This article first appeared in Jewish Telegraphic Agency on July 11, 2023.
On a sweltering July afternoon, 15 Ukrainian young adults gathered in a meeting room at the Jewish Community House in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. They toss a small ball to each other as an ice breaker — a way to indicate who should introduce themselves next.
As the ball flies around the room, each volunteer shares the Ukrainian city or town they are from, how they found the program and what their volunteering assignment is.
All of the participants left a country riven by war, were resettled in Brooklyn by the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst and are now giving back as part of the second cohort of a volunteer program entirely made up of Ukrainian refugees run by Repair the World Service Corps.
The relationship between the two organizations is reciprocal: The Ukrainian young adults are learning from Repair the World how to best give their time and labor to nonprofits and social services like the Marks JCH of Bensonhurst, a community center and social services agency that has been helping to resettle them for the last year.
“This was a seamless integration of having an already-present population of young adults who are really interested in giving back to the community that’s helping them in their resettlement efforts by volunteering in different aspects in that community center,” said Michaela Slutsky, the Northeast regional director at Repair the World, who conceived the partnership six months ago. The national Jewish nonprofit mobilizes young Jewish adults for volunteering and community service.