Tag Archives: philanthropy

Ebola Crisis in Liberia: How AJWS Grantees Are Responding

Staff and volunteers from AJWS grantee Grassroots Agency for Social Services (GRASS) in Liberia

Staff and volunteers from AJWS grantee Grassroots Agency for Social Services (GRASS) in Liberia

The largest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa and killed at least 2,630 as of September 16, 2014 (World Health Organization). Of the 5 West African countries in which Ebola has spread, nearly half of those infected have been in Liberia. All major hospitals and clinics have closed in Liberia because health workers do not feel safe going to work, fearing there isn’t enough protective equipment for them. Additionally, Liberians have described rampant mistrust that keeps sick people and their families from seeking help. There is also widespread misinformation about how the disease spreads, which prevents communities from protecting themselves.

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Remembering Leonard “Leibel” Fein: An AJWS Fellow Traveler on the Path to Justice

Jewish leaders, rabbis and educators reflect on their AJWS journey with Leibel

One full day after receiving the news of Leonard “Leibel” Fein’s death, I am reflecting on the loss of this dear friend: a truly brilliant and moral man, and a profound Jewish voice for social justice in the 20th and 21st centuries. Many of us literally traveled the world with Leibel, just as we also joined him on a journey toward a fuller understanding of how to create a more just and equitable world and of our role as Jews in bringing it about. Given this journey, it feels natural to be sharing memories of Leibel in a “virtual shiva” today with so many friends and colleagues at AJWS and in other corners of the Jewish social justice universe.

AJWS Rabbinical Student Delegation with Leibel Fein in El Salvador, 2004

AJWS Rabbinical Student Delegation with Leibel Fein in El Salvador, 2004

We were truly blessed that Leibel was the scholar-in-residence for AJWS’s first Rabbinical Students’ Delegation, a program that sent emerging Jewish rabbis and cantors on service-learning trips and inspired them to return to the U.S. to become vocal advocates for alleviating poverty and routing out injustice around the world. It was in January 2004 that Leibel joined 26 rabbinical students on a trip to El Salvador, and the students sought his guidance in merging their passion for Jewish text and tradition with their desire to become activists for human rights. Fein wrote emotionally about the trip in the Forward shortly after his return.

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Running to heal the world

eric shapiro

Eric A. Shapiro, the author’s father

On April 28, 2007, a day after my 24th birthday, my father passed away after a six-month battle with brain cancer.

My father’s recipe for living was tikkun olam, healing the world and working to leave it a better place than he found it—both professionally and personally. Following a family tradition, he became a physician. He truly embodied the image of the small town doctor who took care of all, regardless of background or circumstance. He cared about each and every one of his patients, and he always went out of his way to make sure they got exactly what they needed. This often meant making house calls, going head to head with insurance companies or lobbying to change hospital policy. He even stood on his head as a reward to a patient who quit smoking! In his own way, he strived to heal the world, one patient at a time. In his personal life, he was a very involved and loving father, husband, son, brother and friend. He always did his best for everyone who touched his life.
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Chag v’Chesed: Holiday Dvar Tzedek, Sukkot 5774

Chag v'ChesedWhat is it about the holiday of Sukkot that makes it so powerful? Tradition teaches that the energy of Sukkot is so intense, so visceral and delightful, that seven mythic figures leave the Garden of Eden to join in the light of our earthly sukkot (temporary shelters). But why? What is it about the sukkah that compels even those who have tasted Paradise?

These spirit guests, known as the Ushpizin, are invited each night into our sukkot. Groupings of Ushpizin vary by community, and include biblical prophetess, revered sages and modern heroes, invoked in turn each night of Sukkot. Jewish mystical tradition suggests that each guest also serves as a reminder of an action through which the brokenness of our world is repaired.

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Meet the 2013 AJWS NYC Marathon Team

AJWS’s small but mighty marathon team will soon embark on a journey that will test their physical and mental strength: the 2013 New York City Marathon. Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, these nine runners have already spent months tirelessly training to tackle 26.2 miles.

In addition to training for the race on November 3, the team is dedicating its efforts to raising money—more than $21,000—to support AJWS’s work in the developing world. You can support the team here.

So, who are these runners and what motivates them to seize this challenge? Here’s what they had to say for themselves:

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Ask Big Questions: Where Do You Give?

Ruth Messinger

Originally posted on the blog of Ask Big Questions

Like many people in my generation, I first associated tzedakah, the Hebrew word loosely understood to mean “charity,” with the pushke—the little metal box given out in Hebrew school, rusting on my parents’ windowsill.

I learned in the 1950s that Jews were supposed to collect pennies in the pushke to plant trees in Israel. There was no passion or intensity embedded in this ritual; no real understanding of the values or texts behind this seemingly strange act of generosity; and no opportunity to innovate. It was just something Jews did. Read More »

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Giving By Design with Karen Pittelman

Karen Pittelman

Originally published on the blog of Pursue: Action for a Just World.

On June 20, Pursuers will join AJWS and Global Circle to see the winning entries from the Where Do You Give? National Design Competition and engage with innovative speakers about giving in the 21st century. As a preview to the event, we asked speaker Karen Pittelman to share her personal approach to giving. Read the interview below and click here to see Karen’s full bio and register for the event.

How did you first become involved in issues of philanthropy and privilege?

I was in college when I realized that if I truly believed that the distribution of wealth was unjust, I had to do something about my three million dollar trust fund. After a long process with my family, at 25 I was able to gain control over the trust and dissolve it to form the Chahara Foundation. I worked together with a group of amazing women activists, lead by Chahara’s director Deahdra Butler Henderson, to establish the fund. Then I transitioned out and transferred all decision-making power over to them. To me what was most important was not redistributing the money but redistributing the powerover the money. Over the course of nine years, ending in 2008 when the board finished spending down, the fund gave grants to grassroots groups in Boston led by and for, in the foundation’s words, “women and girls who have known poverty and may still be intimate with its ravages… in their endeavors to reshape community to allow for a higher economic, creative and spiritual quality of life.” Read More »

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What Does “Jewish Philanthropy” Mean for the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders?

Cross-posted on the Global Circle blog.

I enjoyed reading Sandy Cardin’s piece in eJewishPhilanthropy about the future of Jewish giving. Cardin notes that, historically, philanthropy has been associated with giving away money. Younger generations, however, want to expand the definition to include the giving of time, energy and passion. Cardin writes: “Jews are among those at the nerve center of this growing movement of young people who do not just want to pay to build the trenches – they actually want to work in them.” He argues that this is a good thing; that Jewish institutions must adapt and respond to this demand; that the future of Jewish philanthropy should include the giving of time and money – “the best of both worlds.”

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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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Everyone is a Philanthropist

Originally posted on Pursue: Action for a Just World and cross-posted on eJewishPhilanthropy.

How do you make giving meaningful? Tzedakah, the Jewish commitment to righteous giving, is something that most people are familiar with. Tzedakah boxes are things of childhood memory for many Jews, except me. I tithed. Growing up with a Baptist mother, a Methodist father and educated in Catholic schools, the idea of giving charity was not lost on me. I can remember my mother reaching into her pocket book every Sunday morning to fish out crisp dollar bills for my sister and I to put in the collection plate that was passed around. I don’t remember what it felt like to put that money in the shiny gold plate, because it wasn’t my money.

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