Jewfro: Meet (My Fellow Millennials): The Repair The World Fellows

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Repair the World Detroit Fellows: Ari Weil, Alyah Al-Azem, Ellie Farber and Aaron Appel, with director Ben Falik holding Pasha. (Photo by Brett Mountain)

I am TOM, The Original Millennial: born in January 1982, graduated high school in 2000 and endeavored upon this new century with cautious optimism and an uneven attention span. Sometimes it’s hard carrying the banner for a generation of 80 million Americans. On Jan. 2, 2000, when it was still not clear whether Y2K would turn our appliances against us, I was featured in the Detroit Free Press as one of the “Faces of the 21st Century” and quoted as saying “I don’t like this impersonal internet, email stuff.”

Fortunately, some of my fellow millennials, the Repair the World Fellows — 20-somethings who occasionally look at me like I’m dancing the Charleston, whatever that is — keep pushing me, themselves and those around them to be the change they wish to see in Detroit.

Most of the work I’ve gotten (taken?) credit for over the past few years has actually been done by the Repair the World Fellows, who live and serve together for a year, wrestling with the disrepair of the world around them and activating people from all walks of life to pursue education and food justice.

Ironic as it may seem — a group of Jewish young adults living together in the rectory of a former Lithuanian church in the heart of a Latino neighborhood in the southwest corner of a black city — the Fellows have built dynamic relationships in service and solidarity with diverse partners throughout Detroit.

Let me share a little about this year’s cohort (shout out to the previous three) for a couple reasons:

  1. They are Jewish Stars.
  2. They are here to recruit you — Yes, you! — to make service a defining part of Jewish Detroit …

Alyah Al-Azem. Alyah first got a taste for Repair the World volunteering through Hillel at Michigan State at our Destination Detroit program. Now, a second-year team leader, she coordinates service opportunities for the Spartans and cultivates continuity among community partners like NEXTGen and Gleaners. Alyah serves on the board of The Well; she expects to see you Oct. 9 for Tashlich at Chene Park on the Detroit River.

Aaron Appel. Aaron spent many non-consecutive weeks immersed in service in Detroit as a student at Oberlin. During his alternative breaks and for the last six months, he worked “harvesting unity” at Auntie Na’s House, a grassroots community center on the city’s West Side. He may tap you to teach a Monday Skills Session — insurance, financial literacy, civil liberties, you name it — to the refugee residents of Freedom House.

Aryeh Perlman. Aryeh played an Oompa Loompa in the first off-Broadway production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Having grown up in Ann Arbor and gone to the University of Michigan, he then fled the Oompa Loompaparazzi to teach in France before returning to work with PeerCorps and Project Healthy Community. B’nai mitzvah students can (and should) sign up for PeerCorps, which kicks off its fourth year on Sept. 25. Everyone can help harvest the fruits of our labor at the Northwest Activities Center (Meyers and Curtis) community garden on Oct. 16.

Ari Weil. Ari graduated from Michigan, led a Tamarack trip to Alaska and graciously put his rap aspirations (rapsirations?) on hold to work with Keep Growing Detroit. You can join him during open hours at their Plum Street Market Garden and — if you were there then and remember now — tell him about the Plum Street of yesteryear.

Ellie Farber. Ellie rounds out the Michigan alumni and represents the Grosse Pointes (whose Jewish News subscribers number in the strong double digits) at RTW. Already conversant in Hebrew, she will become a bat mitzvah in a couple of short years. You can join her daily or weekly (strongly, don’t dally) at the Project Healthy Community after-school program at Schulze Academy.

Who says youth is wasted on the young? If you want to get to one of the Fellows before they get to you, email detroit@werepair.org or call me (313-3388-BEN) and we can commence repairing the world.

By Ben Falik, Contributing Writer

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