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Defining Service Through Meaningful Partnerships

Andrew Belinfante (he/him), Director of Engagement for JDC Entwine, an organization building a generation of young Jews who lead and live a life of action with global Jewish responsibility at its core, sees the partnership with Repair the World as essential to engaging Entwine’s participants when they return home in meaningful service across communities. 

The partnership with Repair has refined his views and definition of true service.  “If you asked me years ago, I don’t know that I would have been able to define service. As Jews, we really needed a definition for service and a call to work toward a goal of advancing service in communities and even nationally. I think Repair actually created the definition. That’s no small feat and it will help ensure that Jews all over, regardless of demographic or denomination or ethnicity or identity, understand that at the core of what it means to be a Jewish person in the world is to advance service in some way and get involved in making service a priority.”

When JDC Entwine participants return home, Repair gives them the community tools to continue serving, directly impacting their local community.  “We value and appreciate this partnership because it enables us to deepen the outcomes of our program. Our programs are better because of Repair the World,” he says.  “Repair the World has totally changed the game on what Jewish service looks like.”

“What I find to be most meaningful, in addition to the work itself that’s being done, is that we are opening up not just the minds but the hearts of people all over the world to critically think about the needs of their local communities,” says Andrew. “An entire generation of people are actually having different types of conversations rooted in their Jewish values because of Repair. We are taking an opportunity to teach people about intention and responsibility, and Repair is giving them opportunities to take action.”

As just one example, Entwine’s “Global to Local” toolkit developed with Repair helps people embrace DIY – from volunteering, to service, or even hosting a global Shabbat dinner. “It’s an individual guide to engaging in service and volunteering in your hometown,” Andrew continues. “It’s a beautiful reflection of the way that I believe both Repair and Entwine see the work of service happening in the world. It became a really significant part of the program model that we’ve built out for our leadership program.”

Through the partnership, Andrew sees a definite shift to a more substantive structure of service through JDC Entwine. Entwine often shows people what service looks like across global communities but it now has concrete tools to share so participants can build on their global experiences to give back. “It’s one thing to say to people ‘we hope that you’ve learned lessons, now go out into the world and make change.’ But now we actually can say, ‘here’s a way you can do that.’ It’s given us more opportunities to engage people post-program and deepen those outcomes of their experiences.”

Andrew Belinfante is a community builder and activist living in New York City. As the current Director of Engagement at JDC Entwine, he travels the world connecting global Jews and building awareness around humanitarian aid and disaster relief work.

 

Bringing Judaism to Life

Jessica Herrman is the Director of Jewish Service Learning for Moishe House, who provides a vibrant Jewish community for young adults by supporting leaders in their 20s as they create meaningful home-based Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers, but her Jewish service journey began when she started serving with Repair the World as a Philadelphia fellow in 2017. “I really was able to find my passion for helping people connect to Judaism. Through my time serving with Repair, I realized that a lot of people don’t see service and Judaism as connected. Being able to bridge the gap was something that I found truly inspiring and impactful, and led me on the path that I am on today.”

Now, she brings her passion for Jewish service to her work at Moishe House and their partnership with Repair. “Bringing Judaism to life in a way that deeply connects with young adults today is important, and a key aspect of that is through service and through repairing the world, tikkun olam,” Jessica said.  “Tikkun olam is grounded in all of the work and programming that happens at Moishe house.  Our partnership with Repair the World makes sense because we are engaging with the young Jewish adult population and striving to infuse tikkun olam across that community.”

Keeping Judaism relevant and timely is the key to engaging young Jews, according to Jessica.  “Learning more about Jewish traditions and Jewish values and making them alive today—and not have them simply sit within a text that is 2,000 or 5,000 years old—is a great component of the partnership.” 

One specific project for Moishe House was focusing on May 9, or Victory Day, a significant national holiday in Russia.  “For a lot of our communities that are Russian speaking Jews, and for our houses in the former Soviet Union (FSU), we were looking for ways to relight that passion for tikkun olam. Through our partnership with Repair The World, we came up with a Victory Day Tikkun Olam program.”  

The program provides different resources on how to plan and lead effective volunteering opportunities, how to partner with communities, how to ground the work in Jewish values, and how to build community around service. Different communities in the FSU and Russian speaking Jewish communities in the U.S. now participate in service honoring the holiday—something that Jessica says probably would not have happened without the partnership.

“One of the key values of Moishe House is community, and that value is brought to life throughout this partnership every single day,” Jessica says. “We don’t only strengthen the community among Moishe House residents through our partnership with Repair, but also strengthen the communities in our Moishe House cities within their communities and beyond the walls of their houses.”

The partnership with Repair the World has significantly impacted Moishe House’s view and focus on service.  “Now we’re thinking about infusing service learning into all of our retreats, even if service isn’t the main focus, we are looking at infusing it beyond just our house programs and making it something that connects our entire Moishe universe in the global community.”

 

Jessica is Moishe House’s Director of Jewish Service Learning & coaches community builders on “how to” create and plan Jewish Service Learning programs, and provides tips on content, pedagogy and programming. In partnership with the Jewish Education team and Repair the World, Jessica cultivates serious Jewish learning and a deep commitment to service.

 

 

Discovering New Ways to Serve

Jay (he/him) grew up in a family where service and giving back were important. “I grew up through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts so volunteering and giving back to the community was significant growing up. In addition to Boy Scouts, my family also served with Jewish and Family Child Services Massachusetts, delivering food to those who were food insecure. And through that I learned how vital volunteerism is to making sure that the vital needs of many community members are met.”

Jay originally learned about Repair the World through a former fellow and classmate, Monica Sager. “She told me it was a great opportunity to give back. Of course, during Covid I haven’t had a lot of time to volunteer, so I thought this would be great way to get back into volunteering and to give back to the community. I applied to be a corps member and interviewed with the wonderful Katie Hamburg. I was accepted and here I am today—engaging in meaningful service.”

Jay notes that the beginning of his time as Service Corps member was deeply impactful for him, and important. “I found it to be very warm and welcoming, an environment where you could thrive and also ask for help,” Jay says. “The different leaders in the program and organizational partners are all open, very warm, very communicative; they want you to succeed.”

At Boston Repair, during Jay’s first cohort he focused on crafting disability policy briefs with The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University. He currently crafts housing policy briefs with The Neighborhood Developers in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Interestingly, these experiences transformed Jay’s vision of “service.” 

“Before coming to the Service Corps I always thought that volunteering was getting out there and physically interacting with your environment—physically packing a bag of food to somebody, stuff like that,” he adds. “And now, I’ve seen through the Service Corps the behind the scenes work of developing policy to help people. This work is just as impactful as giving somebody a bag of food. That’s what really has hit home for me—no matter how someone gives back to the community, we can all be a part of creating change.”

As Jay continues his service, he is hopeful that his current role working with neighborhood developers will continue to give him the opportunity to interact with the public and see a physical attachment to my volunteer work.”  

Find out from Repair Alumni How Service Changes Lives

Repair the World’s fellowship makes an indelible impression on all who participate. This year, the program expanded from one to two years, doubling fellows’ opportunities to build the capacity of local nonprofit service partners and exponentially increasing their growth as Jews, professionals, neighbors, and as citizens.

Hear from seven of our Former Fellows who now work as Repair the World Staff, how service changes lives.

How will you invest in Repair fellows and their communities?

Make a gift today

Tori Burstein (she/her)
Brooklyn 2018-19 

Today: Senior Associate, Office of the President 

“Because of my fellowship, I’m much more engaged in Jewish life. It’s been really influential to have made strong ties to local organizations in the city where I participated in the fellowship, and to have met mentors and colleagues who continue to be so important to me. The Repair alumni community has been essential. I communicate and get together regularly with the folks from my cohort — we even did a Hanukkah gift exchange for the fourth year in a row! It feels great knowing that I have a group of people with similar values, shared interests, and common experience.”


Danna Creager (she/her)
Harlem 2018-19

Today: Development Assistant 

“The Repair Fellowship reaffirmed my passion for food system change by allowing me to work alongside two anti-hunger community based organizations. Working alongside these partners, who directly serve people for whom the current food system is not working, gave me new perspectives and a deeper understanding of how much the food system needs to change.”


Annie Dunn (she/her)
Pittsburgh 2015-16

Today: Senior Program Associate, Pittsburgh

“My fellowship experience granted me the opportunity to engage deeply in authentic relationship building and address food insecurity in public housing communities. Giving of my time and energy to meet immediate community needs fulfilled me in a deeper way than I had previously known. The Repair fellowship granted me the opportunity to explore what gives meaning to my life, and to ultimately live my values out loud.”


Emily Erves (she/her)
Miami 2019-20, NYC 2020-21 

Today: Marketing Assistant

“The most rewarding part of this work was to be able to share common values of service and to support community members who were looking for opportunities to invest in their community in ways that felt particularly meaningful to them. Repair helped elevate my skills as a service leader. I’ve found ways to foster authentic relationships between volunteers and community partners to create sustainable and lasting partnerships.”


Elaine James (she/her)
Pittsburgh 2018-19

Today: Senior Data Associate 

“Being part of the Repair community is very rewarding. Extending the fellowship to two years will allow for even greater buy-in from the fellows. Additionally, with more time to work with their community, they can create deeper relationships than they would in one year. Fellows will be able to take on larger or longer-term projects.”


Rose Osburne (she/her)
Pittsburgh 2018-19

Today: Marketing and Recruitment Associate 

“My time as a Fellow was incredibly special because of the connections I made with the welcoming and wonderful Pittsburgh community. The heartbreaking part was finishing up after only 11 months. By extending the Fellowship to two years, Fellows are going to be provided valuable time to create deeper connections and impactful projects/ideas. This will truly be an investment in themselves and their communities, providing everyone more opportunities to achieve their visions.”


 Sam Sittenfield (he/him)
Pittsburgh 2014-15, Brooklyn 2015-16 

Today: Director of National Partnerships

“Without my experience with Repair the World, I might not have found the ways to plug into the inspiring social justice work in all of the communities where I’ve lived since then. Pursuing the connections between Jewish life and social justice has become such an animating force in my life that my job is now to equip our partner organizations to do the same.”


 

Your investment makes experiences like theirs possible. As 2021 winds down, there’s still time to reaffirm your commitment to our current fellows and other Repair program participants. Will you make a gift today and provide essential resources and training for Repair fellows and the volunteers they work with across the U.S.?

Let’s fuel progress toward a more just world together

My entire life, my mother has told me my generation will change the world. She grew up in the deep south watching antisemitic groups march through her neighborhood, an experience that shaped the way she raised me. I was 3 when she started taking me to rallies for equity and justice. 

Thanks to my parents, I grew up with my moral compass, my religion, and service inextricably linked. For me, there is no Judaism without social justice, and social justice does not exist without Judaism. When I see a wrong, I turn to our sacred texts to figure out how to make it right.

Repair the World does the same. Repair’s model centers on both service and learning. Jewish wisdom gives meaning to our lives, and that meaning becomes a driving force for us to create the world that we want to live in. 

Repair’s participants — fellows, corps members, volunteers — speak glowingly of serving with local nonprofits and strengthening the communities they belong to. But I find it especially gratifying when I hear that, for example, 90% of fellows and 80% of corps members say that their experiences made them feel more connected to Judaism. So an investment in Jewish learning is truly an investment in both the Jewish people and our neighbors.

 

Yours in service and learning,

Trudy Morse (she/her)

Senior Jewish Education Associate

Deepening a Commitment to Service

When Spencer first learned about Repair the World, he was new to Detroit and was looking for opportunities to live out his Jewish values through volunteering. Repair the World’s mission of pursuing a just world resonated deeply with him and he began to volunteer and stay connected with the work happening in Detroit. “It’s important to me that Jews living in Detroit understand the history of the Jewish community here and where the gaps in resources across communities are present. I believe there is a responsibility for Jews to invest time and funds and to use their passions to serve and uplift others,” said Spencer.

Through  Repair the World, Spencer began volunteering with Keep Growing Detroit, an urban gardening and farming organization whose mission is to promote a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables consumed by Detroiters are grown by residents of the city. “What volunteers contribute to the urban farm is so vital in ensuring that the food systems in Detroit continue to thrive. It means a lot to me to be part of that ecosystem.” 

For Spencer, volunteering was a way for him to make a difference in Detroit and  he wanted to deepen his service experience and make a more significant impact. One year after he began volunteering with Repair the World Detroit, Spencer became a member of Repair the World Detroit’s Advisory Council. “The work that Repair is doing is so meaningful and impactful. Differences are being made every day. My role as an advisory council member is to serve as both a thought partner and to help make connections between volunteers and the nonprofit organizations that Repair the World partners with here in Detroit. It means so much to me to be able to do that.”

Through Repair the World Spencer also volunteers as a mentor to young children at Brilliant Detroit, which focuses on child development and literacy and ensuring the success of Detroit’s youngest members while supporting their families. “The connection I’ve made with Brilliant Detroit would not have been possible without Repair the World. I have been able to connect direct service with education and have learned about the underlying structural issues that are exasperating the needs of families all over Detroit.”

Volunteering with Repair the World Detroit over the last few years shifted the role service plays in Spencer’s life. “Volunteering plays an even bigger role in my Judaism now and that is because of my connection to Repair the World. Service is integral to our communities being fulfilled and the lives of individuals being fulfilled. There is a sense of belonging and a recognition that I am part of something bigger than myself.”

 

Meaningful Moments in Service

Last fall, feeling isolated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gracie was looking for a way to make an impact and connect with her community. When she started serving with the Larimer County Food Bank in Fort Collins, Colorado, as a Repair the World service corps member, she was quickly drawn in by the Food Bank’s mission to provide food to all in need through community partnerships and hunger-relief programs, and the difference she saw it make for her neighbors experiencing food insecurity. 

As Gracie handed out groceries, she heard from her neighbors how essential these services were to them, and saw how something as small as a chocolate chip cookie could bring a smile to their face. Since then, Gracie has continued to serve as a corps member and volunteer at the Food Bank.

Her service experience has also shown her how deeply nonprofits like the Larimer County Food Bank rely on volunteers and donations to sustain their work. Year-round, thousands of Repair the World volunteers support nonprofit partners through meaningful service. Gracie lived out the Jewish value of achdoot, or solidarity, and made a difference in her community locally meeting the needs of her neighbors in need.

Service Leadership while Strengthening Community

For Emma (she/her) volunteering has always been important to her with service as the guiding force in different moments in her life. “No matter where I have lived throughout my life I always made sure that I continued to do the work needed to make my neighborhood and my community stronger,” says Emma. 

Throughout the pandemic, Emma struggled to create moments where she was able to make a deep and meaningful impact while making lasting connections through her volunteer experiences. That changed for Emma when she opened up an email from Hey Alma, a feminist Jewish culture site and online community, in the summer of 2021 that featured the Repair the World Service Corps, an opportunity Emma immediately seized. “That email changed everything for me. I had finally found a way to be connected to my community again.” Emma applied and joined the first ever Repair the World Service Corps summer cohort as a corps member in the Bay Area.

As the world began to reemerge and vaccines became available, Emma began working to address the lasting effects of COVID-19 on systematically under-resourced members of the Bay Area community. At the start of the summer cohort Emma was paired with Rogers and Rosewater, an organization that has been bringing hot homemade meals to people facing food insecurity in Oakland every Wednesday since December 2018. The opportunity to organize and run a donation drive for Rogers and Rosewater arose and, although the task seemed daunting to Emma at first, she quickly took on the leadership role of reaching out to Jewish networks in the Bay Area and helping to bring tents, sleeping bags, water, food, and other supplies to Rogers and Rosewater. “Every couple of days when I would check the donation bins they would be overflowing with donations. Those moments were so reassuring and they reaffirmed that people really wanted opportunities to make a difference and were ready to give.”

The role volunteering played in Emma’s life shifted for her over that summer. “I see now that I am capable of doing so much more within my community and that I can lead service work and mobilize others to volunteer by creating experiences centered around service,” Emma said as she reflected on her experience as a corps member. She is committed to service now more than ever. “I learned so much from my fellow corps members and have engaged in such thoughtful discussions around systemic challenges not only faced by The Bay Area community but by cities everywhere.”

Emma continues to serve her community as a member of the Junior League of Oakland East-Bay where she works to support women and children and ensures that unhoused people receive vital resources by running her own donation drives. “Growing up and as an adult the Jewish value of Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam) was a value that was the center of my Jewish learning and through the Service Corps I witnessed volunteers, my fellow corps members, and the nonprofits we worked with live out the value in a special way.”

 

How a winter day brought me closer to my community

 

On an extremely cold day in 2019 in Baltimore, Haley (they/them) decided to join a Mitzvah Day organized by Repair the World Baltimore. “It was the perfect opportunity for me to volunteer and engage with others in my community,” said Haley. “Thinking back to that first day I volunteered with Repair, it is a testament to the Repair fellows and staff who created a powerful service experience that in turn cultivated a volunteer community of people, including myself, who want to come back and serve multiple times.” 

Soon after Mitzvah Day, Haley began regularly volunteering at Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden, an urban garden dedicated to increasing accessibility to fresh and healthy food to members of the Baltimore City community, where they built a connection with those who run the farming there. “Since I started volunteering at the garden, I have become involved with neighborhood advocacy, land sovereignty, and food accessibility all while working closely with the farm coordinators. I did not expect to make those connections — discover new passions and for my life to be impacted in such a meaningful way.” 

As a passionate leader in the field of public health and community development, Haley has always been an advocate of social justice in Baltimore and of elevating the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community.  Haley deepened their service by becoming the co-chair of the Repair the World Baltimore Advisory Council. “The Advisory Council is now in its second year and through my time on the board, service has become a gateway to advocacy which before volunteering with Repair the World, I did not realize was possible. To be able to take my service a step further and diversify my impact by learning about new ways to make a difference through concepts like mutual aid and neighborhood advocacy is so meaningful to me.”

As Haley’s service grew so did the strengthening of their connection to Jewish values and the Jewish community. “As someone who was not particularly religiously observant and felt disconnected from the larger Jewish community in Baltimore while struggling to feel included, Repair the World has been a way for me to find my place within a community I didn’t always feel connected to.”

Joining the Advisory Council has not stopped Haley from volunteering at Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden where they have learned about key intersectionalities in service. Haley recalls a day where a group of University of Maryland dental students volunteered at the garden. “What I learned from on that day was that access to healthy and fresh food in communities where there is little to zero access was a key way to increasing the dental health of community members who also lack access to dental healthcare,” 

Haley shared as they reflected on that service experience, “I always remember that moment as one where my eyes were open to what the volunteer landscape truly looks like, one where people of all disciplines and expertise connect and share experiences to strengthen communities and the work collectively.” 

Community Learning and Relationship Building

Joshua (he/him) found his place in service after discovering Repair the World Atlanta’s “farm crew,” a group of dedicated volunteers who have committed their time to work at a farm or garden in the Atlanta area. “I enjoy being hands-on and witnessing the work I’m doing make a difference in people’s lives,” he says. In addition to “farm crew,” Joshua tries to attend in-person volunteer events at least every other week or more.

In Atlanta, Repair has mobilized volunteers to create change across different communities—and this large-scale effort motivates Joshua to continue serving. “There was a community garden that we volunteered at recently and a neighbor drove by and asked how he could access space to build a garden. We were able to provide him this vital food access resource, increasing his ability to have fresh fruits and vegetables,” Joshua adds. “It’s powerful for me knowing that the things you do and the projects you work on are actually making a meaningful impact on the local community.”

The community connections developed through service inspire Joshua to serve more, both through Repair the World and other opportunities. Reflecting on service experience, Joshua says, “A fulfilling service opportunity definitely makes me want to volunteer more. The first time I ever volunteered in Atlanta, before Repair the World had a local presence, was at the local Jewish Family and Career Services’ mitzvah day. And I still volunteer there every year. Just a few weeks ago the Jewish Family and Career Services’ hosted mitzvah day again, and Repair led a service project for it. I had the opportunity to elevate my service experience by volunteering at the site for mitzvah day and taking part in the service opportunity Repair was leading” 

Through his ongoing service work, Joshua has learned a lot about community, relationship building, and how to address local needs, while leaning on the Jewish value of strengthening each other (Hitchazkut)to shape how he approaches volunteering. But what continues to surprise him the most is “how service takes different forms. Whether it’s organizing like text banking, whether you’re hands-on in local communities, or you’re learning about how you can talk to your elected officials and advocate for people, and your community —there are so many ways to serve and to make a difference.”