I recently sat down with Michele Chakaya, a food justice fellow for Repair the World NYC to discuss how she got started working with Repair the World and her upcoming service trip with EntryPointDC (the 20s and 30s program of the EDCJCC). This trip, called B’Yachad: A Giveback Getaway Trip to Brooklyn, is an immersive experience where participants volunteer with a variety of organizations, and learn about the systemic issues that create inequality in our society.
Stacy: Tell me more about you! Why did you want to be a fellow and what does Repair the World and their fellows do?
Michele: I am originally from Minneapolis, MN. My family comes from the former Soviet Union and I grew up speaking Russian. Prior to coming to Repair the World, I was working at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. There, I was introduced to various social justice issues and became interested in the social justice world. I have been a Repair the World food justice fellow since August 2017, and I will continue to be a fellow until July. My main partner is Hunger Free America, and I volunteer with them as a SNAP benefits screener. Repair the World organizes tens of thousands of young Jews to volunteer in tackling pressing local needs each year. Our food justice and education justice fellows work with local nonprofits to arrange volunteer and learning opportunities through a peer-to-peer model.
Stacy: What are some of the community service and learning projects participants will be partaking in on the B’Yachad trip?
Michele: We’ll learn about food justice by preparing a meal for the hungry at St. John’s Bread and Life and canvass neighborhoods to inform the local community about the SNAP Benefits and Food program.
We’ll also be helping out at a youth after-school project with Brooklyn Community Services. Racial justice is something we’ll focus on during our time together – the group will partake in anti-oppression training led by Repair the World. And, we’ll have the opportunity to empower young inmates by editing their poetry through the DC-based organization, Free Minds. One of our local board members will be leading a tour of the Crown Heights neighborhood, and Friday evening the participants will join with other local young professionals for a community Shabbat.
Stacy: What do you hope the volunteers will learn from the trip?
Michele: I hope they come back to DC committed to getting involved in service and social justice opportunities. I hope they bring back new ideas, practices, and inspiration that they learned over the weekend, and are able to explore their relationship between their Jewish identities and social justice. And I hope they can reflect on the importance of volunteering, as well as get to know the challenges, strengths, and communities in Crown Heights.
Stacy: What are some of your favorite things to do in Brooklyn and NYC?
Michele: I love to hang out in our neighborhood – Crown Heights, Brooklyn. There are several locally owned businesses on our street, many of which are Caribbean restaurants which serve delicious meats. We are also very close to Prospect Park, which is so beautiful and a very nice place to relax when the weather cooperates. When it comes to the Jewish community, I have enjoyed connecting with the various Moishe Houses, in particular, there is a Russian Speaking Moishe House that has been very welcoming!
About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.
EntryPointDC is committed to helping Jewish adults in their 20s and 30s in the D.C. metro-area build and maintain a Jewish identity and a connection to the community through social and educational programming. Annual community service projects include Everything But The Turkey, D25 Day of Service, and Good Deeds Day. Repair the World NYC enables people to transform their neighborhoods, city and lives through meaningful service experiences, rooted in Jewish values, history and heritage.