In Judaism we share the value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. In one of the country’s most segregated cities, we are bringing young people together across lines of division to repair the world-- together.
Repairing Together is a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Day School (MJDS) started in August of 2016 that connects students from different cultural backgrounds in K-8 schools in the Milwaukee area through thematic social and environmental action programming. We partner with local schools to share and celebrate the cultural, racial and social diversity in our communities and to take action together for a better world.
We envision a journey for all students who participate in the Repairing Together program, beginning in kindergarten and growing through the years together with partner peers until they finish eighth grade. Students create lifelong relationships, challenge stereotypes, take action together, and develop a solid framework for empathetic leadership in today’s world.
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?"
View the Repairing Together photo gallery.
What We're Doing
Repairing Together works with partner schools with student bodies from diverse communities. We bring students together for programming beginning in kindergarten all the way through eighth grade to get to know each other, challenge assumptions, learn about issues of social and environmental justice, and take action together.
Our programming changes as students grow with a different focus in each of four grade bands. Early childhood students spend joyful time together in musical programs, cultural celebrations, and storytimes. First through third grade students step out into the community together with shared field trips to community based partners like the Urban Ecology Center and the Hunger Task Force Farm. Fourth and Fifth grade students continue building relationships and explore ideas about social justice and repairing the world with guest speakers and an active arts unit. Finally, in middle school, students embark on a three year project to rewrite their own stories and histories and then take action together.
We take special care to measure the effect felt on students -- eighth graders complete an empathy survey at the beginning of the year and at the end of the same school year to gauge any shifts in their attitudes. Additionally, each program includes a post-event evaluation for students and teachers alike guiding ongoing program adaptations. Our program is dynamic and designed to meet the needs of those involved. As a result, we regularly review feedback and suggestions from all participants.
Unity Fire MKE
Milwaukee Native American community members reached out to MJDS and the Repairing Together program to participate in a peaceful prayer and meditation vigil during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Unity Fires followed Native American traditions with the fire being observed 24-hours a day for four consecutive days. Tobacco and water ceremonies were held daily and a special crew of pipe carriers offered a daily, traditional pipe ceremony.
The Unity Fire MKE has been held several times in different locations for our community's healing as we fear for our elders, children and those most vulnerable. Students from DOC/UWM created a documentary about the events. The Unity Fire provided a place for hope, reflection and prayer. Repairing Together is a grateful partner in this process.
We hope to soon expand our program by bringing young people together in the summer with the addition of a Repairing Together summer camp session. An all-day summer program would allow students to spend more flexible time together deepening relationships and moving forward the important work of Repairing Together
Who We Are
Our partner schools are the heart of our program.
Indian Community School cultivates an enduring cultural identity and critical thinking by weaving indigenous teachings with a distinguished learning environment. Among the many Sacred Gifts given by the Creator, the Indian Community School experience focuses on Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Truth.
Bruce Guadalupe Community School (BGCS) is a non-sectarian, nonprofit, community-based charter school dedicated to creating an environment that fosters high expectations and excellence for all students. In addition to valuing the knowledge of language and culture, BGCS provides students with a clear sense of identity, a positive attitude toward learning, and effective communication skills.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School offers families an African-American Immersion program that focuses on the history and culture of African-Americans, drawing upon the strengths of its pupils. At their proud, historic school, parental and community involvement are essential parts of the curriculum.
Milwaukee Jewish Day School is a pluralistic Jewish community. Our curricular shorashim (roots) include Jewish text, theology, practice, Israel and memory. We partner with our families, empowering students to develop these Jewish shorashim, nourish their neshamot (souls) and grow into lifelong Jewish learners.
Programming partners in Milwaukee include:
- Betty Brinn Children's Museum
- First Stage Milwaukee
- Hours Against Hate
- Hunger Task Force Farm
- Urban Ecology Center
Repairing Together is grateful to receive grants and funds through different local foundations and private donors so that we can offer our programs completely free of charge to our involved schools. The following funders make this work possible:
- Donor advised funds from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation
- Donor advised funds from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
- Clarice S. Turer Charitable Fund
- Forest County Potawatomi Foundation
- B’nei B’rith Shorewood
- Private and Anonymous Donors
Elsie is the founder and visionary beyond Repairing Together. She is a native of the Netherlands where she earned a degree in Spanish-Dutch translation/interpretation. Prior to immigrating to the United States, Elsie worked for the Dutch Library Association co-developing literacy programs for new immigrants and young adults with learning disabilities. She also worked as a lobbyist with the European Commission on Culture on legislation for European libraries, documentation centers and universities and she worked at the Israeli Embassy in the Hague. Elsie is fluent in Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Hebrew and German. She worked for 9 years at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation managing cultural relationships and delegations between Milwaukee and Israel. Elsie started the Repairing Together project being an alum parent of MJDS, worried that the obvious racial disparities and inequity in society would imprint on young students instead of teaching them openness, curiosity towards others, acceptance and friendships.
Robert (Bobby) Ehlrich
Bobby comes to Repairing Together after spending the previous three years in urban education in New York City. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin in Journalism and Political Science. After graduating, he spent a year in Israel teaching English in a school primarily serving recent immigrants. Bobby spent the next three years teaching third and fourth grade in Brooklyn, helping students navigate the pandemic and return to in-person learning. He brings a passion for social justice, education and history with hopes to combine these into a program where students collaborate and bond over their shared histories and turn into lifelong allies for marginalized communities.
Our volunteer advisory board provides curriculum, fundraising and evaluation support:
Repairing Together Advisory Board Chair, Elana has performed more than two decades of Jewish communal work. She has dedicated herself to building bridges between people and communities, cultivating belonging, inclusion and countering polarization through personal relationships. Elana has served as Director of Milwaukee's Jewish Community Relations Council (which also responds to antisemitic and racist occurences), Editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle and the Associate Dean for Outreach at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. She held leadership roles in interfaith and intergroup efforts within and beyond Wisconsin.
Advises Repairing Together on community relations and fundraising. She believes in the power of community and participates in many forms of volunteering. She is an officer of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC, and sits on the board of the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC), the Jewish Community Foundation and Congregation Shalom, her local synagogue.
Rabbi Marc Berkson
The rabbi of Congregation Emanu’El B’ne Jeshurun since 1999. Active in a wide range of local and regional Jewish, inter-religious, and human relations programs and organizations, Rabbi Berkson brings his love of teaching and his community-building skills to the table.
Sixth grade Math and Science teacher at the Indian Community School. Also serves as Treasurer for the Milwaukee Indian Education Committee (MIEC), serving the academic needs and programs for the Native American community in the greater Milwaukee area. Mr. Bonin earned his undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Carroll University. He continued his education at National-Louis University where he earned a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, then earned an Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Leadership. He is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation, Bear clan.
Karen Bradley, Ed.D.
Elementary school Principal in Skokie, IL, with thirty years of teaching and school administration experience. She began her career in education as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya and has since practiced in inner city Chicago, Evanston and Skokie, Illinois. She has extensive experience in curriculum and program development as well as in mentoring other educators at various stages of their careers.
Anthony Brazouski, Ph.D.
Has served as a Chief Academic Officer at the Indian Community School, Executive Director of Academic Achievement, high school Principal, Assistant Principal, K-12 language arts Coordinator, and high school English teacher. He is currently the Superintendent/Elementary School Principal Herman Neosho Rubicon School District.
Anishinaabe name is Nodaway Benaise and he is Sturgeon Clan, enrolled in the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin. His ancestry includes Menonimee, Mille Lacs Ojibwe, Stockbridge-Munsee, French and English. Mark is an experienced educator, lecturer and curriculum specialist in American Indian history and culture. As a parent of four children, he was fortunate to serve on the board to bring about Milwaukee's Indian Community School, a flagship institution for Urban American Indian education. He has served as an advisor on the Gates Millennium Educational Foundation and is a board member of the Indian Summer Festival. Mark lectures at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee - School of Education.
Pnina Goldfarb, Ph.D.
Repairing Together Vice-Chair, has been a Research Consultant since 2009 for Wraparound Milwaukee, a program that serves adjudicated youth who have been diagnosed with mental illness. She has over 40 years of experience with children and youth who experience mental & behavioral health issues in a breadth of professional arenas including public and private schools, hospitals, clinics and universities. She has served as an educator, teacher trainer, school consultant, curriculum developer and researcher.
Head of School at Milwaukee Jewish Day School. He is grateful to work alongside incredible mission-driven educators at MJDS and in service to the Milwaukee Jewish community. He has a Masters in both Education and Administration along with extensive leadership training through the Accelerate Institute, as a Ryan Fellow. Aaron has also worked as a Camp Counselor and Administrator for over a decade in New York and Chicago.
Resources for Schools, Families, and Community
These resources are meant to be a starting place, not at all comprehensive, to support our schools, families, and wider community in expanding on the work of Repairing Together.
Videos of Past RT Programs
See all of the Repairing Together videos on the YouTube playlist.
Watch the Oneida Opening prayer, the words that come before all other words.
Watch three stories about Thanksgiving told from historical and contemporary Native American perspectives.
Repairing Together is supported by: