Ilan Caplan Program Associate

I am a program associate in AJWS's department of education and community engagement, managing national engagement initiatives including Global Hunger Shabbat and the Kol Tzedek speaking fellowship. Recently graduated college with a B.A. in Music and Religion, and could probably watch Danny Kaye's "The Court Jester" about a million times without getting bored.

Posts by Ilan:

Jews, Vegas, Rachel Dratch and… Social Justice?

When I say “Weekend In Vegas,” what do you think of?

Jews? Really? Me, too!

(And social justice, of course.)

I was on the scene this weekend with fellow AJWS employees and full-time Jewish young adults, Dahlia Rockowitz and Matt Balaban, at TribeFest. The Jewish Federations of North America’s annual convention of Jewish young adults hosted over 1400 participants at the Venetian to learn, teach, network, reconnect, exhibit, drink, laugh and party. Read More »

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Advocating for a Just Farm Bill on Capitol Hill

Originally posted on The Jew and the Carrot.

“This just makes common sense, and—I think—it makes Jewish sense.”

That is how Timi Gerson of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), closed the House of Representatives policy briefing organized by the Jewish Working Group for a Just Farm Bill.

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Sh** Jews Say About Philanthropy

In celebration of AJWS’s “Where Do You Give” Design Competition, and in honor of the successful slew of “Sh** People Say” videos, we present:

Sh** Jews Say About Philanthropy… brought to you by members of the AJWS staff:

“Yes, dear, it has to be in multiples of 18.”

“I shouldn’t talk about it on Shabbos, but…”

“Is it Super Sunday? Again?”

“… and so your Uncle Morrie finally made it to America. And that is why we give money every year to those going through tough times.”

“Why get them something off the registry when we could get them a mezuzah? Everybody needs a mezuzah!” Read More »

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Thanksgiving: It’s Not Just About Food. It’s About Thankfulness.

In modern-day America, Thanksgiving is not usually about thanks. It is about food.

Families come for the turkey, the pumpkin pie, the cranberry sauce and the company. If there is a time for reflection, it takes second billing to football, chatting and dessert.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But what if we made our Thanksgiving meal an opportunity to give real thanks – or, even better, to give back?

What if, in addition to enjoying full plates of food, we placed a single empty plate on our table to remind ourselves of the millions of people who cannot feast like us? What if, in addition to swapping family stories and jokes, we took a moment to remember stories like that of Jonas Deronzil, a Haitian farmer who struggled to feed his family after cheap rice imported from America with the best of intentions undercut his profits and put his livelihood at risk? Read More »

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On Shavuot and in Kenya, Remembering What Counts

Numbers carry meaning. I was reminded of this when thinking about the holiday of Shavuot—which begins tonight—and after listening to a fascinating presentation by superstar activist Rye Barcott.

Rye, age 32, ex-marine, activist and entrepreneur, showed up to the AJWS office last week to talk about his organization (and AJWS’s grantee), Carolina for Kibera (CFK). We’ve blogged about CFK before, and it’s an organization that does incredible work with the youth of Kibera, Kenya. CFK facilitates sports programs, adolescent girls’ education, HIV counseling, community service initiatives, and a 24-hour medical clinic.

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President Obama and the Many Meanings of “Justice”

President Obama declared this past week, “Justice has been done.” I work for an organization that throws around the word “justice” every day, and also none too lightly. The juxtaposition left me uneasy.

At AJWS, we speak about justice in many different contexts. Sometimes the context is our work, for example, on “food justice,” described by Gottlieb and Joshi as “[a movement seeking] to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly.” Sometimes the context is specifically Jewish, as reads the oft-quoted line from a commandment-heavy section of Deuteronomy, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” – “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” That, however, does not quite help me understand what the President meant by “justice.” I think this is because the President’s “justice” translates in Hebrew not to tzedek, but to din. Read More »

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On Passover, Water, and Earth Day… and How it All Connects

I learned a bit about water at my seder. Turns out water is a big deal– for better and for worse.

Which, of course, we already know. The Nile plays a huge role in the Passover story —the death of Israelite boys; the rescue of baby Moses; the meetings with Pharaoh by the river. Water-based plagues are inflicted upon Egypt; frogs emerge from the Nile; fire-breathing hailstones fall from the sky; and of course the water supply of Egypt turns entirely to blood. Upon leaving Egypt, the Israelites immediately complain about lack of water, a complaint that 40 years later causes Moses’ ultimate downfall. And of course, the splitting of the Red Sea remains arguably the most dramatic event in the Bible. Read More »

Posted in Food Justice, Human Rights, Jewish Justice, Sustainable Solutions | Tagged , , | 8 Comments