Philanthropy is one important way—along with raising our political voices and doing service—that we can support global justice and effect change. When AJWS was founded in 1985, it really pushed the envelope on what American Jews considered "Jewish philanthropy." Until then, tzedakah typically meant Jews giving to other Jews... yet here was a Jewish organization that didn't support Jews at all, but helped others in places that many of us had never even been!
Now that most American Jews have gotten comfortable with this idea—and more and more of us are giving in ways that go beyond traditional norms of "Jewish giving," we decided that it was time to start a community-wide conversation about tzedakah.
In 2011 AJWS launched Where Do You Give? Reimagining Tzedakah for the 21st Century. This initiative was designed to spark dialogue and creative thinking about these critical questions. An average of 10,000 each month have joined this conversation, visiting the site to read our blog, upload their own videos about where and why they give, and download educational materials to learn more.
The project culminated in a national design competition that challenged artists and innovators to rethink the iconic tzedakah box for our modern sensibilities and practices. AJWS received nearly 100 submissions—from artistic boxes to iPhone apps—that truly broke the mold on the traditional "pushke." Our popular vote process garnered more than 8,500 votes and, in April 2012, our panel of high-profile judges chose three Grand Prize Winners, each receiving a $2,500 prize and a chance to travel with AJWS in the developing world.
But the conversation hasn't stopped there. AJWS is planning a national mobile tour to showcase these tzedakah innovations, and our educational curriculum about tzedakah and global justice is already in use by Jewish educators in 161 communities nationwide.
By pushing American Jews to think more globally their philanthropic activism, we are increasing our circle of impact exponentially and expanding Jews' conception of what it means to be obligated to pursue justice—for generations to come.
To read about the impact that Jewish global philanthropy has made in 2011, jump to Celebrating 11 Victories in 2011.
Inspired by Judaism's commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.
This is a Web-only annual report. No paper, period! This change saved AJWS thousands of dollars that we can now spend fighting poverty and defending human rights. Going online also saved 30 tons of wood and 206,173 gallons of water. It prevented 18,575 lbs of greenhouse gases from polluting our air and kept 23,443 lbs of solid waste out of our landfills! Now that's savings we're proud of.
© 2012 American Jewish World Service. All rights reserved.