MLK Day in Pittsburgh

A Video Blog

By Repair the World Pittsburgh Fellow Dravidi Stinnett

February is Build a Movement Month

There is an awesome Jewish midrash (story) about an old man seen planting a fig tree. He is working very hard to dig the soil and plant it just so when another person spots him and asks, “Do you really think you will be around long enough to eat the ripe figs off that tree?” And he answers, “My ancestors planted for me, so now I plant for my children.”

Here at Repair the World, we are kind of obsessed with that story. Not only does it express a sweet sentiment about the passing generations and speak to our sense of environmental responsibility: this story has tons to say about building a movement.
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MLK Day in Philly

By Repair the World Fellow Rachel Wallace
I grew up in a vibrant Jewish community – one that surrounded me with joy, support, education, and the ability to grow. My community members inculcated in me the values of learning, knowledge, support, helping others both in and outside of my community, and tikkun olam (repairing the world). As I grew, my fellow community members acknowledged my success, my own hard work, and my perseverance, but also helped me acknowledge my privilege – that my success came in part because they were there to lay out a path for me to succeed.
          As a result of my upbringing, community has always been a strong value of mine, and I have imbued my life with the values it has taught me. Therefore, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Repair The World, an organization that believes in giving back, and supporting both nascent and thriving communities throughout Philadelphia the greater United States.
          This month, I had the privilege of coordinating Repair The World’s Martin Luther King Day, overseeing my fellow Repair The World Fellows in coordinating their own service projects and their recruitment of volunteers for this day. As a team of Repair The World Philadelphia Fellows, we turned MLK Day, a day off, into a day on – a day in which Philadelphians could participate in a service project to give back to their communities.
          I witnessed Philadelphians giving back to their own communities on Martin Luther King Day through the organization for which I work, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC). In addition to coordinating the MLK Day projects in advance of MLK Day, on the day of, I participated in and helped WePAC’s Little Free Library construction. Little Free Libraries are mobile libraries that look like mini houses. They are containers out of which individuals can take books and place books in as they please. These libraries offer free books to the communities in which they are placed. The Little Free Library movement is one that has been spreading nationwide, and with the help of volunteers on MLK Day, WePAC will introduce this movement to Philly and place these libraries in spaces with no public or school libraries.
          It was amazing to see over one hundred people come out to participate in this community-oriented project – constructing the mobile libraries, assembling them, and painting them. Volunteers’ creativity was incredible. They painted the libraries with all types of designs, ranging from Clifford The Big Red Dog to the Philadelphia Eagles to themes from the United States Constitution. These designs were more than decorative. They symbolized various segments of our community coming together. Volunteers’ energy was inspiring, and was truly infectious. They reported that they had a fun time and a meaningful day of service, and look forward to participating in other Repair The World service projects.
          After many weeks of effort toward this day, it was a pleasure to watch WePAC’s MLK Day of service unfold. Its project and day itself embodied the values with which I was raised, such as community, giving back, and education. Its MLK Day brought out individuals from all over Philadelphia, allowing all of us to unite around a common cause – improving our own city of Philadelphia. Our ability to come together as a community that day enabled us to complete these Little Free Libraries that will stimulate community in other parts of Philly, allowing neighborhoods that would not otherwise have access to reading materials come together over books. Growing up in a community where books and knowledge were a vital piece of my upbringing, I am excited that WePAC can now give this gift to others.

Before the Olympics, Let LGBT People in Russia Know “It Gets Better”

The Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia this Friday, February 7. In addition to all the typical bustle and excitement, this year’s Olympics has faced its fair share of criticism – particularly from the LGBT people and their allies, thanks to Russia’s recent crackdowns against and targeting of the LGBT community.
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Spotlight On: Hazon’s (Jewish) Bike Rides

January is Healthy Living Month here at Repair the World. Stop by all month long for interviews with our favorite health-focused organizations, inspiring stories, and tips to change your life while changing the world.

Are you a huge bike fan? The kind of person who walks around with a semi-permanent case of helmet hair and feels most comfortable experiencing the world on two-wheels? If so, let us introduce Hazon – a Jewish environmental organization that works to build a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community.

Hazon believes that Jewish tradition has lots of wisdom to share about how people interact with the planet and treat their bodies. They live out these values, and help others do the same, with a variety of great programs, but it all started with bike rides. Since 2001, more than 2,000 have joined Hazon on a bike ride in New York, California, Israel, or elsewhere. The riders raise money for important environmental causes, get invigorated through exercise, learn inspiring Jewish texts, and have a fantastic time along the way.
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Repair Interview: Amie Hamlin from the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food

January is Healthy Living Month here at Repair the World. Stop by all month long for interviews with our favorite health-focused organizations, inspiring stories, and tips to change your life while changing the world.

Walk down the lunch line at an average public school today and you will find plenty to eat – unfortunately, many of the options, especially for the “protein” component, are not particularly healthy. But thanks to organizations like the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, that is starting to change.

Since 2004, the Coalition has worked to foster healthier school food options for students in New York State and across the country. Their Executive Director, Amie Hamlin, recently talked with Repair the World about how she ended up becoming a champion of healthy school eating, the importance of offering plant-based foods at schools, and the country’s first-ever vegetarian public school.

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Ritual, Repaired.

By Repair the World Fellow Amalia Mark

As a fellow with Repair the World, I understand that communities must organize within, and systemic change can only occur from an outgrowth of community members seeking and maintaining change. Yet, I struggle with this idea as someone who believes deeply in the presence of women’s inclusion and leadership within Orthodox Judaism. I am caught up in a constant conflict: it is not my place in non-receptive communities to push forward an agenda of women’s involvement and equality. On the other hand, I cannot stand idly by while women are divorced from commonplace Jewish ritual that men are given ownership over in most Orthodox settings.

Much of my life has been spent in a synagogue. I invite you to walk with me through an average Shabbat morning at my family’s orthodox synagogue.

This is the community I was raised in and the walls I have lived behind.
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