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.