AJWS Chicago: What’s Happening

August 2016

These days, it often feels like we live in a broken and breaking world. Devastating stories continue to top the headlines: terrorism, racism, war, violence and economic injustice. And we know that there are countless other brutalities that never even make it into the news. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s wise words remind us, “If you believe breaking is possible, believe fixing is possible.” During these challenging times, I feel proud to work with American Jewish World Service, an organization that has been working to repair the world for more than 30 years.

I draw hope and inspiration from AJWS’s 450 grantee partners who continue to fight for basic human rights despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles and impossible odds: Mexican farmers organizing against the repeated attempts of mining companies to evict them from their homes without due process or compensation; young Dalit women in India, often ignored because of both their gender and social class, learning to drive taxis so that they can achieve economic independence; Ugandan lawyers educating and empowering the most marginalized and low-income people in their country to access the legal support they need to realize their human rights. Our partners on the ground live and cope with numerous challenges, yet they continue to strive toward justice because they believe in a better future.

As the sage Elie Wiesel taught, “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” Thank you for resisting indifference and actively supporting American Jewish World Service. Together we stand in solidarity with those working to advance human rights in the developing world. Together we will continue to repair the world.

Taal Hasak-Lowy
Executive Director, AJWS Chicago
thasaklowy@ajws.org | 847.644.0954

Thai Cooking & Justice

Learn how to make classic Thai cuisine during a hands-on cooking class with Chef Naveen Sachar. Surrounded by music, smells and pictures from Thailand and Cambodia, we will share updates about AJWS’s partners empowering local communities to defend their rights to land and water and about partners working to usher in a new era of democracy and diverse political participation. Classes will be offered on September 11th or 18th at 4 p.m. at Naveen’s Cuisine (2325 W. North Ave). Register and learn more.

Update: The September 25th Thai cooking class for young professionals has been cancelled.

Books Beyond Borders

Our fall Books Beyond Borders selection is the award-winning legal scholar David Cole’s Engines of Liberty. Focusing on the most successful rights movements of the last 30 years, we see that time and again associations of ordinary Americans confronting long odds have managed to transform the nation’s highest law. We will apply what we learn from Cole’s book to further understand AJWS’s strategic approach to building and supporting social movements in order to bring about lasting change in the developing world. We hope you can join us:

Sunday, October 23 at 2:00 p.m.
Book Stall, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka

Monday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Lovely, Too, 1138 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago

Reflections for the High Holidays

As you prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, consider incorporating our High Holiday resources that explore various social justice themes. In Bounty and Scarcity: A Case Study on Haiti, we explore how the centrality of food during Rosh Hashanah exists in stark contrast to the scarcity we experience while fasting on Yom Kippur. That contrast offers us the opportunity to reflect more broadly on the bounty and scarcity that exists in the global food system and how we can contribute to alleviating hunger this year.

Travel With AJWS to Uganda

Join American Jewish World Service from February 26th to March 5th, 2017, on an inspiring journey to Uganda, a land of unspoiled natural beauty and complex human rights challenges. Known as the “Pearl of Africa,” Uganda is home to incredible wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultures and courageous activists working to overcome some of the country’s most pressing challenges. Learn more.

Grantee Spotlight

Sexual Health and Rights—Legal Precedent to Protect Women and Girls
Our grantee Centro para los Derechos de la Mujer, Naaxwiin (Center for the Rights of the Woman), which works to reduce violence against indigenous women and girls and promote women’s leadership in Mexico, recently won a landmark legal case on behalf of an indigenous girl who had been sexually abused by her father. The ruling has set a positive precedent, and the organization has used it as an opportunity to coach and train government officials to facilitate justice for indigenous women who have survived sexual violence. Oaxaca’s Attorney General has ordered all prosecutors and lawyers to pay special attention to such cases.

Climate Justice—Protecting Rights to Land and Water
In honor of World Environment Day, on June 4th, AJWS published a photo essay that focused on our work to support activists and aid communities and movements organizing to protect the land, water and natural resources that people depend on for their survival. The essay showcases images paired with brief stories documenting the past several years of AJWS’s work around the world.

Disaster Response—Revisiting our Work in Liberia and Nepal
This spring, AJWS marked the second anniversary of the Liberian Ebola outbreak with a series of blog posts recognizing AJWS grantees who helped curb the disease and raise awareness.

We then honored the first anniversary of the Nepal earthquake with a recap of AJWS’s recovery work and the remarkable story of a Tibetan refugee who rescued a community of Buddhist nuns and monks.

Making an Impact

AJWS supports more than 450 social change organizations around the world. Here are some of the ways we’ve made a difference:

AJWS in the News

We wish a special Mazel Tov to Robert Bank, who officially assumed the role of AJWS President and CEO on July 1st, 2016. Robert, who was AJWS’s Executive Vice President for seven-and-a-half years, is a skilled leader with a proven record of managing successful local, national and international organizations, bringing passion and dedication to public service and the pursuit of justice. Robert succeeds Ruth Messinger after her remarkable 18-year presidency of AJWS. Read more about AJWS’s newest President and CEO here.

The New York Times profiled a photography project from AJWS grantee Protection International featuring 37 murdered or abducted human rights defenders in Thailand.

The New York Times also featured AJWS grantee Vikalp in an article in its Women in the World blog: Overcoming child marriage by teaching boys in India that girls have rights, too. Vikalp’s work to advance gender equality is part of AJWS’s initiative to end early and child marriage in India.

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