Tikkun Olam in Action: JDC Entwine

Jason Friend knows that, on any given Friday night, he can break bread with a global network of Jewish changemakers.

To travel with Entwine is to grapple with both the world’s challenges and the tremendous impact that the Jewish community can make in the face of that.

And the 28-year-old real estate manager wants his network to know they have a home in the Bay Area, too.

“Everyone knows that when they come to San Francisco, they have a place to stay and, most importantly, a place to do Shabbat,” he says. “South Africa, London, New York, Chicago—it’s an extended Jewish family at its heart.”

Friend has become an enthusiastic ambassador for JDC Entwine’s Insider Trips for young professionals. He first attended a service trip to the Philippines in the spring of 2015, surveying the breadth and depth of JDC’s response to devastating Typhoon Haiyan. This fall, he’ll chair an Insider Trip to Cuba.

Raised in a family with Jewish philanthropy at its core, Friend said Entwine is unique in its pluralistic, come-as-you-are approach to Jewish identity.

“As Jews, that’s where we excel, when we’re challenging each other and we see a pressing need right in front of us. JDC’s approach of letting us witness that with our own eyes is a really powerful way to do that,” he says. “At its basic root, the Jewish community is bound by this commitment to repairing the world. That’s the link that, locally, I sometimes miss.”

On the ground in the Philippines, Friend and his cohort spoke with local political officials; collaborated with JDC’s local partners providing relief; met with communities and individuals who had received JDC-issued boats and fishing nets; and volunteered to help replant mangroves lost to the surging waters.

To travel with Entwine is to grapple with both the intractability of some of the world’s challenges and the tremendous impact that the Jewish community can still make in the face of that.

“How do you take this type of aid and make a long-lasting impact when you know you have only a few years of funding? You have to look a little bit deeper and look at what’s actually coming out of it. The situation on the ground is changing,” he says. “Without JDC, these people would be much worse off. That’s who we are as Jews. We want to do good for the world and do what we can to help in that tikkun olam circle.”

Friend says he weaves an invitation to join an Entwine trip into almost every conversation he has these days.

For young Jews who don’t necessarily have a synagogue membership or a rabbi they’ve connected with, he says, the chance to travel internationally and live out Jewish values in action is an opportunity to connect deeply with their identity, to tease out what is meant by that ineffable, innate sense of “being Jewish.”

“Going on vacation, sitting on the beach, isn’t that rewarding and doesn’t feel that good at the end of the day,” Friend says. “When I tell people about how rich and rewarding these trips are, the people you meet, the experience—how could you not want to do that? Anyone can help repair the world.”