15 years ago, I took a chance by using my summer break to travel with American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to the developing world. I only knew about AJWS because the then-new President, Ruth Messinger, was a prominent New York City politician that I greatly respected and I was curious about this organization with which she was involved, but had no idea that it would inspire such passion in global social justice in me.
I ended up spending 7 weeks working side-by-side with community-based organizations on projects that helped build infrastructure and economic sustainability. For 5 weeks in Zimbabwe, I helped the local rural community we lived with construct a dam and reservoir to preserve their water supply during the frequent droughts. While performing this physically laborious work, we also managed to conduct a cultural exchange program, sharing sports, song and dance, and to document the stories of the community members in an area where AIDS was diminishing the population rapidly. Then, for 2 weeks in Israel, we had day projects with various different communities, ranging from Ethiopian children to Druze teenagers and even Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
When I returned, I was determined to stay involved with the organization, as I credited the experience with sparking my own interest in social justice. Over time, I have followed the development of a partnership with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, engaged the DC community through involvement in its DC City Team, spoke out for food justice as part of its Reverse Hunger campaign at Global Hunger Shabbats, and joined the organization for a White House Community Leaders Briefing Day with the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. Additionally, I have listed to Ruth Messinger herself and recipients of AJWS grants when they have spoken at local synagogues and community centers about the work of the organization.
While AJWS no longer offers volunteer service programs like the one in which I participated, there are now amazing opportunities to get involved in social justice changemaking with AJWS in DC through its strong advocacy and campaigns and organizing departments. The We Believe campaign has action opportunities to promote passage the International Violence Against Women Act and the International Human Rights Defense Act, and to urge the appointment a special envoy on Global LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights. This campaign calls on the U.S. government to stop violence against women and girls, to stop hate crimes against LGBT people, and to empower girls to end child marriage, in order to help improve the lives of people in the developing world. And you too can be part of this changemaking by joining me and other members of the DC Action Team at our launch party on October 1st!
Timed to fall between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this party is an open invitation to our local community to attend a party to celebrate both the Jewish New Year of 5775 and our new team. Ruth Messinger will discuss our work and ways for you to take action here in D.C. to advance justice around the world. Nikki Mawanda, an AJWS grantee from Uganda who advocates for transgender rights, will talk about the grassroots activism AJWS supports that is creating lasting change for the most marginalized people. And members of our team will address opportunities for direct involvement in international human rights advocacy!
So, if you are at all interested in enjoying some food and drinks and meeting others in the area who share this passion for international human rights and believe in taking action on its behalf, please join us at the 5th & K Busboys and Poets between 6pm and 8pm on Wednesday, October 1st!
If you would like to RSVP or have any questions, please contact Mike Salamon at either 202-379-4265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.