AJWS Bay Area: What’s Happening

October 2017

Earlier this year I had the privilege to speak at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival as part of a panel following a documentary called Little Stones, which follows the lives of four women using art to empower other women and girls in the developing world. The wonderfully talented director, Sophia Kruz, thanked the festival for screening her film despite the fact that it had no Jewish content.

The facilitator looked to me, and I couldn’t help but disagree. I said that everything about this film was deeply Jewish, and the largely Jewish audience agreed. Judaism does not just suggest that we pursue justice—it demands it. As Jews, our history compels us to stand up for the oppressed and disempowered. Our tradition teaches that every human being is made in the image of the Creator; however we each imagine this, it is a common thread that binds us to all people.

The High Holidays are a time of spiritual introspection, and we all need a space to turn inwards and rejuvenate. But that should never be enough. The great teacher, Hillel, had a knack for summing up such thoughts so succinctly:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”

AJWS’s incredible grantees and the people they serve face tremendous adversity—from deep poverty to abuses of civil rights to natural disasters that upend their lives. And while there are many significant successes in their efforts to advance justice and equality, a sense of urgency always prevails. In their lives, the time for action—the answer to Hillel’s last question—is always now.

And that’s why our help is more important than ever. In the coming year, I look forward to sharing more news with you about our grantees’ successes and challenges in building a better world. Please continue your generous support—both financially and as ambassadors. You make all this work possible, and there are so many of our friends and colleagues who have yet to learn of the work AJWS does.

Shana Tova to you and your family; please join me in wishing for a better year for all who crave freedom and dignity.


Alon Shalev
Executive Director, San Francisco and Western Region

AJWS Bay Area Upcoming Events



Let’s face it, this has been a challenging year. In response to the ongoing violence, injustice, and oppression around the world, I’m inviting you to participate in AJWS’s #18Words campaign to express a wish or aspiration for the Jewish New Year in 18 words or fewer.

Books Beyond Borders Peninsula

Miss Burma, by Charmaine Craig

Tuesday, October 24, 7:00 p.m.
Home of Shirley Feldman
Address provided upon RSVP

This captivating novel introduces us to the true story of Benny, his wife Khin, and their daughter Louisa—members of a persecuted ethnic minority during the longest-running civil war in world history. After Burma falls to dictatorship in 1962, Louisa grows up to be the nation’s first beauty queen and ascends to a position of fame and privilege. She is forced to reckon with the shadows of her family’s past, the West’s covert dealings in her country, and her own loyalties to the ongoing fight for freedom for her people. The book will inspire our discussion about the rights of Burma’s persecuted ethnic minorities and AJWS’s work to empower local leaders to advance democracy, equality and peace.

Please RSVP online at www.ajws.org/BooksBeyondBordersSanFrancisco. For more information, contact Nina Gerber at ngerber@ajws.org.

Stories of Women’s Empowerment: A Screening of “Little Stones”

Thursday, October 26, 6:00 p.m.
San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Join AJWS Global Circle for a special screening of documentary, Little Stones. The film weaves together the personal stories of four women who are using art—fashion, street-art, hip-hop and dance—to empower women and girls in India, Brazil, Senegal, Kenya and around the world. Following the screening, AJWS Board Member Jamie Dubey will moderate a panel discussion and audience Q&A with Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and creator of Little Stones, Sophia Kruz, and AJWS Executive Director of San Francisco and the Western Region, Alon Shalev.

Tickets are $18; please RSVP online here. For more information, contact Stephanie Sheehan at ssheehan@ajws.org or 415.593.3283.

Books Beyond Borders Marin

Mighty Be Our Powers, by Leymah Gbowee (book)
Pray the Devil Back to Hell (film)

Thursday, November 9, 6:30 p.m.
Osher Marin JCC
200 N San Pedro Rd
San Rafael, CA 94903

Through Gbowee’s memoir and the feature film that tells her story, we will witness the power of grassroots activism to alter the history of nations. Fed up with years of civil war in Liberia, Gbowee mobilized thousands of ordinary women who helped bring peace, armed only with white T-shirts, prayer and the courage of their convictions. Their actions helped end the bloodshed and set the stage for the election of Africa’s first female head of state. The film won “Best Documentary” at Tribeca Film Festival and was an “Official Section” at Sundance.

We will watch the film together and discuss the book. You do not have to read the book to participate.

Please RSVP online at www.ajws.org/BooksBeyondBordersMarin. For more information, contact Nina Gerber at ngerber@ajws.org.

Save the Date!

AJWS Holiday Party

Thursday, December 7, 2017
One Market
1 Market Street, San Francisco