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Repairing the World, One Trip at a Time

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!

Learn more about B’Yachad: A Giveback Getaway Trip to Brooklyn here. The trip is from June 7 – June 10 and applications are due May 7th. Limited spots available.

 

 

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.

 

 

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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.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Jess and Sophie: Jewish Do-Gooders of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Sophie and Jess are Do-Gooders. In their spare time, they do things like volunteer at local soup kitchens, give back to Jewish non-profit organizations, and plan community-wide days of service. Get to know these two mensches as we chat about french fries, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and giving back.

From left: Jess Sher and Sophie Buslik

Allie: Describe each other in one word.

Jess: Radiant, giving off good, positive vibes. Sorry, that’s more than one word!

Sophie: Dedicated, driven.

Allie: Where does your passion for volunteering come from?

Jess: Volunteering – whether serving on a board or helping with a one time event – was really important in my household growing up. Learning this from my grandparents and parents is what led me into the social action world.  Community service is for others, but it also feels really good to make small changes and small positive impacts.

So, when I moved to DC, I started volunteering for The Jewish Federation and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). I also enjoy volunteering at places like N Street Village, or helping build homes where you can get your hands dirty and know that you’re making someone’s home a happy place.

Sophie: I love being a part of making our community better and engaging other people to do that. When I started working after college, I felt like I had a lot of free time outside of work so I started volunteering with my company (Booz Allen Hamilton) at places like SOME and Miriam’s KitchenLater on, my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to Federation, and I wound up getting involved with the volunteer aspects of the organization. I love the idea that even if you don’t have money to give, you can give in other ways to help those who can’t help themselves.

Allie: I hear that you’re volunteering to make Good Deeds Day happen this year. Tell me about that!

Sophie: Good Deeds Day (which is Sunday, April 29) is DC-area’s day to give back, and is part of the global day of service where millions around the world volunteer to help their community.

Allie: What Good Deeds Day service project should our GatherDC readers sign up for?

Jess: I’d say the project with N Street Village, to prepare/serve meals to homeless and low-income women. There’s also an opportunity to make meals for those facing homelessness at DC Central Kitchen.

Sophie: There’s a service project specifically for young adults to help out at Covenant House, which provides resources to homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sophie: “Be where your feet are.”

Jess: I really like that! So important to be present, be in the moment.

Allie: If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

Jess: Taylor Kitsch, but only if he came as his character Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights”.

Sophie: JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas circa 1997.

Allie: If you could eat only 3 things for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Jess: My mom’s challah. Summer strawberries. Chicago Giordano’s deep dish pizza.

Sophie: Crabs. French fries. I really only have two.

Allie: Who is the biggest Do-Gooder you know?

Sophie: Jose Andres – I always see him giving back locally and around the world. I love how he uses his work and passion for food to help others.

Jess: My parents. They give a lot of their time, talents, and treasures to make an impact in St. Petersburg, FL (where I grew up). I’d be lucky if I could make just part of the impact that they’ve made.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sophie/Jess: They Do Good!

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Evan: Jewish Mensch of the Week!

Evan is the kind of guy your Bubbe dreams you’ll bring home to Passover seder: he loves Debbie Friedman, Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, and playing Bridge with his family. He’ll also keep you on your toes with his expert Poker playing skills and not-so-secret obsession for White Ford Bronco concerts. Get to know this mensch (Yiddish for “person of integrity”) with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What motivated you to work in DC government?

Evan: I’ve always been interested in government affairs and understanding how politics and business can work together. When I graduated from the University of Maryland 8 years ago, I got a job at a trade association that represents the world’s 200 largest global companies in the US. Today, I’m breaking Millennial barriers because I’ve been here for 8 years.

Allie: What do you love about Jewish DC?

Evan: The DC Jewish community has given me so many platforms to find new friends in a city that’s very transient. It’s been such a blessing for me to build new relationships with awesome people across the city. It’s also pretty cool that in DC, if you wanted to, you could go to a Jewish event every single night of the week.

Allie: We hear you volunteer for the group JNFuture…tell me a little bit about that.

Evan: In 2011, myself and two friends – Corey Jacobson and Danielle Traub – created JNFuture in Washington, DC. JNF works to grow and develop Israel from all different angles – planting trees, ensuring water availability, building bomb shelters, etc. For four years, I worked with Mindy Reinstein to connect young professionals to JNF’s work. The highlight for me was planning Anchor DC for two years – a big Saturday night party on a boat along the Potomac River to celebrate JNF’s tremendous work on the water.

Allie: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Evan: Spain, because I’m working on my Spanish and because I’m a foodie.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Evan: I’m in love with Chicken Matzo Ball soup!

Allie: What’s do you like to do for fun in DC?

Evan: When its nice weather here, I love to grab brunch with friends in awesome outdoor spaces, and spend nights rocking out to 90s cover music with my favorite band White Ford Bronco.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Evan: My parents – they’ve created a wonderful environment bringing Judaism into our homes, and filling our lives with ruach. My parents hosted Shabbats regularly, never missed an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish holidays, and on Sunday mornings my mom frequently played Debbie Friedman songs.

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Evan: I’ve been a card shark my whole life. My father taught me how to play Bridge when I was in fifth grade. Today, I play a lot of poker and spades.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Evan: It leads to new friends and memories.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.