Running to Build a Better World

Years ago, while on my day off from working at sleepaway camp, my backpack was stolen from the front desk of the store I was inside perusing. Though the bag didn’t contain my phone or wallet, it contained hundreds of pages of hand-written journal entries, ruminations and reflections from several years. I scoured the city searching nearby garbage cans, dumpsters and alleyways hoping that the thief had disposed of the worthless-to-him contents—to no avail. I was heartbroken.

A few summers later, upon cleaning out a closet on the last day of camp, I found someone else’s decade-old journal. Excited by the opportunity to do a little detective work to track down the author—and still looking to bank some journal-finding karma points—I located the owner online. We agreed to meet outside her office at an organization I had never heard of, AJWS.

After reuniting the journal with its owner, Alexis, we schmoozed and I shared about my experiences as a Jewish educator and my travels in Africa and Central America. Alexis responded that I would be a great candidate to staff a few programs that AJWS organized. “You want me to lead Jewish students to Africa? That sounds like the best job ever!” And it was.

During the next few years, I led programs to Ghana, Uganda, Mexico and Nicaragua. Though I had been to these regions before, doing so in partnership with AJWS and its grantees provided me, my co-leaders, and our scores of participants with life-changing experiences. Seeing AJWS’s human-rights based approach to helping repair the world by supporting bold local activists and grassroots organizations in the developing world has forever changed my perspective and involvement as an activist. From the products I buy to the policies I support, I remain passionately concerned for how my actions affect the world’s most vulnerable people.

Josh (back row, 2nd from right) with participants and a local family on Volunteer Summer 2011 in Uganda.
Josh (back row, 2nd from right) with participants and a local family on Volunteer Summer 2011 in Uganda.


Having been a supporter of AJWS in the years since my work with them, I am thrilled to be deepening our relationship by running with Team AJWS for the New York City Marathon this November.

While I am a religious bike commuter, I have never run a marathon. What’s more, until I started training, I had not even gone for a run in 18 years! Still, I know that on marathon-day I will be fueled by the cheers of the crowds, the knowledge that I am running to support some of the most vulnerable populations, and a reputation to uphold as having never lost a race since high school.

Oh, and if you happen to find a black-and-white marble journal with my name on it, you can find me in Central Park the afternoon of November 5. I’ll be the tired one wearing an AJWS t-shirt.