How's Work?: His Job Is to Help Repair the World
Zack Block runs the Pittsburgh branch of a national nonprofit who's mission is to inspire young Jewish adults to build and transform communities.
photo by hannah harley
Job: Director, Repair the World Pittsburgh
Zack Block worked as a tax attorney in Pittsburgh for nearly nine years before making a drastic shift in his career path.
“I liked the people I worked with, but it never was what I saw for myself,” says Block, of Squirrel Hill.
He and his wife, Bev, along with their children, often volunteered with various organizations including the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, East Liberty Development, Inc. and Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh. He began to talk with the heads of those organizations and others about opportunities he might be able to pursue in the nonprofit world. At the same time, leaders at Repair the World — a national nonprofit organization based in New York City with a mission to inspire young Jewish adults to build and transform communities — were working to create branches in Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. They contacted members of the Jewish Federation to gauge community interest in Repair the World's presence and leadership potential; the federation recommended they meet with Block.
“It just kind of seemed like a match,” say Block, who was hired as director of the Pittsburgh chapter, which makes its home in East Liberty.
In the chapter’s first year in 2013, Repair the World hosted nine fellows, who lived in the city for 11 months, much like an AmeriCorps program. Most of the fellows came from other cities, and five of them ended up staying in Pittsburgh, says Block. Those fellows and the following year's group partnered with various service organizations, volunteering time and recruiting others to aid such causes as Food Revolution Pittsburgh, the East End Cooperative Ministry and Assemble Pittsburgh.
This year’s crop of eight fellows, who started their term in August, are partnering with 412 Food Rescue, A+ Schools and Just Harvest, as well as other organizations from previous years.
This month, the organization will host five days of volunteerism (Sept. 17-21) related to food justice between the observances of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; members of the public are invited to join Repair the World in its efforts. Fellows and volunteers will work alongside one another in urban gardens that benefit food pantries or school cafeterias. They also will assist with efforts by organizations such as 412 Food Rescue, Just Harvest and the East End Cooperative Ministry’s community nutrition program.
“For me, it’s been amazing,” Block says of his career change, noting that his family can volunteer with him and see him fulfilled in his work. “I felt like a better person because of it.”