The following reflection was written by Lily Brent, Executive Director of Repair the World Atlanta.
This Rosh Hashanah, I felt more ready than ever to turn over a new leaf, and yet a little bit stuck. After the “Summer of Freedom” turned into a “Summer of Disappointment,” I found myself asking whether this year would really be different in all the ways I had hoped. I’ve written often about not losing heart in the face of incremental progress and the many small, relentless, unglamourous acts it takes to make lasting change. In the era of COVID, all of that holds true, and the burden is greater, our steps heavier. COVID has turned out to be a marathon, not a sprint.
We are entering the shmita year–a “year of release.” (Our “In the News” column below explains shmita in greater detail and offers opportunities to participate). Gayanne Guerin of Congregation Bet Haverim shared a music video about shmita made by Cantor Jessi Roemer. I found it so powerful just to watch other humans breathe. Just as there is deep value in the Jewish ritual of Shabbat, there is so much wisdom in practicing shmita as well. In order to continue our work, we have to rest. For some of us, rest is an act of revolution, something that has been systematically denied by slavery and systemic racism. Our many frontline workers have been keeping an impossible pace and somehow have to find the strength to continue.
What will you release this year? How will you rest? And how will you create the capacity for others to rest? In the spirit of shmita, how can our community together enact a rhythm so that all are cared for, no one feels scarcity, and yet rest is possible?
I’m reminded of our 2020-21 fellow Claire Ruben who reflected, “My service partner, Rebecca’s Tent, is run by a single full-time employee. I run the shelter’s career empowerment program, manage volunteers, coordinate donations, and perform outreach. Beyond direct service, I believe Repair’s greatest impact is how we help experienced community members operate at their fullest potential.”
In 2020-21, Repair the World Atlanta engaged 1,600+ participants in over 5000 acts of service and learning, contributing nearly 10,000 hours of service to our nonprofit partners. We supported Concrete Jungle’s launch of an emergency COVID-19 grocery delivery program. In connection with partners such as Congregation Bet Haverim and Jewish Career & Family Services, the program grew to provide crucial food assistance to 400+ families and 800+ individuals per week for the first 18 months of the pandemic. Last year, we launched a Service Corps program and engaged 36 corps members to serve with 15 organizations.
We pushed ourselves further than we ever thought possible. By volunteering and mobilizing others to volunteer, we also created space for others to rest. In 5782, I’m grateful to be in community with all of you. If you have the capacity, join us to support our community’s resilience. And when you need to, please rest.