh). 

2. Volunteer Online

With increased time at home, consider spending some of your time volunteering online. Our partners at Points of Light compiled this resource with a number of options for virtual volunteering, Catchafire matches volunteers with online opportunities that tap into their professional skills, and Golden is building out opportunities for virtual volunteering. 

3. Support Your Neighbors

While being advised not to venture far out from our homes, now is the time to think about who in our immediate proximity is vulnerable. We love this template that you can use to reach out to your neighbors and this new initiative in New York City called Invisible Hands which connects people with opportunities to shop and perform other tasks for their neighbors. We hope to see many more of these initiatives being developed in the coming days.

There are many more questions for us to consider. Who is suffering from social isolation? What are the needs of the health care workers on the front line and how can we support them? With many people now unable to work, how will we support those in need given an extreme rise in demand for food and supplies? 

As an organization we are continuing to focus on mobilizing the Jewish community to care for those who are most vulnerable right now. Read and share our resource, developed in partnership with Amplifier, on caring for the sick during the COVID-19 crisis. We are thinking creatively about how we can accomplish this and we welcome your support and best thinking. As opportunities emerge, we will share some ways we can all serve and care for our community virtually alongside our partners. 

The work to heal during and after this global health crisis will be ongoing. We are grounding this work by listening carefully to community needs. Our hope is to keep you updated in the coming weeks on opportunities, big and small, for you to make a difference. 

Yours in partnership, 

Cindy Greenberg
President and CEO, Repair the World 

Celebrating Black Leaders in the Community – Repair the World Partners

This Black History month we highlighted the extraordinary Black leaders behind our partner organizations that are doing amazing work in their communities. Because of these partnerships, we have been able to reach and serve more community members. Here are just a few of the amazing Black leaders building their communities and helping them thrive. 

The Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center (SWEEAC) serves more than 48,000 families & distributes over 1,000,000 pounds of food to families in the communities of Atlanta. Executive Director, Ernesta B. Ingram, has been leading SWEEAC since 2005 and introducing new and exciting food programs to Atlantans. Repair the World Atlanta has been able to reach and serve more community members in Atlanta because of organizations like Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center, Inc. Visit their website to learn more about their work!

The Safe Alternative Foundation for Education was founded by Van Brooks, a community leader who inspires students every day. Repair The World Baltimore was honored to feature the SAFE Alternative’s work when Van Brooks served on the educational equity panel during last month’s MLK Day program. SAFE Alternative believes that all students should have access to quality education and the resources and opportunities that will assist them in achieving their goals. SAFE Alternative provides after school, weekend, and summer learning educational opportunities in West Baltimore and hosts one of Repair the World Baltimore’s VolunTeams, a group of volunteers who visit the center once a month to do career workshops. Visit their website to learn more about their work!

The African Healing Garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is truly a place to restore wholeness to mind, body, and spirit. The plot of land owned by Betty Lane, the community’s 80-year-old matriarch, includes fruit trees, herbs, flowers, water, and a restful atmosphere. Betty grew up in the Hill District. She moved to Larimer in 1970 to raise her kids. She still lives in the same house within sight of the healing garden. The garden is a place where solace and peace of mind can bring about wholeness to those who enter its gates. It is being designed to provide an outdoor classroom for children’s activities. Repair the World Pittsburgh has spent many service days tending the garden and planting new plants throughout this partnership. Visit their website to learn more about their work! 

Reflections from MLK Day in Atlanta

This originally appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times on January 31, 2020.

For 1,300 volunteers on MLK Day, what comes next?

On the 34th annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we have a lot to be proud of. A coalition of 23 Jewish organizations and 26 service partners, coordinated by Repair the World, mobilized 1,300 volunteers to address urgent local needs.

We packed 2,850 kits for people experiencing homelessness and sorted 168 boxes of books. We cooked 380 meals for people in shelters and delivered over 100 more to families facing food insecurity. We packed 400 dental supply kits and swabbed 40 potential new bone marrow donors. We planted trees and sustainably stewarded green spaces. We modeled love and care for our seniors and volunteered with our children. We didn’t let the scale of need paralyze us; we took action and we tried to meet it.

One week later, I’m still proud of our service together. And, I know that 200 people will line up at SWEEAC [Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center] to get groceries today. I know that 90 percent of these food pantry clients are currently employed, but don’t earn enough to feed their families. I know that those 200 people standing in line represent 600-plus family members who don’t have enough to eat, most of whom are children. And I know that they will be back next week.

Working at Repair the World means that I get to see firsthand the ongoing commitment to service from many individuals and institutions in the Atlanta Jewish community. I get to fight back against the overwhelm every day and see the impact of small acts of kindness. For example, hearing about the moving experience of providing nail care to men at the Gateway Center, how unusual to connect on a deeply human level with individuals who we more often fear, demonize and hustle past. Service is an opportunity for us to reconnect with our own humanity and compassion.

Dyonna Ginsberg teaches about the difference between chesed (kindness), tzedakah (philanthropy) and tzedek (justice). A few days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I find myself thinking about the times that I have been forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. A random act of kindness or charity is a beautiful thing, prized in our tradition, but I wouldn’t want to count on it for adequate nutrition, shelter or safety.

We have accomplished a lot by honoring Dr. King with acts of service. But let’s not be too proud, or too complacent, to ask ourselves why acts of kindness and philanthropy are still necessary in the wealthiest nation on earth, in a thriving city. We can also honor Dr. King with frankness and honesty: 52 years after his murder, massive health and wealth disparities based on race persist in this country and in this city. Between now and next MLK Day, let’s ask ourselves what enduring structural changes are necessary to ensure that the basic needs of every person are non-negotiable, that their rights are iron-clad, their dignity a foregone conclusion. The legislative session is upon us. There are people and organizations doing the work of long-term change. Between now and our next service day, let’s join them.

Lily Brent, Executive Director, Repair the World Atlanta

412 Food Rescue, Repair The World, Circles Greater Pittsburgh Move To East Liberty

This originally appeared on CBS Pittsburgh on October 31, 2019.

The East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM) announced on Oct. 31 that nonprofits 412 Food Rescue, Repair the World and Circles Pittsburgh will join them at their East Liberty campus on 6140 Station Street.

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Strengthening Community One Year After Pittsburgh

By Zack Block

Zack Block is a lifelong Pittsburgher committed to building an equitable Pittsburgh.  Zack is also the Senior Director of Communities for Repair the World and the Executive Director of Repair the World Pittsburgh.

As a lifelong Pittsburgher, a Squirrel Hill resident, and a white Ashkenazi Jew, seeing my community in the news for a mass shooting was shocking, difficult, and hard to comprehend. On October 27, 2018, one year ago today, our community was violently attacked in one of the most horrific acts of antisemitism, white nationalism, and hatred this country has seen. I live a few blocks away from the Tree of Life building, and on the day of the shooting, I was first in disbelief, and then horrified. Then, quickly, I jumped into action. I took phone calls at the JCC from the FBI’s hotline and I spoke to the families of the victims. In the last year, I have replayed those phone calls and conversations over and over again in my head. In the last year, I witnessed the ways the Jewish community came together and the way the larger Pittsburgh community grappled with the massacre. In the last year, I have cried, mourned, grown, and learned. And in the last year, I have been pushed to understand that the outpouring of love and support my community received actively causes harm to communities of color, who do not receive similar outpourings of support when they experience their own horrific tragedies.

While the Jewish community is targeted by more hate crimes than other religious groups in the US, systems of government, society, and culture are set up to cause much more harm to communities of color than to white Jews and white Jewish communities. 

Crimes committed against communities of color do not get reported in the media with as much consistency and intensity as crimes committed against the Jewish community. Fewer eyes on the issues translates to less support for healing and recovery. No matter the community, we all deserve equal attention, love, and support during times of tragedy.

It is time for us to embody Jewish values and work alongside communities of color to create a more just and equitable society. Cross-community connections and relationships have been intentionally severed by white nationalism, which looks to pit different minority groups against each other for white nationalism’s own benefit. Showing up through service and ongoing volunteering helps to repair those crucial connections that we will lean on during times of acute and ongoing crisis.

At Repair the World Pittsburgh, we are shining a bright light on racism and antisemitism and islamophobia and xenophobia and all the hate that keeps people oppressed in the name of white nationalism. It has been one year since the horrific shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Please join us over the next year as we have hard conversations and serve with others to help heal, to show solidarity, and to strengthen our relationships and communities. 

Over the weekend, Repair cities across the country will mark the one-year commemoration of Tree of Life in service and learning alongside local communities. And, in Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, JCC of Greater of Pittsburgh, JFCS Pittsburgh, and other countless partners, we will facilitate learning at 30 service projects to serve in solidarity with our local neighbors.

Repair the World Announces Cindy Greenberg as New President and CEO

Greenberg Served As Interim CEO Since March 2019,
Founded Repair the World NYC in 2014

New York – October 18, 2019 – Repair the World today announced Cindy Greenberg as the organization’s next President and CEO. Greenberg, who has served as Repair the World’s Interim President and CEO since March of 2019, is also the founder of Repair the World New York City. Repair the World will be celebrating this appointment at its Tenth Anniversary Celebration on Wednesday, October 23, in Harlem.

“Cindy has devoted her life to advancing the role of meaningful service in the American Jewish community and building genuine partnerships within communities nationwide. Her years of dedication and commitment to this cause make her the perfect leader for Repair the World,” said Larry Brooks, Board Chair of Repair the World. “I have worked closely with Cindy during my time as Board Chair and have been consistently impressed by her commitment to Repair, her passion for our mission and her dynamic leadership during a period of significant growth and transition for our organization. We are extremely fortunate to have such a uniquely qualified individual to lead Repair into the future.”

“I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to continue leading an organization so close to my heart, with an incredible staff devoted to the cause of service rooted in Jewish values,” said Greenberg. “During my time at Repair, we have engaged thousands of young adults in service opportunities to help drive social change in their communities. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, I am excited to work with our staff, program leaders and volunteers across the country to build on the progress we have made together and secure a strong future for service in American Jewish life.”

Prior to assuming the role of Repair’s Interim President and CEO in March, Greenberg served as the founding executive director of Repair the World NYC, where she built a robust program focused on mobilizing the Jewish community to meet pressing local needs through service and learning in Central Brooklyn and Harlem. In four years, Repair the World NYC engaged more than 30,000 New Yorkers, mostly young adults, in meaningful service and learning with more than a dozen community partners focused on education equity, hunger and housing justice. Before joining Repair, Greenberg worked for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life for fifteen years, including as the executive director of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life. She is the recipient of several honors including the Schusterman Fellowship, the Shirley Chisholm Women of Excellence Award and the Harvest Heroes Award.

Greenberg’s selection is the culmination of a robust national search process by the Repair the World Board of Directors in partnership with an outside hiring firm.

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ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD:
Established in 2009, Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes young adults to address pressing local issues through service, based in Jewish values, heritage and learning. Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities in nine communities across the U.S., and train national partners to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org.

A Fellow’s Reflections from Pittsburgh–One Year Later

By Abigail Natelson
Repair the World Atlanta Fellow 2019-20

This October, some things feel the same, and some different.  Many of us observe Yom Kippur as we have done since childhood.  Many of us honor the change of seasons and the harvest from within temporary outdoor dwellings or Sukkot.  This October, Repair the World reaches a milestone as a national organization and will celebrate 10 years of focusing our Jewish community on best practices in volunteer service.  Amidst all of these occasions, one stands out as painfully unlike the others: the first anniversary of the White Nationalist terror attack on Tree of Life Synagogue. One of our Atlanta Repair Fellows, Abigail Natelson, grew up in Pittsburgh and shares her recollection of the event with us below:

Almost a year ago, I penciled a note into my calendar under Saturday, October 27th: “Halloween party with friends, dressing up as characters from Shrek, Pitt plays Duke.” Pittsburgh was ready for this regular weekend of rest, fun, and for many, Shabbat.

On the morning of the 27th, I woke up before my alarm to a calm fall day, with time to relax and appreciate the quiet morning. After a few deep breaths, I was jolted from my state of serenity by the blaring sound of what I learned later to be nearly every vehicle in Pittsburgh’s emergency fleet racing down the boulevard perpendicular to my street. Not too unusual for the city, but it seems off. Minutes later, I received an alert from the University: “Shots fired at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Wilkins Ave. Police operations are ongoing. Avoid the Squirrel Hill/Shadyside area.” Tree of Life Or L’Simcha? Where we celebrated my camper’s Bat Mitzvah last weekend? Is there more than one Tree of Life in Pittsburgh? I knew there was not. 

Then the notifications on my phone arrived, and for weeks they did not relent. The phrase “active shooter” appeared. Is this not everyone’s worst nightmare? Along with the slew of Groupme and Facebook messages was a text from my mom in the suburbs of Pittsburgh: “Rabbi ended services early. Headed home.” Call mom. When she picked up, I asked why someone would shoot at the synagogue, and it was her who convinced me that he had entered the sacred space with a weapon and was targeting actual human beings. “6 people are dead.” Dead. I hadn’t seen this word yet. Right down the street. Our community is being killed. Before I had even understood the situation, people were already dead. I was crying as I felt my community collapse. 

For hours, I sat with friends and roommates, refreshing the news stories over and over. The next few days were an indistinguishable fog of vigils, abundant communal support, and realizations about the danger all targeted minorities face in the US.  Today, our fear of the possibility of weapons harming our community and our neighbors has not subsided. Given that, I wish to amplify an article by Ilana Kaufman that initiates a discussion on how to keep synagogues safe for our multi-racial Jewish community, acknowledging the challenges of traditional security measures.  Continuing this dialogue is critical. 

As the weekend of October 27th approaches, it brings both the season of Halloween costumes and a time of heightened anxiety for the Jewish community. I am hopeful that, amidst the haunting and traumatizing memory of that Shabbat, the Jewish community, especially my insurmountable Tree of Life and Pittsburgh family, will experience some measure of peace and joy from the community’s outpouring of radical love and support.

What was learned here will leave here: Reflections on My Site Development Fellowship

By Rachel Bukowitz
Repair the World Atlanta Site Development Fellow 2018-19, Pittsburgh Fellow 2017-18

After spending August 2017 through July 2018 as a Food Justice Fellow with Repair the World (Repair) in Pittsburgh, where I served on a team with five other Fellows and consistently volunteered with three nonprofit service partners, I packed up my car and drove down to Atlanta to embark on my second year with Repair, this time as a Site Development Fellow. Over the last 12 months, I was the only Fellow in Atlanta, and had a different mandate with regularly scheduled volunteering. My year was devoted to working with Lily Brent, Director of Atlanta Repair, to launch Repair’s eighth “community”– a local site for Repair’s mission to make volunteer service a defining part of a American Jewish life. 

As I reflect on when I first moved to Atlanta to start this new endeavor, I recognize that my site development experience with Repair far surpassed my initial expectations. From cooking alongside local chefs at shelters in Atlanta to serving meals for people experiencing homelessness, to meeting with donors and securing funding from grocery stores for meal preparation, from going into a prison to sign up incarcerated men for birth certificates, to talking to my state senator at the Capitol about ending cash bail, the spectrum of my experiences fundamentally transformed me. This year provided me with the opportunity to hear stories and learn from people directly impacted by inequities across education systems, housing affordability, food access and criminal justice. Furthermore, it made me think critically about how to use my privilege to support excellent social justice work and be an advocate for change. From all of the diverse roles and responsibilities I had this past year, I have come away with three key learnings that I outlined below:

  1. Say “yes” to new opportunities. Committing to being the Site Development Fellow for Atlanta was a big “yes” moment for me in and of itself. I moved to a new state, to a city I had never been to before and knew no one in, and started a new job with a new boss whom I had never met in person. But accepting the role was just the beginning of the “yes-ing”. Once in Atlanta, one of my main goals was to build Repair’s brand and “get our name out there” by taking advantage of every opportunity to tell people what Repair is, what we do, and how they could get involved in our work. I criss-crossed the city attending 80 community-based events, volunteering with 32 nonprofits, tabling at events, co-sponsoring film screenings, speaking on panels, running workshops, hosting volunteer days, you name it! During this 2018-9 program year, Lily and I ran 42 programs! I dove into my new city attending public events that sounded interesting to me and volunteering for organizations working on causes I care about – which guaranteed that I would be far too busy to be bored or lonely, feelings that can come easy moving somewhere new. Each and every volunteer program and community event that I went to pushed me to embrace new experiences and led to me meet fascinating people, which leads into my next learning…
  2. You can learn something from everyone. Although we spent a lot of time and effort facilitating large-scale events, building our network also meant sticking true to Repair’s core model of meeting people one-on-one in the community. One standout meeting for me was with someone who was at that time a stranger, but is now my good friend, Gabe. As a newbie in Atlanta, Gabe provided me with incredible insight into Atlanta’s Jewish community and the city at large. He introduced me to the city’s food forest, an incredible urban agriculture space that I have since repeatedly volunteered at and brought over 40 Repair volunteers to on various occasions. Gabe also introduced me to a network of other values-driven young adults in the city that I am now lucky enough to have as friends. For all that Gabe shared with me, I too shared with him about Repair’s great work across the country and what we were up to Atlanta. A month after Gabe and I met, Lily and I co-hosted our first Repair event with Historic Westside Gardens. Gabe came to the event (and brought friends!) to volunteer. In the months that followed, Gabe continued to stay involved by hosting one of our MLK Shabbat Suppers and volunteering at our bi-weekly gardening group. Excitingly, in the coming year Gabe will be continuing his journey with Repair as a Fellow in Miami! Although not everyone I met with will end up becoming Repair Fellows, I can say that everyone I met with learned about Repair, and I in turn learned more than I could possibly list here from each and every person I met. I want to thank all of the community activists, local leaders and dedicated volunteers that I got to know this year– meeting this community was without a doubt the best part of my year.
  3. Express gratitude. Being a Site Development Fellow was a lot of hard work, and although there were days when my to-do list felt out of control, my efforts were always acknowledged and appreciated. In fact, I received an abundance of thank you’s (in person, over email, by text, and even hand written notes), and in return, I want to send my sincerest thanks to all of my colleagues at Repair the World. I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with such a supportive group of people that celebrate each other’s accomplishments and promote skill-building, divergent thinking, professional development, and empathetic and equitable approaches to work. I can’t thank you all enough for everything I have learned; for teaching me how to launch a social media brand and training me on inclusive marketing, thank you. For showing me how to manage a database and run reports to track metrics towards our goals, thank you. For taking me to the edge of my productive discomfort by creating space for learning about racial justice, pluralism, and intersectionality, thank you. For providing a platform for me to express my own Jewish identity through service and solidarity, thank you. And for inspiring me each day as awesome mentors and femtors (looking at you, Lily and Kate!), thank you, thank you, thank you. All that I have learned here I will take with me to graduate school and beyond, as I do my part in repairing the world. 

 

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.