array(1) { [0]=> int(22) }

Archive for : New York

Synagogues and a JCC weather another COVID storm • Best eats for Tu Bishvat • A nonbinary prayer book

This article originally appeared in JTA on January 14th 2022

Members of Bnai Jeshurun and Repair the World will package hygiene kits at JCC Harlem which will be donated to the Community Kitchen & Pantry of West Harlem. Families and children are welcome. Sunday, Jan. 16, from 1:45-3:15 p.m. at JCC Harlem. Register here.

Read the full article here

Brooklyn, Here Are 10 Volunteer Opportunities to Honor MLK Day

This article originally appeared in BKReader on January 14th 2022

“Part of living in a community is making sure that all of your neighbors have enough, every day,” Rachel Figurasmith, the northeast regional director at Repair the World, said. “Service is just one of the really important ways to do that.”

Repair the World is partnering with local organizations to host nearly 30 different volunteering opportunities all across the city and virtually between Jan. 14 and 17; here, we’ve rounded out 10 places you can help out over the long weekend.

Read more here

Commemorate MLK Day 2022 With These Local Events – NBC New York (47)

This article originally appeared in TGSL on January 13th 2022

Celebrated on the third Monday in January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service that celebrates the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.Each year on this day, individuals across the country volunteer with the goal of making a positive impact in the community. With this in mind, many organizations in our area are hosting events to commemorate Dr. King. Whether you decide to help clean up a park, become a mentor, help someone struggling, or join a discussion to learn more, there are numerous events scheduled across the tri-state area to keep the memory and legacy of MLK alive.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, located at 145 Brooklyn Avenue (Brooklyn), is hosting events throughout the weekend and Monday to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Interactive performances, protest marches, community art programs and volunteer projects are scheduled.

Read the full article here

From Virtual to In-Person: Celebrate MLK Day of Service With These Tri-State Events

This article originally appeared in New York 4 on January 13th 2022

Whether you decide to help clean a park, become a mentor, assist someone who is facing a hardship, or join a discussion to gain more insight, there are countless of events happening around the tri-state area to keep MLK’s memory and legacy alive. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, located at 145 Brooklyn Avenue (Brooklyn), is hosting events throughout the weekend and Monday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interactive performances, protest marches, community art programs, and volunteer projects are scheduled.

Read more here

5 Things to Do This MLK Weekend

This article originally appeared in The New York Times on Thursday January 13th, 2022.

On Monday only, when Martin Luther King’s Birthday is celebrated, the nonprofit Repair the World will lead museum visitors in packing baby supplies for Little Essentials, a charity assisting low-income families.

Read the full article here


Finding a Place in the Jewish Community – a Fellowship Alumna’s Story

As a Jew of Color, Riki (she/her) has experienced the dualities of being Asian American and Jewish. During college, she was heavily involved in community organizing and service and felt a strong obligation to advocate for direct services to historically under-represented and under-resourced communities. During college Riki felt a longing to strengthen her connection to the Jewish community but struggled to find her place in the Jewish community due to how she was othered and marginalized. After Riki graduated in 2018, she applied to become a Repair the World Fellow. “I felt pushed out from the Jewish community in college for being different. It was exciting to me to see that Repair the World had a model for engaging with service and organizing using a Jewish lens, while having an inclusive and expansive way of thinking about Judaism. This opened my eyes to the possibilities of working with Jewish organizations who align with my values,” said Riki. “I was also drawn to living in the communities you serve and connecting with local service organizations in a meaningful way.”

Soon after becoming a fellow, Riki started feeling the gap between her and the Jewish community shorten as she began witnessing Jewish values played out through the service she and volunteers were providing to community members. As a food justice fellow serving with The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH) in New York City, Riki engaged with countless individuals who used the support of TCAH to access vital resources. She expected that basic needs would be met but it was eye-opening for Riki to see each person served being treated with preciousness, respect, and dignity. “The sheer amount of people from different backgrounds who came through the food pantry  everyday and were able to access quality food and supplies, not leftovers or foods that were nearly expired, really struck me” said Riki when reflecting on her time serving with TCAH. “It meant so much to me to serve alongside people who were providing the highest quality care to each community member with a level of dignity that left them feeling seen as people.”

Riki also engaged in extensive learnings throughout the fellowship that continue to shape how she views the world and engages with Judaism. “Which is better? Someone who learns or someone who acts?” As part of Jewish teachings, this is a common question. “One Jewish perspective is that it is best for someone to learn in order to inform their actions. That is something that I thought about deeply while at Repair,” said Riki. “As fellows we learned so much from each other as we came from different experiences. We also had the opportunity to dig deep into learning about the communities we were serving. We were quite aware that we were continuing the work that had already begun and that we were honoring that by serving.”

Riki is now the Program Director at the Jews of Color Initiative’s New York Hub. “I was introduced to the Jews of Color Initiative after their Executive Director, Ilana Kaufman gave a presentation at Repair while I was a fellow.” Riki felt more confident and equipped to continue serving her community in a deeper capacity and through a Jewish lens after her time as a fellow. Riki reflects that her time serving her community as a fellow not only impacted those she served by also changed how she viewed fulfilling her passions while working with Jewish organizations. “I’m now combining my experiences of providing meaningful service as a fellow and my passion for advocacy to ensure Jews of Color in New York have access to necessary resources. I didn’t think I could do this type of work until my fellowship at Repair. Because of it, transitioning into my new role was relatively smooth. I had a better understanding of the Jewish community and a stronger connection to Judaism. This was something I was missing in college but have since gained throughout my time at Repair.”

Riki is the Program Director of the Jews of Color Initiative’s New York Hub. Prior to joining the Initiative, she was a Food Justice Fellow with Repair the World in Brooklyn where she learned about urban farming, food pantries, and SNAP benefits along with a Jewish lens to community engagement. She also has a background working in Asian American Pacific Islander organizations as well as immigration justice groups. Riki is rooted in the theory and praxis of Ethnic Studies that research should be generated by and for community relevance. She received her B.A. in Asian American Studies and Sociology from Pitzer College.


Giving Jewishly?

“Believe it or not,” my friend said, “2020 was our organization’s greatest year for giving in our entire history.” As the Executive Director of Repair the World NYC,  I spend a lot of time talking about fundraising. This was the fourth time in a week that I had heard some variation of this sentence. Across the country, donors have stepped up again and again since the start of the pandemic. In this time of immeasurable loss, this time in which the needs have been so great from every single angle, people have felt more compelled to give than ever before. 

When I began the Hadar Jewish Wisdom Fellowship’s Executive Cohort on Power and Money this summer, these realities were top of mind for me. What exactly is behind this momentum, this commitment, this communal response that we are seeing right now? How are people choosing where they give, why, and how much? And, perhaps the biggest question, when are they choosing to give, and when will they choose to stop?

In Deuteronomy 15:4, we read that if there is a “needy person” among us we are to “open [our] hand and lend [that which is] sufficient for whatever they need.” On first reading, this seems right. We should respond when people need help, and we should give differently according to the needs of the person in front of us.  Equity and equality are not the same.  To end food  insecurity – which is defined as lacking access to enough healthy and culturally appropriate food – it is not enough to simply give someone food; we must ensure that it is food that will sustain them and that they are able to eat. Not easy, but a simple enough concept.

During our cohort time, though, we were presented with texts that complicate that concept, and wrestled with the much larger questions: when has one given enough, and who gets to decide that?  In Bavli Ketubot 67b, the rabbis argue about whether it is sufficient to simply support someone enough that they can survive, whether they must be supported enough that they live as they were used to, or whether they must support someone enough to make them wealthy. We discussed this for some time, and many are of the belief that it is never one’s responsibility to give so much that a person in need has “even a horse upon which to ride and a servant to run in front of them.”  We went on to read about the ills that befall someone who asks for what can be considered excessive: wine, fatty meat, etc., which might lead one to believe that this assessment is correct.

However, the text that resonated most for me was this: 

Rabbi Ḥanina knew a certain pauper and was accustomed to send to him four dinars on every Shabbat eve. One day he sent it in the hand of his wife. She came back home and said to him: The man does not need charity…. Rabbi Ḥanina said: This is what Rabbi Elazar said: Come and let us appreciate the swindlers because were it not for them, we would be sinning every day in failing to properly support the truly poor (Bavli Ketubot 67b)

A few days ago my five year old daughter and I walked past someone asking for money on the street. I gave my daughter money to share with them. I heard another parent nearby tell their child that they would not give them money because “they’ll just use it on booze.” In our family we give whenever we have the chance, no matter what we think the person in front of us might do with the money. My husband and I believe that it’s not up to us to decide what is most important in someone’s time of greatest need, so we are raising our children to give people the dignity of that choice. It is true that this means sometimes a person chooses alcohol over food, cigarettes over water, drugs over a bed. For many, those are examples of excess one may not want to support with their money. For us, this goes back to the Deuteronomy text I began with. Who gets to decide what their needs are, and what is sufficient to fulfill those needs? There is power in choices about how we give our money, and these texts offer some Jewish wisdom on how you might choose to use that power.

While we are unlikely to be giving such that we help people have horses and servants, in the United States today we make choices about how to give all the time. As I am writing this, my family is deciding how to give to people impacted by extreme loss in Haiti and Afghanistan this summer of 2021. There has been a lot written about how to choose where to give in times of crisis over the years: should we give to large organizations who we know pay their executive staff a lot of money, but are well connected on the ground? Should we give to small organizations, even without clarity that the money will even get into the places experiencing the deepest need? If we only have so many dollars, is it best to choose one issue or split the money between them? 

As we move into the fall of 2021 and continue living amidst crisis, I am eager to see how people’s giving may change or grow. Perhaps you, reader, have been one of those people who gave more than usual this last year. How did you choose to give? When will you know that it’s been enough? How might you use these texts from Deuteronomy and the Bavli Ketubot to guide you? 

Rachel Figurasmith (she/her) is the Executive Director of Repair the World NYC. 

Maximizing the Impact of Volunteering

Stephanie Wu Winter spent many years working in the financial services sector but she always had a longing to use her skills and talents to make a meaningful difference in the lives of her community members. “Growing up, my family greatly valued serving, uplifting, and engaging with their community. I volunteered often as a kid and it’s something that has always been a significant part of my life,” said Stephanie. Wanting to commit to her value of strengthening her community and fulfilling her passion of ensuring that families and children are without basic needs, Stephanie began working at Hunger Free America (HFA) as the Director of Strategic Volunteer Initiatives four years ago. 

Hunger Free America is a service partner of Repair the World Brooklyn where Repair the World fellows and volunteers have helped to uplift programs needed to end domestic hunger and ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food by serving and advocating for them. “Every child in America deserves proper nutrition and now I’ve dedicated myself to making sure that happens. I also want to help volunteers recognize the magnitude of the impact their service makes in the lives of their neighbors.”

When reflecting on key moments of her past four years at HFA, Stephanie often goes back to the year spent working alongside Repair the World fellow, Riki Robinson, who served in 2018-2019. As a food justice fellow, Riki worked to ensure urban farms and food pantries in Brooklyn continued to thrive and provide nutritional food to local communities. “Being able to witness Riki and other fellows grow and learn in this space while meeting the vital needs of the community was incredible. When I think of the times I see people maximizing their impact in meaningful ways, I think about the fellows from Repair.” Riki is now the Program Manager at the Jews of Color Initiative’s New York Hub.

“I never underestimate the role that volunteers play in the community and also how valuable the voices of those we serve are. While in this space I’ve seen people be so candid about expressing what the true needs are and sharing their expertise based on their experiences,” said Stephanie. “It’s been truly powerful to be more intentional about the work and how we serve. As I’ve entered this space full time I see my values in action every day. Through working with fellows, volunteers, and our staff the intersections of social justice and volunteerism makes it very clear that we can’t address one community issue without addressing others.”

A Perspective on Social Justice Changed through Service

The following is a reflection written by Jack, a Repair the World New York Teen Service Corps Member.

What is social justice? On paper, it means to enact justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. In reality, social justice is significantly more complex than that.

The growing popularity of social media has affected our lives drastically, but in my opinion, it has affected our perception of social justice the most. Due to social media, the term “social justice” has been politicized, and the true message behind social justice: to serve one’s community, has been clouded. Before my involvement with Repair the World, my perception of social justice and how it relates to service was not the most positive, since 99% of my knowledge came from social media. 

Over the last few months as a Teen Service Corps Member in New York, my views have significantly changed. Participating in activities like volunteering at Bushwick City Farm and phone banking with Hunger Free America, I have realized that service requires personal sacrifice. Clicking a few buttons on my phone to post an infographic was certainly not as fulfilling as turning compost for two hours by myself at the farm, knowing I was helping others in my community. For one of the first times in my life I felt that I was truly helping others by doing service.

A phrase I’m sure many people here are familiar with is: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Finishing the work requires direct action, volunteering, together as a community. That is the lesson I’ve learned from my time with Repair the World. 


Growth on Uncertain Ground

Reflecting on my semester with the community of Repair the World Teen Service Corps, I chose to create a zine! This mini-zine, titled Growth on Uncertain Ground, focuses on how service and learning create community, even in times of distance or conflict. Throughout this semester, my perspective has evolved and expanded. I wanted to express that feeling and viewpoint through this zine. I am excited to take what I have learned and use it to continue serving my community. 

— Eliza Baron-Singer