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Archive for : Thanksgiving

Repair Inspiration: #GivingTuesday and Shmita

Today is #GivingTuesday – a global day dedicated to giving back. Yeah, pretty much right up Repair the World’s alley, right? That’s why we teamed up with eJewishPhilanthropy on this essay that adds a Jewish dimension (specifically the wisdom of the shmita year) to the annual observance. Check out an excerpt below, then read the whole piece over at eJewishPhilanthropy’s website.

#GivingTuesday and the Shmita Year
By: David Eisner, President and CEO of Repair the World

We have reached an exciting time of the year. The air has turned crisp and the leaves vibrant shades of red and yellow. The holiday season, with its family gatherings and festive mood, is just around the corner. For many, the old song’s adage rings true: “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

But in today’s busy world, with its onslaught of advertisements blaring messages of consumption from all corners, it can be all too easy to lose touch with the season’s deeper meanings. It is all too easy to forget to stop, truly give thanks and, most importantly, to give back.

At Repair the World, we work to make giving back a defining part of American Jewish life. We aim to inspire people in the Jewish community and beyond to make service to others a priority in their lives. Our Fellowship program is an example. Throughout the 11-month program, Repair the World empowers young Jews living and volunteering in 5 cities across the United States (Pittsburgh, New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore), to address social issues and build relationships in their communities through service. Meanwhile, we also seek out connections back to Jewish tradition, which is filled with wisdom about the importance of generosity and seeking out justice. When I first heard about #GivingTuesday – a global day dedicated to giving back – I immediately thought about service, and how giving one’s time to a cause you care about is a way to live out the values of Giving Tuesday, as well as the Jewish value of incorporating service and tikkun olam into daily life. I also began to think about another Jewish concept, shmita.

It just so happens that the Jewish calendar is also in the middle of an exciting moment. Once every seven years in the land of Israel, the shmita year arrives. According to biblical tradition, shmita, which literally means “release,” halts business as usual. Jewish text says, “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but in the seventh year, you shall let it rest and lie fallow. Let the needy among your people eat of it, and what they leave, let the wild beasts eat of it.” (Exodus, 23:10-11).

When we let those words settle for a moment, their radical nature comes clear. For an entire calendar year – this past Rosh Hashanah to the next – everything changes. Nothing is planted or harvested from the land. It is allowed to lie fallow and rest. Meanwhile, provisions are made for people of less means to find sustenance.

Another radical aspect of the shmita year is that all debts between people are forgiven and the slates are wiped clean. The text proclaims, “Every seventh year you shall practice release of debts … every creditor shall release his authority over what he claims from his neighbor. (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Imagine living in a society that had good will and second chances built into its very fabric!

Read the rest on eJewishPhilanthropy’s website.

Jumpstart These Thanksgiving Hunger Projects

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is a great time to begin taking stock in what we are thankful for. But it’s also a time to help others build their own moments of thankfulness. This month, in our ongoing crowdsource funding series, we scouted some great, Thanksgiving-related projects that are currently campaigning for support. Some are related to the holiday specifically, while others focus on food and hunger. We don’t know the people involved in these projects personally, but we think the work they are doing is awesome. We hope you do too!

Thanksgiving Turkeys for Families Join Emmaus House – a faith based charity and community empowerment organization – in their annual quest to raise funds to purchase turkeys for 350 families in the Atlanta area.

Under the Sour Sun: Hunger Through the Eyes of a Child Help bring this book about a child’s struggle with poverty in El Salvador to a wider audience. And don’t forget to check out the video on the Kickstarter page for a short excerpt of the book, read by the author.

North County Food Bank Help this food bank in San Diego achieve its mission of providing services and feeding wholesome food to people and families in need.

Repair Interview: Julie Bender for the Thanksgiving Project

When Jill Smokler founded Scary Mommy – a blog that chronicled her experiences as a stay-at-home mom in Baltimore, she had no idea that it would grow into a massive online community of parents. She also didn’t realize what a huge impact the site could have. But in 2011, a brave comment from a parent about her struggles to afford Thanksgiving dinner morphed into something big: The Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project.

Today, the site enables thousands of people to donate money to provide a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need, and build community along the way. Recently, Julie Bender, Executive Director of the related non-profit, Scary Mommy Nation, took some time to tell Repair the World more about The Thanksgiving Project, its impact, and how you can get involved.

1. What was the inspiration behind The Thanksgiving Project?
The Thanksgiving Project came about in 2011. One of the unique things about Scary Mommy is that we encourage moms to share both the up sides and down sides of parenting. This makes for funny, honest, and inclusive dialogue among moms, regardless of their differences. One part of the Scary Mommy community is a Confessional, where moms can share comments anonymously without worrying about being personally judged by other members.

Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy, recognized a trend on the Confessional of moms who were having trouble putting food on the table, let alone a holiday dinner. She did some research and discovered that the average Thanksgiving meal cost approximately $50 for a family of 10. Jill decided to provide $50 grocery gift cards for 2 families and asked any community members who were able to give just $25 and she would match them up and give the gift card to a family in need. The response was overwhelming. In 2011, Scary Mommy community members provided 400 families with a Thanksgiving meal they would have otherwise gone without. And Scary Mommy Nation, a 501c3 non profit, was born. Last year, The Thanksgiving Project helped close to 3,000 families and this year we have helped over 1,100 families and have over 1,000 families on the waiting list currently.

2. Can you share a story that demonstrates the project’s impact?
The stories Scary Mommy gets from the applicants are often heartbreaking and inspirational at the same time. These are families who have experienced so many challenges but still appreciate the generosity of strangers providing them with a Thanksgiving meal. Here is one example:

“I am a single mother to three amazing children, ages 8, 10 and 12. I have asked my oldest not to mention Thanksgiving multiple times in the past few weeks because its another day I know food will be a stretch to provide or promise. She loves to help cook and it pains me to face another unknown. I have been struggling with health issues for several years, and I have gone without food more often than not so my children eat. I was losing hope and literally prayed through tears last night, ” God, could you please give us a Happy Thanksgiving” I can promise you we will deeply appreciate this gift card and be grateful for every bite. I truly believe you and your donors are gently unveiling the shame and tragedy of hunger in our nation. I have felt hopeless and alone as others undoubtedly do, but am lifted up by the kindness of this precious gift.

I just read your email informing me of being chosen to receive a Thanksgiving gift card. I am totally in tears writing to thank you from the deepest part of my heart. Today was an especially hard day, and this good news has truly touched and overtaken me. I am so very thankful to be chosen and receive this help. I can now know in advance we will have food and a Thanksgiving meal. I know you are helping myself and the other recipients beyond just the food. You are helping us all have some hope, some strength, relieve a little of the stress, to feel some peace and for that we are all so deeply grateful.”

3. How has it helped to build community – within the Scary Mommy network and beyond?
One of the things that is so great about The Thanksgiving Project is that it helps families that are part of the Scary Mommy community. These are moms who may be on Facebook or the blog and no one has any idea how much they are struggling to feed their families. The project isn’t necessarily helping people who are homeless or receiving food stamps (although some certainly are) but rather people who could be in your circle of friends and for whatever reason (illness, divorce, recently laid off or spouse serving overseas) have fallen on hard times. This gift enables them to celebrate a holiday that would most likely have been another night of eating cereal or noodles. The luxury of a special meal isn’t easy to come by when bills aren’t being paid.

Another unique aspect of The Thanksgiving Project is that each donor, whether they give $10 or $1000, receives personal information on the family or families whose Thanksgiving meal they have provided. This personal connection between donor and recipient has led to relationships being formed between the families and holiday and birthday gifts being donated as well. Members of the Scary Mommy community live all over the country and come from every religious, racial and socio-economic background. Scary Mommy and The Thanksgiving Project connects every member in such a deep and meaningful way, because at the end of the day, we all want our children to be cared for and safe. And what better way to ensure that happens than by lifting each other up in times of need?

4. What is the best way for people to get involved?
The best way to become involved with The Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project is to go to www.scarymommy.com and donate whatever you are able to a family in need. Checks can also be sent to Scary Mommy Nation P.O. Box 20866 Baltimore, MD 21209. You will receive personal information on the family whose Thanksgiving dream you’ve made a reality. As Mother Teresa so eloquently said “If you can’t feed a hundred, then feed just one.”

In addition, you can also spread the word about The Thanksgiving Project in your community and on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you own a business and make a tax-deductible contribution, we have opportunities to showcase your company on Scary Mommy to our over 1 million followers.

8 Nights of Giving Thanks: Gratitude at the Thanksgiving Table

Here at Repair the World November is Gratitude Month – a month dedicated to giving thanks for everything we are grateful for. And starting tonight it’s alsoHanukkah! To celebrate, Repair the World presents 8 Nights of Giving Thanks: tips and thoughts for filling the Festival of Lights with gratitude.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so tonight – as we light the first Hanukkah candles (very early this year, we know!) – is the perfect time to think about how to bring gratitude to your table on Thanksgiving and all year round.

In between prepping your turkey, baking a pumpkin pie, and mashing those potatoes, take a second to write up some simple “gratitude cards” for your table. They could say things: “What are you thankful for this year?” “I couldn’t live without _______.” “My wish for everyone at this table: _______” or “Who are you most thankful for?” Decorate them however you’d like and scatter them across your dinner table tomorrow, encouraging guests to pick them up and answer them.

Jewish tradition also has a long tradition of giving thanks by blessing food before a meal, and expressing our satisfaction for having eating it after. Learn more about those blessings here and here, or find your own ways to express gratitude for the incredible bounty of Thanksgiving.

How will you give thanks at your Thanksgiving table? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.

8 Nights of Giving Thanks: Night 1

Here at Repair the World November is Gratitude Month – a month dedicated to giving thanks for everything we are grateful for. And starting tonight it’s also Hanukkah! To celebrate, Repair the World presents 8 Nights of Giving Thanks: tips and thoughts for filling the Festival of Lights with gratitude.
Read more

Thanksgiving Harvest: Three Great Jewish Farming Organizations

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, our collective thoughts are on family, friends and, most importantly, food! That means it is the perfect time to celebrate the world-changing work of three (yes three!) Repair the World partner organizations that put food justice, sustainable food production and the intersection of food and Jewish life at the center of their agendas.

We’ve written about these organizations before. But as turkey day (or tofurkey day, as the case may be) draws near and we break out bubbe’s pecan pie recipe, we thought we’d check back in with them to see what great, on-the-ground (and in-the-field) work they’re up to!

Adamah A pioneer in the field of Jews and farming (the program launched back in 2003), Adamah is known for it’s 3-month fellowships that combine communal living, Jewish life and learning, and sustainable farming. They are also a working CSA, providing farm-fresh vegetables to families in Connecticut, and make uber-tasty kosher, lacto-fermented pickles and cheese (more info on where to buy here).

Jewish Farm School was founded to teach participants about “contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative trainings and skill-based Jewish agricultural education.” They lead all sorts of great, hands-on, in-the-dirt programs (including running the farm at Eden Village, a Jewish environmental summer camp). Their new FeastForward initiative uses visual media (like short films) to raise awareness about food and environmental issues.

Urban Adamah Founded as a West Coast, urban version of Adamah, program participants live, farm, learn, teach, and celebrate together in Berkeley, California. Their innovative take on Jewish life and urban farming has gained widespread attention, including articles by Grist and San Francisco Chronicle. The farm also runs a variety of programs for the public, including an upcoming “earth skills” event on Nov. 29 (register here). Apply to be a fellow in 2013 here.

Are you working to transform the food system here or abroad? Tell us your story @RepairtheWorld!

Thanksgiving Volunteer Opp: Everything But the Turkey with the Washington DC JCC

Washington DC people, take note! This November 19th and 21st the Washington DCCJCC is hosting their “Everything but the Turkey” event – an annual volunteer opportunity that brings together 500 volunteers to prep Thanksgiving side dishes for the city’s hungry and homeless population. The program, which is in it’s 12th year, works closely with DC Central Kitchen, one of the city’s leading anti-hunger organizations, to make a real difference in the community.

Erica Steen, the DCJCC’s Director of Community Engagement, took some time to talk with Repair the World about what it’s like to prep Thanksgiving dinner for 6,500 people, and why volunteers shouldn’t wait to sign up.

What exactly is Everything But the Turkey?
It’s an annual event where we partner with DC Central Kitchen to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for all of the homeless shelters and low-income community organizations in the city. They make all the turkeys and we make all the side dishes. Every year more than 500 volunteers join us the Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving to prepare the dishes.

Amazing! How many people does the program feed, and what’s on the menu?
There are 100 different shelters in the area that feed approximately 6,500 hungry people a full Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to turkey, which DC Central Kitchen makes, we prepare green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, stuffing and a harvest salad, which includes beans and corn.

What do people do while volunteering?
The volunteers are involved in all aspects of food prep. We organize tables of eight and each table is given one recipe and all the supplies and ingredients they need to make that recipe multiple times. Over the course of the two days we make approximately 12,000-15,000 servings of food. Because we have volunteers who come with their children, we also make snacks for an after school program that DC Central Kitchen runs.

How do you keep track of all that food?
It’s a lot of team work! We have our own staff and DC Central Kitchen also sends representatives who help volunteers pack up trays and make sure things run smoothly. There’s even someone at the door tallying up the completed trays as they leave the kitchen. The process is made somewhat simpler because we do not cook anything at the JCC. We do the cold prep and then wrap up the dishes in clearly marked aluminum trays. They are then packed into a cooler van and delivered to DC Central Kitchen. A couple of the dishes like the coleslaw and harvest salad are good to serve as-is, but anything that needs to be cooked gets cooked there.

Can you talk more about who participates?
We have a wide variety of participants, and we let people know they do not have to have previous cooking experience to get involved. That said, a lot of people who volunteer love to cook – some people even bring their own knives! A lot of our preschool families come with their kids. And companies or groups from local universities will often sponsor a table. We also have grandparents who bring their grandchildren and let mom and dad stay at home to prep their own Thanksgiving meal.

This year, we are really ramping up sponsorship opportunities. Groups can sponsor a table and we add their logos to our advertising and website. Individuals can also sponsor. I had a mom call me this morning who wants to sponsor a table in honor of her daughter’s bat mitzvah, which is the following week! They’ll bring friends and family and make a bat mitzvah service project out of the day.

How can people sign up to be involved?
People can register directly at our website – but if they’re interested they should sign up soon. This event fills up quickly every year!

Find more volunteer opportunities with the Washington DCJCC here, and learn more about DC Central Kitchen’s work and how you can get involved here.

On Thanksgiving, Share Your Gratitude By Giving Back

Polish your gravy boats and slip into your eating pants, people – Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s the holiday devoted to lots: of traffic, of eating, of time with family, and of being grateful for everything we have. (hmmm … didn’t we just do this in October?)

Thanksgiving is also dedicated to those without lots.  Every year, millions of people across the country take time out of their holiday festivities to give back through volunteering. And we can think of no better way to celebrate a day of gratefulness than by helping others. After the annual touch-football game is over, why not take advantage of the holiday spirit by participating in one of the service opportunities below.

Too busy prepping the turkey (or tofurkey), whipping the mashed potatoes or just gobbling it up? Fret not. People need help all year round! So prep away, and bring the Thanksgiving spirit into the rest of the year!

  • Bake or Buy Pie. Across the country, expert and novel bakers-alike are banding together to bake pies to raise money for charity – like this Pie in the Sky event in Massachusetts or these pie events across the country. As if pumpkin and pecan pie could get any sweeter!
  • Race. Sign up for a Thanksgiving Day run that helps raise awareness or money (or both) for a good cause, like the Run for Food race in California.
  • Deliver meals to older and housebound residents with Meals on Wheels. Your visit will bring them much more than food.
  • Visit residents at a local senior center for VA hospital. Many of these organizations throw Thanksgiving dinners or parties for their residents, like this one in New York City, and need extra help and extra friendly faces.
  • Serve (literally) by volunteering at a local soup kitchen, which provides free, hot meals on Thanksgiving (and the rest of the year) to people in need.
  • Donate. If you don’t have time to volunteer in-person on Thanksgiving, donating to a favorite charity is a great way to give back.

What did we miss? What did you do? Feel free to share other local and national volunteer opportunities in the comments below.