AJWS Los Angeles: What’s Happening

December 2016

In a moment overshadowed by fear and hate, I am grateful to be part of American Jewish World Service, a community fully committed to the dignity and rights of every person everywhere. Last month, when AJWS Global Ambassador Ruth Messinger was honored for her leadership and commitment to justice at our Messinger of Hope gala, she implored: “Fear is not enough, and despair is not a strategy. I want to challenge all of us to dig deeper, work harder and recommit to building a hopeful future.”

For, as the peace activist, feminist and writer Grace Paley wrote: “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” We are global citizens guided by our enduring belief that it is our obligation to build more just and equitable societies. Through your support of American Jewish World Service and our grantees around the world, you put hope into action.

Later this month, during Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, many of us will celebrate the courage and faith of those who fought against oppression—and be reminded that the miracle of transformation is always possible. The Festival of Lights is not only significant for the Jewish tradition, but reflects a shared connection to our diverse and multicultural world. It is part of the universal human desire to create and cherish light when the shadow of night approaches.

In Los Angeles, we are offering several opportunities to connect with each other this winter and to learn from the inspiring work of our grantees to overcome oppression and injustice across the globe: a cooking class where we’ll hear about Thai, Burmese and Cambodian activists advocating for inclusive political participation and defending their rights to land and water; a book club discussing hope, activism and transformation; and a chance to hit the streets of Los Angeles in support of global human rights on our LA Marathon team.

As you are one of our most committed supporters, I want to again thank you for sharing your generosity and your hope with our community as we rededicate ourselves to the challenges ahead. We will continue to stand with the most vulnerable and oppressed people as they fight for their own human rights. And we will repair our broken world—because we choose to believe that the future we are building together is brighter than these dark days.

In gratitude,

Emma Nesper Holm
Acting Associate Director, AJWS Southern California

Reel Action/Real Change

On December 1st, we gathered as a community with AJWS President and CEO Robert Bank for a special evening of film and human rights advocacy. Mayim Bialik, Emmy-nominated actor, neuroscientist and founder of Groknation.com, moderated an impressive panel of documentary filmmakers whose work exposes human rights abuses and documents the stories of courageous activists. Thank you for joining us in solidarity with those who are on the frontlines in the fight for human rights—and for recommitting to sharing their stories and supporting their life-changing work in the year ahead.

Books Beyond Borders: Hope in the Dark

On February 27th, join Books Beyond Borders at the home of Caryn Espo to discuss Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Solnit makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural and political history, Solnit argues that radicals have a long, frequently overlooked record of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately measurable, and that the embrace of uncertainty is both more useful and more accurate an assessment than either passive optimism or pessimism and despair. For more information, contact Emma at eholm@ajws.org.

The Flavors of Thailand

Following on the success of our first class at Hipcooks, we’re thrilled to announce another cooking class in the new year! Join fellow AJWS supporters on January 30th for A Taste of AJWS: The Flavors of Thailand. Learn the secrets of how to prepare your favorite Thai delicacies, including papaya salad, fragrant tofu and fish curries, and mango sticky rice. We’ll hear the latest about our partners in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma whose work includes advocating for a participatory political process that includes the voices of women, LGBT people, ethnic minorities and indigenous groups, and securing land and water rights for communities that depend on them for their survival. For more information, contact Lila at lglick@ajws.org.

One Step Closer to a Just World

We have already started fielding our first AJWS Los Angeles marathon team! Runners will fundraise for AJWS and complete the iconic 26.2-mile course from the stadium to the sea on March 19th, 2017. The team assembled so far includes runners from Los Angeles, Tustin, Palo Alto, Austin and Tallahassee.

We still have spots open! Any activists and athletes interested in running for AJWS can contact Lila at lglick@ajws.org.

We also want to congratulate Los Angeles Global Circle Steering Committee Member Josh Kahn, who ran the New York Marathon on the AJWS Team. He surpassed his fundraising target and ran an impressive 3:31 marathon debut! Mazel Tov!

Grantee Spotlight

On October 4th, Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, leaving behind a trail of destruction in a country that is still reeling from the earthquake of 2010. AJWS is working closely with our local Haitian partners to help communities recover from the devastation, delivering both immediate relief and support for long-term recovery. One of our grantees, Reseau National de Defense des Droits Humains (National Network for Human Rights Defense, RNDDH) is helping survivors recover by implementing an innovative cash-transfer model through its network of human rights organizations in the hardest-hit communities of Grand’Anse, Nippes and Île de la Gonâve.

Cash transfers get money directly to those who need it and enable communities to address their immediate needs according to their own established priorities—such as rebuilding homes, reestablishing food supply systems and supporting the replacement of damaged goods, clothing and school books. Thank you to so many of you who generously contributed to our Hurricane Matthew response, demonstrating to our Haitian partners that they do not face this crisis alone.

Just Thought

Just Thought is AJWS’s new series of essays applying Jewish wisdom to the pursuit of tikkun olam today. Check out November’s Just Thought piece, in which International Education and Jewish Engagement Program Officer Joe Gindi responds to the question, “How does Jewish wisdom bolster our efforts to realize human rights for all?” in anticipation of the 68th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th. At this moment in history, this document is more important than ever as we confront the real and powerful threats to human rights posed by the incoming administration in the U.S., and other governments around the world.

AJWS in the News

  • In honor of World AIDS Day on December 1st, AJWS President and CEO Robert Bank renewed his commitment to fight for the end of AIDS worldwide in a piece on Medium.
  • In an AJWS blog post, Program Associate Raviva Hanser wrote about the case of SMUG v. Lively, in which a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy and network organization is suing a U.S.-based attorney and Evangelical minister for his role in the persecution of the LGBTI community in Uganda. The article highlights AJWS’s progress in partnership with global advocates and activists and the U.S. government to advance the rights of LGBTI people, which are now at risk given President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda.
  • In the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Matthew, AJWS Program Officer Amy Bisno detailed “Six Ways Grantmakers Can Empower Haitian Recovery” in an article for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

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