Archive for : Baltimore

Repair Inteview: Ruben Chandrasekar on Helping Refugees in Baltimore

This interview is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s Passover campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis.

Imagine leaving everything and everyone you know, and starting life over from scratch. For the millions of refugees around the world who are forced to flee war and persecution in their home countries, this unimaginable situation becomes everyday reality.

As someone who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, Ruben Chandrasekar personally understands the challenges that come with being uprooted. And his experiences drive his work as Executive Director of the Baltimore chapter of International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization that helps refugees rebuild their lives. Repair the World recently spoke with Chandrasekar about IRC’s refugee resettlement work in Baltimore, how volunteers can get involved, and his thoughts on how the Jewish community can make a difference in the lives of today’s refugees. (Spoiler alert: it involves Albert Einstetin.)

How did you get involved with refugee work?
I was born in Chennai, India and moved to the US with my mom when I was 14. I lived in a small town in Upstate New York, and was the first non-white kid in the school. I faced a lot of challenges and discrimination as a student. My mom, who was a prominent nurse in India, couldn’t find work as a nurse until she passed the board exam. She studied for the boards while working as a home health aide. I remember driving her to someone’s home to take care of them once. An elderly gentleman opened the door, took a look at her, and said, “We don’t want your kind in our house.”
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How Did You Turn the Tables on MLK Day?

Pardon us while we kvell for a minute here, but MLK Day weekend was completely awesome. All over the country, people spent the day showing up and pitching in – volunteering in their communities to celebrate the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Repair the World was no exception. Our Turn the Tables campaign inspired more than 120 hosts and 1,000 guests to sit down for a Shabbat dinner to discuss racial injustices and civil rights. Meanwhile, it gave 700 volunteers an opportunity to plug into meaningful service projects across our five partner communities (Detroit, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) and beyond.

Added up, that’s a lot of great minds and even more capable hands, coming together to stand up for justice and strong communities. As participant Rebecca Haskell in Oakland, California commented, “Turn the Tables provided time and space for people to broach a subject that we otherwise wouldn’t and talk about our thoughts, questions, and concerns.” We can’t think of a better way to honor Dr. King’s life and work.

If you joined in one of Repair the World’s Turn the Tables events (or if you did something else amazing to celebrate MLK Day), we want to hear from you! Leave us a comment below, or tweet us @repairtheworld.

Seasons of Giving: Where to Volunteer This Christmas?

It may not be a Jewish holiday, but Christmas still has Jewish traditions. Like watching movies. And eating at Chinese restaurants. And volunteering! All around the country, thousands of Jews take advantage of the day off, and volunteer at soup kitchens, shelters, nursing homes, and community centers.

This year, join in the holiday action! Here are a few great ways to plug in and volunteer this Christmas.

Washington DC JCC Join 1,000 other volunteers for a day of service on Christmas Day. Activities include everything from wrapping and delivering gifts, to serving meals, to performing songs for hospital patients.

Jewish Muslim Day of Service, St. Louis In this uniquely awesome event on Christmas Day, Jews and Muslims come together on Christmas to serve others. They are also running a huge toiletry drive to serve people in need.

Pittsburgh Christmas Mitzvah Day The Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh is organizing a huge mitzvah day on Christmas. There will be opportunities to care for the sick, volunteer at an animal shelter, feed hungry people – and more.

Jewish Volunteer Connection, Baltimore Join hundreds of volunteers in making the holiday brighter for others by participating in this mitzvah day. Opportunities include making and delivering care packages, welcoming home troops serving abroad, volunteering at a local shelter.

JUF Mitzvah Mania, Chicago On Dec 25, visit elderly residents at the CJE SeniorLife Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation as part of JUF’s mitzvah mania event.

Tikun: Light up a Life, London If you live in London and want to make a difference during the Christmas season, check out Tikun’s great, multi-day program. Activities include everything from bringing chocolates to seniors, arts and crafts projects with the disabled, and tea runs for the homeless.

Know of another great volunteer opportunity for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @repairtheworld.

Repair the World’s Gratitude Month: Transformation

Here at Repair the World November is Gratitude Month – a month dedicated to giving thanks for everything we are grateful for. It is also the first month of the Repair the World Fellowship program.
We will be introducing you to our whole team of fellows – awesome people serving and working in cities across the country – soon. In the meantime, we reached out to them to ask: what are you grateful for? Their answers, which we will share throughout the month, might just inspire you.

Today’s Repair the World’s Fellows are grateful for: TRANSFORMATIONS

Check out our other posts on Gratitude Month:

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Repair the World’s Gratitude Month: Family

Here at Repair the World November is Gratitude Month – a month dedicated to giving thanks for everything we are grateful for. It is also the first month of the Repair the World Fellowship program.We will be introducing you to our whole team of fellows – awesome people serving and working in cities across the country – soon. In the meantime, we reached out to them to ask: what are you grateful for? Their answers, which we will share throughout the month, might just inspire you.

Today’s Repair the World’s Fellows are grateful for: FAMILY.

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A Not So General Assembly

Students and leaders of Jewish communities around the country gathered in Baltimore on Nov. 11 for the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The annual General Assembly (GA) is the largest gathering for American Jewish communal fundraising federations. At the event, the most important issues in Jewish communities around the country are discussed.

There were guest speakers and workshops related to topics of philanthropy, leadership, Jewish identity and support of Israel.

Philanthropy was a topic of great importance to three time GA attendee Sarah Kraut.

Since attending a Hillel alternative spring break trip her freshman year, Kraut, now a senior journalism major, has been involved in Maryland Hillel’s partnership with Repair the World.

“I think that [the GA] is a valuable experience for anyone because the worst thing that could happen is that you will come out knowing more about the Jewish landscape than you did before,” Kraut said.

Kraut attended the GA with a group of delegates sent by Maryland Hillel.

The Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life offers scholarships to urge students to attend conferences like the GA.

Maryland Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, according to its website, so Kraut said student attendance has been strong at the past three GAs she has attended.

Guest speaker David Gergen, a political analyst for CNN, gave the opening speech, titled “Changing the World,” about the post-election Jewish landscape for Israel.

Today, Israel has reached a cease-fire with Hamas after a week-long series of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other speakers at the GA included Governor Martin O’Malley, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Kraut said her favorite moment at the GA was a small group chat she had with the president of American Jewish World Service Ruth Messinger.

Messinger is the former Manhattan borough president and ran for mayor of New York City in 1997 as the first woman to receive the Democratic Party nomination for that office.

Junior business and communications major Lexie Kahn also attended the GA and is a member of the Jewish Leadership Council.

“Jewish life doesn’t end after college; it’s something that continues on for the rest of your life, and just seeing how people take that one step further and make it a component of their daily life is really inspiring,” Kahn said.

Kahn said she would love to attend next year’s GA, which will take place in Israel.

The GA offers students the opportunity to network with the wider Jewish community. The variety of Jewish professionals in attendance allowed students to get a deeper look into experts’ experiences.

Showing how the youth of a Jewish community can be involved, Kahn said, was something that meant a lot to the speakers at the GA. According to Kahn, some speakers believe the youth are not active enough.

One student who is arguably active enough is Joseph Ehrenkrantz, a junior English and government and politics major.

He is a member of Am Ha’Aretz, a Jewish sustainability club, Hamsa, a Jewish LGBT club and Hillel’s Campus Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Having never been to a GA before, Ehrenkrantz was surprised when his expectations weren’t met.

“I think that if the event is going to be successful in the future then there would have to be more communication between the students and the professionals there,” Ehrenkrantz said.

While he enjoyed speakers like Jacobs, who spoke about the modern Jew, Ehrenkrantz said the student’s voice was not very well represented. He said that some students felt they were more of an audience member than a participant in the GA.

Ehrenkrantz added that Gergen’s opening speech, which focused on events in history such as the civil rights movement, lost his attention.

“I think the students could vocalize the conditions of the present and emphasize that there is a lot to be done now, not just nostalgic memory of what was done yesterday,” Ehrenkrantz said.