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It’s still #JAHM! Who is your inspiration?

As you probably know from the beginning of May, it’s the 2nd annual, official, Jewish American Heritage Month! In honor of this year’s Tikkun Olam (healing the world) theme, we’re teaming up with our friends at The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network to bring you stories from members of our respective communities, who work to “Repair the World” daily, and the Jewish Americans that inspire them to do so.

Next up we have: Emma Adelman, Repair the World Fellow & Julie Oxenhandler, REALITY participant


emma Emma Adelman, Repair the World Fellow

When asked to pick my “favorite Jewish American figure, hero or inspiration”, hundreds of names rushed into my head. However, three stood out: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rosalyn Yalow, and Constance Adelman.

Chances are you know who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but ….did you know

  • that she was the first  Jewish American woman to become a Supreme Court Justice?

  • Or that earlier in her career she co-founded both the Women’s Rights Law Reporter and the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU?

Ginsburg, the 107th Justice of the United States Supreme Court, puts Judaism and Civil Rights at the forefront of her work. In a recent interview with the Jewish Women’s Archive she stated, “I am a judge, born, raised and proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition.” Justice Ginsburg has fought for social justice and worked towards Tikkun Olam her entire career.

Have you ever heard of Rosalyn Yalow? Did you know ….

  • her father-in-law was an Orthodox Rabbi and Chief Rabbi of Syracuse, NY?

  • she was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Science?

  • she the first American-born Jewish Woman to win a Nobel Prize?

Her work in Radioimmunoassay (RIA), using radioactive tracers to measure pharmacological or biological substances with radioactive isotopes in humans, mammals, and other animals has proven to be a major contribution to science. Just think of anyone who has received radioactive iodine as treatment for thyroid disease or radiation for treatment for cancer, all of this wouldn’t have been possible without her.

Odds are you do not know Constance Adelman, my Great – Aunt Connie.  She grew up in a traditional orthodox family in Chicago. Despite all of the barriers Orthodox Jewish women, born in the first part of the 20th Century, faced Aunt Connie taught Spanish at Morgan Park High School.  She went on to get her Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Illinois, and then taught at Circle Campus — University of Illinois at Chicago.

However, the most impressive thing to me, is that in her early  80’s, Aunt Connie decided that it was time for her to have her Bat Mitzvah. In her youth,  Bat Mitzvahs did not exist. Later in life, Aunt Connie claimed Judaism as her own.  Over her Rabbi’s “suggestion” that she do an abbreviated torah portion and a less rigorous Bat Mitzvah than usual,  Aunt Connie did the whole thing- parashat, speech, chanting and partying.  She wanted and got the real deal.

Ginsburg, Yalow, and Adelman are my heros and my inspiration.  These three women fought the status quo, fought for their personal advancement, fought for the advancement of their colleagues, fought for their personal dreams, and fought for future generations.  They give us inspiration and strength to strive for Tzedek, justice, and to make the world a better place.  Like the matriarchs who came before them, they have laid down a challenge for all us to live up to.



Julie Oxenhandler Julie Oxenhandler: REALITY participant

I spent many hours of my childhood in bookstores and libraries.  Books were then and still are now one of my favorite escapes from reality.  I dreamed of eating Turkish Delight in Narnia, singing with the flowers in Wonderland, and dancing with the Wild Things.  I dreamed a lot when I read.  I loved that at any moment I could close my eyes and float into another space – oh how I longed for a Phantom Tollbooth of my own!  There are stories I know by heart and dog-eared copies of books I have owned for most of my life, read and reread time after time.  I look longingly at these books – they truly are treasures.

As a child, however, I knew very little about the authors behind the stories I relished so dearly.  Sometimes authors I thought were men were actually women and stories I thought were magical were actually religious.  As we grow older books that we loved as children either become nostalgic and irreplaceable in our hearts, or like old friends we haven’t seen in awhile, fond memories that pop into our thoughts sporadically, fleetingly passing us by.

As a little girl I can’t remember, ever, reading a story about a young girl who lived in America and was Jewish – sure I was given The Diary of Anne Frank and Number the Stars – undisputed powerful tales, but where was I in popular American literature?  As I moved from a city with a large Jewish population, to the one where I was the only Jewish student in my school – I realized how important it was for me to have this part of my identity validated.

I never did find an author who was writing stories about a girl just like me; however, I did find Judy Blume.  For those of you who have read her delicious tales, you know there is something special about each character she crafts, each twist and obstacle she imagines.  Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing was and still is one of my favorite books.  It is one that I share with my students and hope to share with my own children one day.  I didn’t know when I first discovered her work that Judy Blume was Jewish, but knowing now is truly inspirational.  She writes books that know no bounds – gender, age, class, race – it doesn’t matter.  Kids relate to her characters in a way that only a truly gifted writer can accomplish.

As an adult, who constantly is reading children’s and young adult literature I praise Judy Blume as hero among literary realms.  Maybe I will never have the opportunity to write a book – let alone get it published, but knowing that there are Jewish woman who have cemented their place as staples in the American literary scene gives me hope, and frankly courage, to tell the stories that I never got to read as a child.

Repair & Schusterman Team Up for #JAHM!

As you probably know from the beginning of May, it’s the 2nd annual, official, Jewish American Heritage Month! In honor of this year’s Tikkun Olam (healing the world) theme, we’re teaming up with our friends at The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network to bring you stories from members of our respective communities, who work to “Repair the World” daily, and the Jewish Americans that inspire them to do so.

First up: Ariane Mandell, ROI Community member, and Amalia Mark, Repair the World Fellow.

ArianePicAriane Mandell, ROI Community Member

There are countless reasons to respect and admire Elie Wiesel. His memoir Night is probably the most read personal account of the holocaust, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and he’s an accomplished academic and lecturer, to name just a few of his extraordinary accomplishments. But Wiesel has always deeply inspired me particularly because of his unflinching call to Jews and humans everywhere to remember injustice and stand up in empathy for others.

Wiesel has always passionately insisted that Jewish memory must persist. “I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people,” he wrote. “Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.” He went on to write, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

As an American by choice, Wiesel has been particularly expressive about how that pursuit of Justice and dignity is connected to the identity of the Jewish American. In his essay “The America I love,” he wrote, “(When I became an American citizen), I had ceased to be stateless. Until then, unprotected by any government and unwanted by any society, the Jew in me was overcome by a feeling of pride mixed with gratitude.” He added, “In America, compassion for the refugee and respect for the other still have Biblical connotations.” Indeed the historic American embrace of the immigrant and its paramount value of freedom for all people is very consistent with Jewish laws and even dreams. I’m always reminded of that unique double obligation that American Jews have to exercise our freedom to free others when I read Wiesel.

Finally, in a micro level, Wiesel inspires me to find my personal role in that very grand entreaty as a writer. “Write only if you cannot live without writing,” he said. “Write only what you alone can write.” Wiesel took it upon himself to write what only he could, and he did so unflinchingly because that is what is necessary. Wiesel reminds me that writers should always imbue their work with their unique personal experience, despite the risk and vulnerability involved.  As a Jew who became an American and did what only he could do, Wiesel serves as an example to all of us similarly connected by that special combination of cultural heritage and nationality.


amalia Amalia Mark, Repair the World Fellow

I have a hard time picking favorites. Favorite color? Well, that changes from moment to moment. It’s yellow right now but I think it’s going to be light blue by next week. And don’t even go down the path of asking me to choose a favorite book…

It comes as no surprise then that it is immensely challenging to pinpoint my favorite Jewish American figure. How am I supposed to decide? Spoiler alert: I’m not going to. And here’s why:

I have always experienced one constant even when running the full gamut of emotions, from lost and confused to dreaming, excitement and passion. My constant has always been words. I love the beautiful combination that is born when word are set to paper or spoken in a particularly eloquent fashion. As someone who spends far too much time on the internet, I’ve noticed a disconcerting trend: women’s voices are shouted down, ignored and demeaned in so many arenas and the internet is no exception.

As a result, I’m deeply inspired by Jewish women who keep putting forth their words regardless of response: in books, blogs, religious faith traditions, scholarly papers and day-to-day conversations. These Jewish women have voices that tell their message and their story unapologetically, powerfully and passionately. Voices that will not be silenced, that are working to change how ritual Judaism is approached and voices that are opening up painful, necessary conversations on topics from immersing in the mikvah to choices surrounding Israel.

Every day I try to read the words of Jewish women who are writing about modern day struggles that speak to them and carry resonance and relevance into my life as well. Who would I be if I didn’t have the chance to listen to these voices and rejoice in their formation? The words of women from the entirety of the Jewish spectrum create and shape my narrative and story of self. From my mother, who read to me every night as a child and instilled in me my adoration of the ABC’s in all of their wonderful forms, to Dasi Fruchter, whose words, “I Will Never Stop Asking” set me ablaze and act as my mantra on most days.

I am not be able to choose my favorite Jewish American figure, or even my favorite Jewish female author, because to me that would be the equivalent of choosing my favorite letter of the alphabet. With twenty six beautiful characters to choose from, my life would be poorer if I had to select simply one to spotlight.

Instead, I’m celebrating each and every one of the women who shape these letters into a pattern that creates, questions and celebrates Jewish life and practice.




Repair Inspiration: Meet Detroit Fellow Michael Evers of the Bagley Book Brigade

Collaboration is a beautiful thing! Case in point: Recently Michael Evers, one of Repair the World’s Fellows reached out to the good folks at Chalkfly, a socially responsible school and office supply company in Detroit that works tirelessly to find ways to give back to the community, about finding pen pals for a reading program he was starting at a Bagley Elementary School. They were in!

For several months, Chalkfly crew members exchanged pen pal letters with students – getting to know one another through their notes, and inviting the students to visit their headquarters. They also attended a Bagley Book Brigade meeting to help students dream up ideas for a short film they will shoot and edit in the coming months.

All in all, that’s an inspirational story if we’ve ever heard one. Find out more about this great collaboration. Check out what Michael had to say about it on the video below, and learn more about Chalkfly at their website.

Dear Class of 2014…. #RepairGrads Crowdsourced Commencement Speech is Back!

Hey graduates! (And parents, siblings, besties, and buddies of graduates…) These are exciting times, and now is your time to shine.

Around the country, graduating seniors are getting ready to walk down the aisle, receive their diploma, and head off into the wild world. But before they do that, they will listen to a commencement speech (or 7) that is supposed to launch them towards greatness. Don’t get us wrong, we loooove a good commencement speech given by some luminous figure. But we firmly believe you don’t have to be famous to inspire others. So we’re turning to you! 

Last year, Repair the World asked the class of 2013 to tweet their wisdom and inspiring words – in 140 characters or less, of course – to create a crowdsourced commencement speech like no other. Now with another school year come and gone, we’re at it again. As a member – or loved one – of the class of 2014, what would you like to say? To yourself and your classmates? To the students coming up under you? Or to the whole world?

Tweet your thoughts and wishes to this year’s grads at #RepairGrads14. The most ReTweeted wishes are eligible to win amazing prizes from Repair the World!

Need some ideas to get you started? Before twitter and viral videos, the 1997 Kurt Vonnegut commencement speech went viral. (Ok, it may be an urban myth that it was at MIT. And, yes, we know that many of you weren’t yet out of middle school – but it’s a great read). Three years ago, Stephen Colbert rocked it out at Northwestern University, while Ellen DeGeneres got everyone laughing and thinking at Tulane in 2009.

Now it’s your turn!

Repair Inspiration: A Cantor Moonlights as a Life-Saving EMT

By day, Shlomo Glick an internationally-acclaimed cantor who shares his voice during synagogue services and concerts, singing before international audiences in New York, Prague, and London. But offstage, Glick moonlights as a life-saving EMT with the Israeli medical volunteer service, Hatzalah. Did we mention he does all this while riding a cherry red motorcycle?

Recently, the Huffington Post featured a fascinating profile of Glick that highlighted his dedication to serving others with his voice and his medical know how. Read the excerpt below, then check out the whole article over at HP!

“Haatzalah is always on my mind — I can get a call anywhere and anytime, even in the middle of leading prayer services at the synagogue or recording a cantorial piece at a music studio,” Glick said. Chazzan Glick recalls one incident when he was recording a cantorial piece at a well-known music studio in Meah She’arim. “In the middle of the song, my mobile-alert goes off. I rushed to a playground nearby, where a mom had called and treated her unconscious baby.”

United Hatzalah utilizes unique GPS dispatch technology to identify the closest and most qualified volunteers to respond to an emergency. This gives volunteers, whose cell phones and motorcycles carry the GPS technology, the ability to arrive on scene between two to three minutes. Glick responds on average to two-three emergency calls every day…

“Some people have said to me that it’s not fitting for someone of my profession to ride a motorcycle and answer the masses. An artist is supposed to distance himself from the public for his image. But that doesn’t interest me,” explains Cantor Glick. “God gave us life and he can take away life. Your image as a musician or whatever the profession, isn’t important when you’re saving a human being’s life.”

Read more…

Celebrate World Fair Trade Day

Fair trade. It is a term that gets thrown around a lot in eco and labor-savvy consumer circles, but what does it really mean? Find out by celebrating World Fair Trade Day!

In short, fair trade is about people and the planet, and about creating and consuming the products we love in ways that are fair to both. For farmers and manufacturers, that means getting paid a living wage for the work they do. Coffee, tea, and chocolate are likely the most widely-known fair trade products, but just about anything that is grown or made by people can be fairly traded: spices, produce, soaps, clothing, jewelry – even home goods.

On May 10, join 100,000 people around the United States and Canada for one of the largest fair trade events in the world! Help promote fair trade products and justice for farmers, workers, and artisans. Get started by learn more about fair trade at the video below. Then, join one of the great events happening all over the country event, or create your own!