Ruth Messinger

Posts by Ruth:

We Need More Than Meds To End AIDS

When I was a member of the New York City Council in the 1980s, I changed my vote on an issue only one time. It was during the debate over whether the city should fund needle exchange programs for drug users. My first instinct was that we should not be enabling drug addicts to abuse heroin. Then, someone from an HIV organization invited me to visit an illegal needle exchange program—now known as a “harm reduction program”—that he was running on a street corner in a very poor part of the city.

I visited the program at night, and people spoke with me about how gaining access to clean needles was helping them to avoid infecting their friends and fellow drug users. By the time I spoke with the third person, my perspective had shifted. I understood why these programs were so important, and I decided to vote in favor of funding them.  Read More »

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A Pause in Our Hectic Lives to Meditate on Freedom

A weekend of Good Friday, two Seders, the beginning of another Passover season and Easter Sunday certainly offer moments for each of us to take a deep breath.  Take several. Reflect on all that is good and rewarding in our own lives, on the ways in which we usually manage to cope well with the vagaries and crises in our lives; partly because we know how comparatively lucky we are and partly because we have each other—colleagues, family, friends—to share a shoulder with, to learn from, to help and be helped by. Read More »

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A Jewish Feminism for Global Challenges

Originally posted on The Sisterhood Blog of The Forward. This is the seventh installment in the series “What Jewish Feminism Means to Me.”

As a child in the 1940s and ’50s, I unknowingly experienced Jewish feminism before it really existed. Beginning in 1938 my mother, Marjorie Wyler, worked full-time as the Jewish Theological Seminary’s director of public relations, radio and television; it was a position she held for 55 years. My mother was way ahead of her time, not only as a public intellectual and as a leader in an institution dominated by men, but by raising my sister and me with the unshakable belief that we could do and be whatever we wanted.

I would learn decades later that my mother’s trajectory didn’t always have a silver lining: She constantly fought sexism in the workplace and was grossly underpaid. In the 1980s and ’90s, I was in the thick of my political career as a New York City Councilwoman, and as Manhattan Borough president. Sexism gnawed at the edges and chewed through the center of my work. Read More »

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Top Five Reasons to Give to AJWS in 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, we’re making a case for giving to AJWS at the end of the year. So, without further ado, here are the top five reasons to give a year-end tax-deductible gift to AJWS today:

1. Your generous contribution will change the lives of some of the world’s most marginalized people. In 2011 we impacted communities in 32 countries, promoting human rights, advancing food justice and fighting HIV/AIDS. Your support will really make a difference to those in need.

2. We’re the only Jewish organization exclusively dedicated to this kind of tikkun olam — healing the world — in developing countries. Our approach to creating change is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and sources. Read More »

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Reversing Hunger Starts With Us. Now.

It goes without saying that American Jews are pretty into food—especially during the Jewish holidays.

Food plays a central and sensory role in our lives and serves as a map of our history. Meals, recipes and the acts of eating and drinking teach us about who we are, where we live and where we come from.

But there’s a crisis on our hands—a global food crisis—and it isn’t only because of food scarcity. Sometimes it’s because of the unintended but tragic consequences of our own government’s policies—policies that we have the power to change, if only we’d do our part. Read More »

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Old MacDonald’s farm had a WHAT?

There are some unusual “crops” mentioned in the U.S. Farm Bill! Which of the following is regulated by the bill?

A.  Grain to distribute to survivors of disasters
B.  Corn grown to produce biofuel
C.  Field of wheat eligible for a generous government subsidy
D.  All of the above

Answer: D

That’s right. But did you know that these things are all harming communities in the developing world?

Take our quick quiz now to test your knowledge about the global impact of the Farm Bill. The bill is coming up for reform in 2012, and the more we know, the more we can do to make a difference.

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Old Mc’Donald Would be Shocked: The Dark Side of the U.S. Farm Bill

For a piece of legislation with such an innocuous-sounding name, the U.S. Farm Bill sure causes a lot of damage. The Farm Bill impacts food prices and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in developing countries worldwide. From its guidelines on subsidies to its approach to food aid, this piece of domestic legislation is causing quite a lot of trouble overseas.

For example: after the earthquake in 2010, Haitian rice farmers found themselves in a losing competition with free U.S. rice distributed as food aid. And several years ago, U.S. subsidies for biofuels helped send the price of corn soaring, contributing to a global food crisis in 2008 that left 100 million more people hungry.

In fact, policies in the Farm Bill impact nearly all of the grassroots NGOs and local communities that AJWS works with in developing countries. And unfortunately, they can’t do a thing about it.

But we can.

The Farm Bill is up for revision in 2012, and we have the power to reform it for the better.

I’ll be reaching out to you in the coming months to tell you more about ways to take action. In the meantime, visit our advocacy page to learn more and consider participating in Global Hunger Shabbat, in November.

Posted in Food Justice, Human Rights, Outraged!, Take Action | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

I’m Eating Again, But the Fast is Not Over

Yes, I am eating again—but I’m, not eating the same way as before. I started slowly and am using this experience to change my eating habits. So, so far, I’m eating less and lighter, and with more consciousness of my food choices, and of when and where I eat. Hopefully that will continue, and I will continue to fast during the day on Mondays—I fast every day in solidarity with the people of Darfur—for the consciousness that this has brought me these last few years. Read More »

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Final Thoughts about My Fast… and Moving Forward

The fast ends with me feeling good, having had a powerful personal experience. Had my first wine, solid food and diet coke in a week last night, ate moderately, and am still thinking about what I have learned about hunger, about focused thinking, about empathy toward others, about what creatures of habit we all are. Read More »

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More Reflections on my Fast in the Final 48 Hours

I’m in the middle of the sixth day of my fast and I’m quite amazed at how possible it is to do this. After finishing my speaking engagements for the weekend, I went into relaxed mode (saw a movie—without popcorn—for a real escape). Relaxation aside, I have experienced some very physical, philosophical and spiritual reactions to this fast. Read More »

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