Introduction

How long does it take to change the world?
We think 25 years is a good start.


Since AJWS’s founding 25 years ago, there has been a sea change in Jewish engagement—a reimagining of what it means to be a Jew and a citizen of our planet. Jewish voices have joined a chorus of empowered people around the world saying “no” to injustice. In 25 years, tzedek has become synonymous with activism, service and our responsibility to pursue equality, peace and human rights for all people.


Over the past 25 years, AJWS has witnessed the astonishing ability of individuals and communities to transform lives. Our grantees have made great strides fighting poverty, hunger and disease. They have provided quality health care and education, promoted peacebuilding and grassroots development, and advanced human rights around the world. They have overturned unjust laws, spoken truth to power and raised people’s voices to defend their most basic liberties.


With your help, AJWS has helped change the world. But 25 years is just the beginning.


In the following pages, we commemorate the first quarter century of AJWS’s history and honor the generation of changemakers that AJWS has empowered.

Letter from AJWS's Leadership

Dear Friends,


Typically an annual report reflects on the year that has passed. Yet 2009 was the cusp of AJWS’s quarter century anniversary—and we want to share with you the breadth of our organization’s accomplishments from its founding in 1985 to the impact we are so proud to be making today.


In the scope of our history—which you will see detailed throughout this report—2009 shines as a pivotal year for all of AJWS’s program areas, despite the pervasive economic challenges. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity and loyalty of our donors, and to thoughtful strategic belt tightening and strong management, AJWS was able to weather this period without having to significantly reduce our programs.


We have worked harder than ever to maintain our funding to the grantees around the world who depend on us—currently 458 grassroots organizations in marginalized communities around the globe. In fact, AJWS’s grantmaking expanded in 2009 to include a donor-advised fund for the first time, which provided $12 million to 71 NGOs, many of which work on development and human rights issues that leverage the work of our core grantees.


2009 was also a landmark year for service and activism: We sent our 3,000th volunteer into the field and strengthened our programming for alumni. We renewed our emphasis on Darfur and also introduced two new major domestic advocacy campaigns: Fighting Hunger from the Ground Up and Just Aid. AJWS also broadened its reach within the American Jewish community, launching Global Circle, a leadership program for young activists and philanthropists; creating new resources for rabbis and educators; and making innovative inroads in social media.


The dawn of our 25th year was also a time for reflection on our future. In 2009, AJWS created the position of executive vice president and hired Robert Bank to create a roadmap to ensure continued excellence and impact moving forward. We also established a set of core values to anchor AJWS’s growth with a shared ethical and visionary framework.


We are thrilled to have begun 2010—our anniversary year—with several particularly proud milestones: In January we granted our hundredth million dollar since our founding! And in the spring, AJWS mobilized Jewish communities worldwide for Global Hunger Shabbat, a day of solidarity, learning and activism as part of our ongoing hunger work.


Unfortunately, AJWS was also called upon to respond to tremendous tragedy during this time: Within 48 hours of the earthquake in Haiti, emergency funds from AJWS enabled our longstanding Haitian and Dominican partners to aid survivors on the ground. And thanks to the outpouring of generosity from 27,000 supporters—who contributed nearly $6 million to our Haiti Emergency Relief Fund—we have embarked on a minimum four-year commitment to intensive work in Haiti to empower our grantees to effect locally led redevelopment.


As long as poverty, oppression and violence persist on our planet, we are all from the “developing world” and need to work together to put things right. We are ever grateful for your belief in AJWS—over the past 25 years and in those yet to unfold. We will continue to inspire the kind of Jewish commitment to tikkun olam and global justice that has moved all of us for a quarter century, and that will build a better, more just world today and tomorrow.


Ruth W. Messinger, President & Barbara Dobkin, Chair of the Board