Since I was a child, my favorite Jewish festival has always been Tu Bish’vat—the new year for trees. Long before I heard about climate change and inconvenient truths, I had absorbed that humans needed trees for our survival, and I would dig my fingers into the earth to ensure the roots of the new saplings had room to grow.
Today, the need for tree festivals is even more urgent. The new U.S. administration boasts many who deny climate change and some who have put damaging economic opportunity before the consequences to the environment and the lives of the vulnerable people who inhabit these spaces.
In the countries where AJWS works, multinational corporations build dams, mine for precious resources and construct tourism attractions—very often without informing local residents of these developments. Without a say in the process, and without support or protection from their own governments, indigenous farmers and fishermen suffer devastating losses of livelihood, and, all too often, face threats to their lives from both corporate and governmental actors.
AJWS supports environmental groups struggling to protect the environment and reverse climate change. In June, AJWS President Robert Bank will lead a group of donors to meet our courageous grantees in Guatemala, where many Mayan communities are denied official land titles, despite their rich historical and cultural ties to the land. Land grabs by the government and private companies are rampant. With AJWS’s support, grantees like Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) have found that joining together for common goals can provide them with hope for the future. Read more here.
I hope you will consider joining the study tour to Guatemala. While there is no replacement for bearing witness in person to AJWS grantees, our Books Beyond Borders group on the Peninsula will be reading I, Rigoberta Menchu about the life of the remarkable Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Come join an informal group for discussion and study of these critical issues (even if you haven’t read the whole book!).
Even if you cannot travel with us, you can plant a tree, physically or metaphorically, by investing in our climate justice work and supporting grassroots organizations. Help us build a sustainable and righteous world for all global citizens.
Happy Tu Bish’vat!
Executive Director, San Francisco and Western Region
AJWS Bay Area Upcoming Events
Books Beyond Borders Peninsula
I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, by Rigoberta Menchú
The remarkable story of a Quiche Guatemalan peasant woman whose voice captures the plight of Indian communities during the decades-long civil war. Suspected of guerrilla activities because of their social reform work, Menchú’s brother, father and mother were tortured and murdered by the military when she was young. Motivated to fight back, Menchú taught herself Spanish and other languages and started a life of activism to resist oppression and protect peasant rights. I, Rigoberta Menchú uses vivid testimonials to express the Nobel laureate’s enduring courage and passionate sense of justice.
Tuesday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m.
At the home of Shirley Feldman
Address provided upon RSVP
Travel With Us
June 18-23, 2017
Journey with AJWS and our President and CEO, Robert Bank, through Guatemala, where we will explore Mayan communities and volcanic vistas while delving into the aftershocks of the country’s decade-long civil war.
February 18-25, 2018
Join AJWS on an unforgettable trip to India, where we will meet grassroots groups working to protect the lives and lands of India’s people.