AJWS Bay Area: What’s Happening

October 2015

This is a beautiful time of the year in the Bay Area. We enjoy a late summer, and many of us will celebrate Sukkot, congregating in temporary, hut-like structures to remind us how the Israelites lived during 40 years of travel after the exodus from Egypt. They remind us that our existence is fragile, and that shelter is a blessing.

It is sadly easy to equate the plight of the ancient Israelites with those who have been forced from their homes in the present day: Syrians fleeing their war-torn country; the Rohingya, an abused and marginalized Muslim minority in Burma that desperately seeks safe haven elsewhere; and people of Haitian descent born and living in the Dominican Republic, who have been recently denied nationality and face expulsion.

American Jewish World Service works to empower groups fighting these rights violations. We provide grants in 19 countries with long histories of suffering, supporting grassroots organizations that are both helping to prevent atrocities and to recover from them.

One of the countries we work in is Cambodia, a place that fascinates me. This summer, our Books Beyond Borders book clubs read In The Shadow Of The Banyan, a beautiful and poignant novel that tells of the experience of a young girl swept throughout Cambodia during the tumultuous years of the Khmer Rouge. The scars from the abuses of that regime still linger. Many Cambodians remain deeply suspicious of public organizing or political activity. Those who step up to create grassroots organizations, protect civil and political rights, and fight for fair access to land, water and other natural resources, are incredibly brave.

I am hopeful for Cambodia because of the resilience of the people and the powerful optimism of their youth. AJWS invests considerable resources on youth programs there, supporting organizations that cultivate activism and leadership.

You have a chance to witness our work in action. At the end of January 2016, AJWS President Ruth Messinger will lead a select group of donors to Cambodia to meet many of these organizations. It is an opportunity to see a side of Cambodia otherwise hidden, as well as gain a profound insight into how AJWS works so effectively. For more information on this amazing trip, please click here.

Thank you to all who helped match the High Holiday challenge and to all whose generosity makes our work possible.

I hope you will join us for this month’s edition of Books Beyond Borders, our social justice book club. We will be reading Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid, by Jessica Alexander. You can find information about the book as well as the dates and locations for group meetings throughout the Bay Area below.

Alon Shalev
Executive Director, San Francisco and Western Region

AJWS Bay Area Upcoming Events

Books Beyond Borders: AJWS’s Travelling Social Justice Book Club

October book:
Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid
by Jessica Alexander

Former AJWS staff member Jessica Alexander transports readers to Rwanda and Darfur in this riveting personal narrative from the frontlines of genocide. In some of the most troubled locations in the world, Alexander reflects on her transformation from naïve newcomer to seasoned realist overseeing a camp of 24,000 refugees. She shows us not only the seemingly impossible challenges inherent in human rights work, but also the moments of resilience, recovery and transcendence.

Global Circle and San Francisco
October 7th at 7:30 p.m.
San Francisco Moishe House
3341 22nd Street, San Francisco

October 20th at 7:30 p.m.
At the home of Ruthann Richter
Address provided upon RSVP

East Bay
October 21st 7:00 p.m.
At the home of Anne Ireland
Address provided upon RSVP

To RSVP, please visit ajws.org/BooksBeyondBordersSanFrancisco.

Can’t make it in October? Please join us in December for Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

For more information, contact Rachel Simon at rsimon@ajws.org.