Josh Sherman, 25, is a native son here in Charm City. He grew up with his Conservative Jewish family in the Guildford/Oakenshaw area of Baltimore, where they were part of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. He attended Krieger Schechter Day School through eighth grade, followed by Baltimore City College for high school. Though he left town for college (Kenyon College in Ohio), he found himself back in his hometown after graduation.
Once he had finished at Krieger Schechter, Sherman found that he felt more disconnected from the Jewish community, since most of his Jewish friends were from Baltimore County. Now, with his work through Repair the World, a Jewish service organization targeted at millennials, Sherman hopes not only to increase Jewish service in younger generations, but also to bridge that divide between county and city. Since the organization reorganized and relaunched in the tail end of 2016, it has been slowly attracting more and more dedicated volunteers.
How did you get involved with Repair the World?
I was applying to all different kinds of jobs with Jewish service organizations or interfaith-related ones and this job for Repair the World came across my desk. I didn’t think that I necessarily wanted to stay in Baltimore, but it became more and more appealing to me. I very much love Baltimore. I care a lot about the city, and I thought it was a good opportunity to work within the Jewish community in Baltimore City, to bridge those gaps not only for other folks who live in the city, but also for myself. Growing up, I didn’t feel a strong connection between the Jewish community in the county and the Jewish community in the city. I thought that through doing engagement work and through working with young adults, it was a great opportunity to reinvigorate their Judaism. Bring the Judaism to the places where they already are.
For people who are not familiar with Repair the World, how would you describe it?
Repair the World is a service-based organization. What we really strive to do is engage Jewish millennials in doing more service and, specifically, hands-on service work, and to make service an integral part of everyday Jewish life.
How is basing your organization around millennials different from other demographics?
It helps that I am a millennial, so it can be more peer to peer, trying not to create this odd power dynamic. And also, [it’s] really just showing up where you know people will be — hosting happy hours at bars in Fells Point or Federal Hill, hosting Shabbat dinner at our workshop in Highlandtown; obviously a lot of our outreach is done through Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media. We’re trying to make people feel like it’s an open and welcome space for all people.
What are the main projects you have going on now?
We’re partnered with the Jewish Volunteer Connection, which is great for us because JVC is very reputable here in the city; it’s a program of The Associated, so having that backing is really nice. We work on a lot of projects JVC works on. So, we have the four annual Days of Service, and Mitzvah Day (Dec. 25) just ended. And now we are gearing up for MLK Day, which is on Jan. 16. We have a couple programs going on for MLK Day — we have a service project that we are doing in conjunction with The 6th Branch and Civic Works, where we will be doing some beautification, park cleanup, neighborhood cleanup. On the evening of the 16th, we are doing a project with the Baltimore Jewish Council, where we’ll be going to a local Muslim center on West North Avenue and having a conversation.
We have all kinds of programs going on through JVC and Repair the World. [The group] nationally focuses
on food justice and education equity, and we try to focus a lot of our attention on those issues here in Baltimore.
I see Repair the World as filling the niche for young adults for Jewish Volunteer Connection. We’re the ones on the ground in Baltimore City, re-engaging a demographic that has, for many years, slipped through the cracks. There have been many different ways the Jewish community has attempted to engage with millennials, and I’m hoping that Repair the World can be a piece to that puzzle.