Making the World Right Side Up

by OLAM / October 12, 2021

It has been 19 months since COVID-19 locked down the entire world, causing all of us to shelter in place. We paused. We stopped. We sanitized like crazy. And, we wondered when it would all end. 

Today, it feels like life has improved for some; sadly, however, it remains devastating for others. We continue to see the gap grow between those who live in abundance and those who live in scarcity, as the pandemic takes a disproportionate toll on those who are already vulnerable and marginalized, especially in developing countries. 

At OLAM, a network of 60+ Jewish and Israeli organizations working in international development, humanitarian aid, and global service, we are committed to creating a more just world by assisting vulnerable populations in developing countries. 

As DC is one of the largest hubs of international development, we invite all of you, whether you work in international development or are passionate about improving the world, to join our annual Focal Point Conference, which will take place virtually this November 3-4. Focal Point brings together Jewish leaders, communal professionals, funders, entrepreneurs, and activists to exchange ideas and explore  Jewish visions of a more equitable and sustainable world.

Focal Point 2020 – Closing session

This year’s Focal Point Conference will engage in meaningful and deep dialogue around such topics as:

  • The Jewish and Israeli response to humanitarian crises, such as the recent Haiti earthquake and the plight of Afghan refugees
  • Global vaccine equity and access
  • Anti-racism in the international development field 

OLAM’s partner organizations have already made great headway in these important areas, inspiring us to continue the pursuit of a better future.  A few highlights include:

  • Gabriel Project Mumbai works in underserved villages in India to keep thousands from starving and to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by disseminating information about health and safety, building handwashing stations, and providing PPE for hospitals and throughout villages.
  • American Jewish World Service (AJWS) advances issues such as political and civil rights, land, water and climate justice, ending child marriage, and more in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. 
  • HIAS has served over 764,000 forcibly displaced people through violence prevention programs, emergency food supplies, mental health and psychosocial services, and legal protection. They have also provided assistance in the resettlement of refugees of Afghanis and others, here in the DMV area. 

During these past 19 months, it has been easy to feel overwhelmed by the injustices that affect our global community. In addition to the enormous impact of COVID-19, we are bombarded daily with images of poverty, forced migration, and the effects of climate change. 

Previous conference (pre-COVID)

The Talmud (Pesachim 50A) tells of Rav Yosef, the son of Yehoshua ben Levi, who returned from a near-death experience after an illness. When his father asked him what he saw, he answered, “I saw an Olam Hafuch, a world turned upside down—those who were on the top in this world were on the bottom, and those who were on the bottom were on the top.” His father replied, “My son, you saw the correct world.”

Some have explained that Rav Yosef’s vision suggests that those who have suffered in this life will be honored in the world to come. However, Rabbi Michael Friedland of Sinai Synagogue in South Bend, Indiana, suggests that Rav Yosef’s vision actually offers insight into our current reality:

“…It is also possible to read his vision as a clearler, more unadulterated vision of this world. Perhaps the world we live in is the Olam Hafuch, the upside-down world, where, despite the advances of technology and a world of abundance, we are living at a time of greater polarization and disarray than at any other time in recent memory.” 

While this may be how many are feeling, OLAM and our partners choose to see a world of potential, rather than one of despair.

If you too are committed to this vision of a more just world, join us at our Focal Point conference. Register today, and tune in to our virtual conference or come to our in-person networking event in DC, which will take place immediately after the main event. Together, we can create a radically different Olam Hafuch—a world filled with equity and opportunity for all. 

This is a guest post written by our friends at OLAM, a network of Jewish and Israeli organizations working in the fields of global service, international development, and humanitarian aid. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.