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Why Repair the World?

Why Repair the World?

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Published by Joel Alan Katz

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Published by: Joel Alan Katz on Nov 10, 2010
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01/13/2012

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Why Repair the World?
By Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World, and Lisa Eisen, Chair of Repair the World and National Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
As far as Jewish questions go, “Why repair the world?” is certainly less commonly asked than“Why is this night different?” but perhaps only because the call for
tikkun olam
is so deeplyingrained in our tradition. Though there is debate regarding the centrality of the modernconcept of tikkun olam as it conceives of our religious duty to those outside the Jewish world,there is no question that the concepts of 
tzedek 
(justice) and
chesed (caring), of gemilut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness)
remain at the very core of what it means to be an active Jew.For those of us who believe that, as Jews, we are called to repair the world both inside andoutside our Jewish community, we see the great and ever-growing needs of our country andour world, and our question is not
whether 
to engage but
how best 
to engage. Instead of asking
“Why repair the world?”, we are asking “Where to begin?”
 One answer to that question led to the creation in 2009 of Repair the World, a nationalorganization dedicated to making service a defining element of American Jewish life, learningand leadership. Repair the World is the only organization in the American Jewish communitythat is single-mindedly focused on Jewish service, service learning and volunteerism.The American Jewish community has robust and long-standing structures for Jewish socialservices, Jewish philanthropy and advocacy for Jewish causes. But until the creation of ourorganization, the community has lacked a means to mobilize our passion and commitment toserve. Repair the World is working to forge a movement of Jews of all ages and backgroundsusing their time, skills and energies to make the world a better place.We are not focused on a single issue, region or organizational mission. We are focused onservice as a defining Jewish act, and as a means to dramatically and positively affectcommunities and people in need around the world, while reinvigorating our community andtraditions around a deeply shared value.What does success look like? In 10 years:
 
Service will be a part of the Jewish lifecycle and calendar in ways that resonate deeplywith our faith, history and tradition.
 
The great majority of Jewish young adults will engage in term of service programs as arite of passage.
 
The rates of Jewish volunteerism will increase steadily, and Jewish communalorganizations and social service agencies will benefit from the volunteer efforts of children, families, young adults and professionals.
 
Jewish service efforts will make a measurable difference in improving conditions in theworld both within and outside the Jewish community.
 
 
Jewish young adults will have new ways of connecting with the Jewish community andof expressing and forging authentic Jewish identities.Getting there is a huge undertaking, but we believe it is hugely important. And, in the less thantwo years since our founding, we have already laid the important groundwork to make thisvision a reality:1. We are strengthening the field of Jewish service learning
 –
programs that combine hands-onservice with Jewish and contextual learning that grounds the service in Jewish values.2. We are have created deep partnerships with organizations to begin supporting a newgeneration of Jews committed to service.3. We have been building and deploying tools to help connect Jewish volunteers withorganizations seeking their help.4. We are making the case for Jewish service to a wide array of audiences and stakeholders,with a particular focus on Jewish young adults.
Building the field of Jewish service learning
Now in its second annual round, our Jewish service learning grants program supports thecontinued growth and development of high-quality opportunities for young Jews to participatein immersive programs ranging from a week to a year. We support a growing field that seeks tomake substantial impact in the communities served while also fundamentally influencing theidentities of the young people performing the service. Longstanding programs like those
provided by AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, as well as newer programs like Uri L’Tzedek’s
Summer Fellowship, engage young Jewish adults in hands-on service work as an expression of their Jewish values.In addition to providing critical financial resources to field organizations, we are connectingeducators and program leaders through a high-level Practitioners Council and through thecreation of communities of practice. We are encouraging innovation and experimentationaround new, cost-effective program models. We are collecting tools, curricula and bestpractices for the field, and building a website (RepairLabs) for the dissemination of the growingJewish service learning knowledge base.Our research and evaluation program backs up the field-building effort. In 2009, we providedsupport for three leaders in the field
AJWS, Jewish Funds for Justice and the PANIM Instituteof BBYO
to conduct the first-ever collaborative training for their group leaders, and we havelaunched a program to evaluate the collaboration and better understand its potential as afuture model. We are studying the impact of short-term service programs on host communities,and we are identifying the best ways to create a pipeline of great Jewish educators to leadservice learning efforts.
 
Forging strong partnerships
In all of our work, we are focused on building partnerships, rather than going it alone. Wherethere is already expertise in another organization, we want to promote and share it. When it iswork we have done, we aim to make it broadly available, accessible and open for discussionand debate. We are committed to reaching across organizational lines within the Jewishcommunity and to extending a hand to our partners in service from other traditions and in thesecular world.Indeed, we have already forged rich partnerships in both the Jewish and secular worlds. Wework closely with the Federations, collaborating on the service component of the 2010 GeneralAssembly. We have partnered with BBYO to bring their annual teen-service day, J-Serve, to abroader audience at a higher level of impact, and we have a seat at the Jewish Social JusticeRoundtable, working to share the accumulated wisdom and expertise of a diverse set of organizations. We have created ties with the Corporation for National and Community Serviceand with the HandsOn Network/Points of Light Institute, and represent the Jewish communityat the ServiceNation coalition.We are working with Hillel International and with Hillels on individual campuses to expand anddeepen the service efforts of Jewish college students. We are also working to develop and
deploy a model academic course called “Repair the World: Service, Civic Engagement and Social
Justice
in the Jewish Tradition” that can be adapted and taught in Jewish studies programs
,where there is now unmet student interest.
Deploying Tools and Resources
We believe that it is vitally important to build and deploy the right mix of tools to ensure aseamless connection between Jewish volunteers and the organizations seeking their help.At the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in June, where Repair represented the
Jewish community’s combined efforts to promote service and volunteering, sp
ecifically amongyoung Jews, we launched a national search engine for Jewish volunteer and community serviceopportunities. The search engine will serve as a free resource for all Jewish organizationslooking to connect volunteers with opportunities, and it can be easily deployed on any website.We are also launching a groundbreaking study of the service behaviors and attitudes of Jewishyoung adults in the U.S. and Canada. The Repair the World Index will tell us how many Jewishyoung adults are engaged in service, what issues animate and inspire them, and whether theysee the connections between their Jewish identity and their service and social action. It willhelp Jewish organizations to craft volunteer programs that best suit the passions and interestsof young adults.
Making the Case
We are embarking on an ambitious marketing and advocacy effort to make the case for Jewishservice. Using our website (werepair.org) and a range of media partnerships, we will use thefindings from the Repair the World Index to dramatically move the needle on Jewish

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