Jewfro: Let’s Keep Repairing The World Together

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Newsroom

By Ben Falik

Five years ago, my world and the world around me were in disrepair. Against a backdrop of crashing home values, fleeing talent, teetering automakers, racketeering officials and foreboding census figures, I failed at my legal practice.

I had many euphemisms for this over the months and years that followed: honorable discharge, irreconcilable differences, escape from neckties, early release/retirement. I fought the law and the law won. But it was the first time my life had ever veered off a smooth, stable path. I felt like I had let people down.

In contrast to my son’s first ultrasound (during a break from my law school Election Protection duties in Highland Park on Nov. 4, 2008), my daughter’s (the same day as the beginning of the end at the firm) seemed decidedly less hopeful. I cried both nights.

Two things happened over what seemed like an eternity and was, in hindsight, mercifully quick succession.

First, I called Jewish News Publisher Arthur Horwitz. I’m not sure if it was chutzpah or muscle memory.

Repair the world logo copyI had turned up at the JN in the summer of 2001 and, thanks to a glitchy transition to iMacs, he put me to work right away fielding calls from loyal readers none too pleased when their copies didn’t arrive — especially if their neighbors’ had. Before the summer was over, I had a byline about Jews and Chaldeans volunteering together in Northwest Detroit. That fall, I shared my clumsy thoughts about being in Upper Manhattan on Sept. 11 in the pages of the JN.

“Arthur,” I said in the fall of 2010. (I’m both paraphrasing and picturing myself on a rotary phone with a cigar and fedora.) “There’s lot going on out there, and I have a little to say about it right here.”

Over the last 60 Jewfros, I’ve had about 40,000 words to say; four were the “word” Backpacktacular (now five).

Second, I got back to repairing the world. Owing to the crisis here — and, I think, Katrina fatigue, five years after the levees broke — many national groups began flying over Detroit or parachuting in. Repair the World, a new Jewish organization based on an old Jewish idea, had a novel idea: Hire someone local to repair the world locally. (Me.)

I could kvell about the meaningful, measurable work the Repair the World Fellows (more on them in my Continuing Investigation of Emerging Adulthood) and our volunteers have done. Instead, I want to invite you to partner with us as we partner with strong communities and organizations throughout Detroit. Here are just a few of the myriad ways you can get involved.

Freedom House. You don’t have to spend much time with the residents of Freedom House — refugees from all over the world seeking asylum from persecution, living together in the old convent at Saint Anne’s Church in Southwest Detroit — to realize that the world is big and your problems are small. We host Monday-evening workshops for the residents and need you to join us as an instructor or facilitator (or participant) for topics including American history, financial literacy, creative writing, insurance, popular culture, local politics and whatever else we dream up together.

Project Healthy Community. PHC may be deeply rooted in the Old Neighborhood, but it is firmly focused on the present and future of its residents. You can work and play with the students at Schulze Elementary after school or help at their FUN (Fundamentals of Understanding Nutrition) Pantry Friday mornings. Down the street at the Northwest Activities Center (at Meyers and Curtis), support monthly food distributions or the community garden. More at projecthealthycommunity.org

Angels’ Night. On Oct. 30, Detroiters and allies take back their neighborhoods from vandals and arsonists. It’s safe, supportive and successful citywide. We will be hosting festivities in Southwest Detroit for people who want to carb up after work before patrolling or just want to help negate a negative night with your positive presence.

Interested? Inspired? Indubitably! Get in touch: ben@werepair.org or (313) 3388-BEN.

 

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