JVN Volunteering Profiles – Repair the World’s Dan Sieradski

Our JVN Volunteering profiles have previously highlighted UK-based organisations which we’re proud to work with. For the first time, however, we’re looking abroad. Repair the World’s mission is to make volunteering a “defining element of American Jewish life, learning and leadership”. Sounds good? Sounds good!

We spoke to Daniel Sieradski, Director of Digital Strategy, aka “a major figure of the Jewish Internet world and a cultural trailblazer” (The Jewish Daily Forward).

Can you explain the aim of Repair the World? How does it work?

Repair the World is an organisation which seeks to engage North American Jews in volunteering. We promote service and volunteering as a Jewish value and connecting Jews with volunteering opportunities locally and abroad.  We also work with the field of Immersive Jewish Service-Learning programs* to help increase their reach and impact.

What’s your role there?

I’m Director of Digital Strategy which means I look after Repair’s website and social media activities, as well online marketing, outreach, and providing technical assistance to organisations that Repair give grants to.

Personally, how did you get involved with Repair the World? Have you always worked in the not-for-profit sector?

I was brought to Repair in 2009 by Ari Wallach – a marketing consultant best known for the Great Schlep – who was working with Repair at the time.  Ari felt that my combination of interest in Jewish social justice values and experience as a web developer and online marketing strategist made me the perfect match.  Not to mention a decade spent blogging and as a web freelancer for progressive Jewish causes. I’m personally deeply committed to the values of Tzedek, Chesed and Tikun Olam. I believe that the role of a Jew in this world is to care for your fellow man and for all of creation generally and to leave the world in better shape than in which we found it.

What are the major challenges in your role and in the sector generally?

I think the most significant challenge I face is convincing young modern Jews, who are largely assimilated into mainstream society to view Jewish-related volunteering as something relevant and worth engaging with. We recently funded a research study that found that 70% of young American Jewish are already engaged in volunteering and service, but don’t identify it as an explicitly Jewish value unless they are religiously Orthodox, nor do they volunteer with Jewish organisations.

Another significant challenge is that, like most charities, Jewish nonprofits are underfunded and understaffed and don’t have the resources to support a volunteer engagement program.  They could benefit from volunteers, and even have a sense of how they’d like to use volunteers, but they just don’t have the staff or budget to hire a person to recruit, train and manage those volunteers, which requires a significant investment of time and energy.  We’re currently trying to come up with a model for local communities that might allow them to share a volunteer coordinator and to provide training and management resources across multiple organisations.

What similarities have you seen between US and the UK (JVN)?

I think our communities are similar in that we’re both trying to engage Jews who have a vast host of available secular options – both those for social good or just for fun – to engage in meaningful volunteering under a Jewish banner.

What kind of volunteering opportunities are on offer at Repair the World?

Repair uses volunteers and interns at our offices in New York and Seattle, but our critical role is to act as platform for other organisations to promote their service and volunteering opportunities for North Americans.  At the moment there are great opportunities for volunteering in Israel, Africa, Latin America, as well as grassroots work in the Jewish and wider communities in the US.  So, if a North American Jew happens to be reading this article, please visit our website, http://weRepair.org, and check out the various listed opportunities listed!

What is the best part of your day?

I really enjoy meeting and engaging with others who are using social media for social good, learning from and sharing with them, and together building a movement that is leveraging technology to achieve genuine social impact, across religious, ethnic and national boundaries.

What does Repair the World have planned for 2011 and beyond?

In the coming months, we’ll be advancing local and national partnerships, supporting 5 new grantee-partners providing young Jews with meaningful opportunities to serve, and rolling out our first major national campaign to promote volunteering as a Jewish act.  We’ll also be piloting a new initiative to bring skills based volunteering to local Jewish communities and launching our first Jewish City of Service initiative. Beyond that, we’re just going to keep on until we have succeeded in making volunteering a defining element of American Jewish life.  So just a small goal!

* Immersive programs take individuals out of their daily lives and engage their hearts and minds in intensive hands-on work.

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Categories: Volunteering Profiles

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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