At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as communities were facing food and housing insecurity at much higher rates, Noam (he/him), who had only recently moved to NYC from New Jersey, wanted to show up for communities most impacted by injustice and inequity and support them in getting their basic needs met during this moment of crisis and uncertainty. Growing up, Judaism played a significant role in Noam’s life with service being one way he expressed his Jewishness and something he valued and had done throughout his upbringing. “Social change has always been something I was passionate about, and I wanted to be closer to the communities I wanted to serve alongside,” said Noam. The Repair the World Fellowship was an opportunity for Noam to stand in solidarity with and build relationships with communities he wanted to support through service. So when Noam’s father told him about a two-year experience to take action in pursuit of a just world he jumped at the chance to join.
“Something that stood out to me was Repair’s model of service that was based on the direct needs of the community and meeting those needs through meaningful partnerships with nonprofits on the ground,” said Noam. Leaning on the Jewish value of justice, tzedek, Noam saw a disconnect between what he saw as meaningful impact and the lived experiences of those around him. “It wasn’t until I became a fellow that I witnessed how relationship-building within the community was another way I could pursue real change. I see this experience as the beginning of that journey for me.”
Noam reflected on his first time serving as a fellow in 2021 with local service partner Bread and Life in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “We got to providing needs straight away and it was incredible to see how effectively Bread and Life, run by mostly volunteers, was making sure their fellow community members had access to food and other basic and vital needs and resources. I felt an immense sense of care for the community from day one.” Noam continued, “A value I come back to when I think about my experience with Bread and Life, and throughout the fellowship, is solidarity, achdoot. There were moments of joy and real human connection as a way to combat oppression, and the recognition that being vulnerable is a part of building community. I truly felt safe to express myself and my Judaism in that space.”
Noam grew up in Jewish day schools and camps and was involved at his college campus Hillel. “My Jewishness was a constant in my life, but when I moved to NYC, I lost some of that. I am grateful that I was able to build my own Jewish community through the fellowship by meeting other young Jews and recruiting others to serve alongside me.”
As Noam’s passion for housing justice grew, the role that service played in his life also shifted. “After the fellowship I will be attending graduate school for public administration studying social and urban policy. People in NYC need to have their basic needs met and I’m going to learn more about how I can be an effective public servant. I don’t think I would have come to that decision without this fellowship experience.”
“What I’ve learned about service since becoming a fellow is that real change does not have to start at the policy level and that service is also a vehicle for educating others about critical issue areas. Service is a great starting point toward taking action and anyone can serve regardless of experience.”
Noam Brenner is a Senior fellow at Repair the World and is passionate about uplifting the lived experiences of people facing food and housing insecurity into the policy making process. After graduating college, he worked as a Pressman Social Action Coordinator for Bnai Keshet and a Project Manager for Vot-ER working on civic engagement and voting rights. He is a graduate of The George Washington University Magna Cum Laude with a double major in Political Science and Psychology, and will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration this coming fall.