In September, the Repair the World Jewish service movement announced a new cohort of young adult fellows who will be working with them for the next two years. The organization, which aims to bring Jewish people together under the banner of social justice and activism, has its fellows work with local nonprofits to gain a deeper understanding of societal issues, issue-based learning and community aid.
Since 2009, Repair the World has strived to engage young Jewish adults in community service and social activism. Some of the issues they focus on include racial inequities, food and housing insecurity, and advocating for reforms in the education system.
“Through deep and meaningful connections with community, our new and senior fellows will address vital needs in pursuit of justice, tzedek,” said Melissa Levine, senior director of immersive service at Repair the World. “Along with their service, they will explore the intersection of social, racial and economic justice, identity and community through a Jewish lens, while simultaneously building concrete professional skills.”
Of the 23 fellows who will be spending two years helping the world through na’aseh v’nishma (“action and learning”), three are stationed in the Baltimore area: Lou Fusco, Jane Keller and Rachel Siegel, who was previously featured in a “You Should Know” profile in the Baltimore Jewish Times in July.
Fusco, 23, who describes themself as nonbinary, was a senior at Goucher College when they first heard about Repair the World from their local Hillel. They were majoring in sociology and anthropology at the time, and thought applying to the organization’s fellowship would be a great postgraduate opportunity. They and Siegel are senior fellows who started their service in 2021, while Keller started a few months ago.
“Essentially, you’re responsible for doing hands-on service with nonprofits in the area and supporting their needs, and also providing Jewish learning as programs for our community members,” Fusco said of work as a fellow. “Oftentimes, that will benefit other nonprofits, build community and offer learning opportunities.”
Fusco is especially invested in LGBTQ issues such as promoting gender-inclusive language, and educating students on LGBTQ identities and history. Through work with Repair the World, they have also developed a passion for food justice.
“That was not something I was particularly aware of before, but I have learned a lot more about it. And similarly, I feel very passionate about making sure that everyone has access to healthy foods and is educated about where their food comes from,” said Fusco.
Keller, 23, is a resident of Charles Village, but hails from New Jersey. She found Repair the World by happenstance while maintaining a newsletter of jobs for students and alumni at Rutgers University.
“We had a big database of nonprofit organizations, think tanks, government offices — basically places that would hire political science students,” she recalled. “And I found Repair on that list. And when I clicked on it, I was like, hey, maybe this is the one for me.”
While she was considering joining the Peace Corps, Keller decided that Repair the World aligned most with her interests. She was becoming more involved with Hillel and exploring her Jewish identity in graduate school, so the Jewish activist organization seemed like a good fit.
Keller may be the newest Baltimore fellow, but she’s already working with charities like the St. Francis Neighborhood Center and the Maryland Book Bank. She hopes to get more involved with creating Repair the World programming in the future.
“My favorite thing so far is being able to become integrated into the work that my service partners do,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see how different organizations function and can benefit from direct service, and how their organizational cultures are different and similar.”
‘This team operates very well’
Siegel, 24, is a senior fellow who hails from Miami, where she took part in Seize the Moment, Repair the World’s COVID-19 initiative. She was brought into the program by a family friend who was involved with many Jewish organizations and first applied for a fellowship when she graduated college early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, she works with Building our Nation’s Daughters (BOND) and the Black Yield Institute, helping to support African-American single mothers and daughters with the former and establish land and food sovereignty with the latter. In addition, she is also passionate about reproductive rights and LGBTQ issues.
“It’s been challenging because we haven’t had a city director for a few months, yet it’s really forced us to think outside the box and the way that we plan things and organize our work. It’s been an interesting learning curve for us,” acknowledged Siegel. “But this team operates very well, and together, we’ve been very successful.”