Catalysts of Change: Growing Service and Community Impact

The Catalyst Fellowship powered by Repair the World – a journey of Jewish service commitment, planning, and reflection.  In this inspiring three-part series, we delve into the heart of The Catalyst Fellowship program powered by Repair the World and in partnership with Jewish Federations of North America, exploring each pivotal phase: the initial commitment, the intricate process of program planning, and the meaningful reflections that follow. Through nine dedicated Catalyst II Fellows stories, we will uncover the passion, challenges, and triumphs that define their Jewish service and learning journey. In part two, Ellie (she/her), Eitan (he/him), and Lauren (she/her), discover how they harnessed the tools and training from The Catalyst Cohort II to create impactful Jewish service-learning programming. Through their stories, we will uncover the passion, challenges, and triumphs that define their Jewish service journey.

The Catalyst Fellowship powered by Repair the World is a groundbreaking initiative designed to inspire service through the Jewish Federations of North America. Ellie (she/her) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, Eitan (he/him) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, and Lauren (she/her) of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey embarked on their Catalyst Fellowship journeys driven by a shared commitment to fostering meaningful community engagement through service rooted in Jewish values. Each fellow’s path exemplified the transformative potential of service-learning, guided by Jewish values like strengthening each other, hitchazkut, and action and learning, na’aseh v’nishma.

Their fellowship began with intensive training sessions to equip them with skills and knowledge to develop and execute impactful Jewish service projects. Led by program directors from both JFNA and Repair the World, the fellows delved into the core principles of service-learning, understanding the intersection of Jewish values and community needs.

Ellie, driven by her passion for service, sought to cultivate a culture of service within her community. She found inspiration in the structured support provided by the fellowship, utilizing monthly learning sessions and resources to tailor her projects to address pressing community needs while engaging volunteers meaningfully. “I wanted to be part of something that not only addressed pressing community needs but also engaged volunteers in a meaningful way,” Ellie shared. Reflecting on the training structure, she added, “JFNA program directors provided us with workshops and mini-lessons on every aspect of the service-learning program, which was crucial in understanding how to structure our projects.”

Meanwhile, Eitan found strength in the collective wisdom of his cohort, drawing on the diverse perspectives and strategies shared during monthly cohort calls and in-person sessions. With a focus on community engagement, he navigated challenges by forging partnerships with existing organizations and leveraging their resources to maximize impact. “The biggest resource was each other,” he noted. “Having a sense of perspective from the other participants and comparing strategies that worked in different cities was incredibly valuable.” Reflecting on the training sessions, Eitan emphasized, “The training sessions provided a structured approach to planning and executing service programs.”

Lauren at the service project she organized, “Supermarket Sweep” benefitting the Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry.

In a suburban community with unique demographics, Lauren grappled with designing programs that resonated with her community’s needs. Through mentorship and the POP (Purpose, Outcomes, Process) model, she crafted initiatives aimed at fostering connection and addressing issues like loneliness, culminating in heartwarming experiences like the “Supermarket Sweep” where food pantry visitors picked up food items in a fun and dignified way, and meaningful interactions and cross-generational connections with older people at assisted living facilities. “The POP model was helpful for me, especially when discussing the purpose of the event,” Lauren explained. Reflecting on the mentorship aspect, she added, “Having an individual mentor was incredibly supportive. I met with Michael, City Director of Repair the World Los Angeles, and he provided invaluable resources and ideas that I used in my programs.”

Despite facing challenges such as scheduling conflicts and coordinating with external partners, Ellie, Eitan, and Lauren embraced flexibility, learned from setbacks, and continuously adapted their approaches to better serve their communities. “The exercise where we mapped out project steps helped me see the importance of having early conversations with both partners and volunteers. This ensured that the project was both impactful and engaging,” Ellie said. Eitan echoed this sentiment, noting, “The conversations around working with external partners were crucial. The training helped model what these interactions should look like, which made me feel more confident and prepared in my outreach.”

Their collective experiences underscored the transformative power of service-learning, illustrating how action grounded in Jewish wisdom can catalyze personal growth and community impact. Through their dedication and the support of the fellowship’s resources, Ellie, Eitan, and Lauren demonstrated that service-learning is not just about doing good—it’s about building connections, fostering collaboration, and creating lasting change. They embodied the essence of strengthening each other, hitchazkut inspiring others to join in their Jewish service and learning journey. As they continue to make meaningful contributions to their communities, their stories serve as beacons of hope and catalysts for positive change.

Continue the story of The Catalyst fellows as they plan their service-learning programs, and measure the impact of their work in part three.

The Catalyst Cohort II training at Fed Pro in Chicago.