AJWS Los Angeles: What’s Happening

June 2017

As we prepare for a summer of graduations, celebrations and time with family and friends, I want to thank you for your generosity to AJWS and the many ways in which you have come together as a community to support our work to address injustice, empower vulnerable communities and repair the world.

While our country and world face numerous challenges, especially with the U.S. government’s proposed slashes in funding for global human rights and withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, AJWS’s community is speaking up and showing our commitment to defending the rights and dignity of all people.

Thank you to so many of you for joining us to discuss the ways in which the climate crisis is a matter of human rights and social justice on May 4th, for reading the heart-wrenching and inspiring works we cover in Books Beyond Borders, and for taking action with AJWS online. Your support, both through your generous donations and by being part of our shared community, is what makes AJWS’s work possible.

This summer, AJWS is responding to the humanitarian crisis in East Africa, where a crippling drought has caused devastating hunger and violent conflict, and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in search of food and safety. AJWS has launched an emergency crisis fund to support people in desperate need during this emergency and I hope you will consider making a special gift.

Because our work is as important as ever, and the need for investment in global human rights is especially critical in consideration of the government’s cuts to foreign aid, I am excited to welcome Yossi Held to AJWS’s Southern California team. Yossi will support our local fundraising and community-building in Southern California. He comes to AJWS from the Center on Halsted, a comprehensive community center for LGBTQ people in Chicago, with previous experience at BBYO, AIPAC and the Jewish United Fund. Lila and I look forward to welcoming him to the AJWS Southern California office and cannot wait to introduce him to you soon.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions or suggestions for AJWS in Southern California. My email address is eholm@ajws.org and my direct line is 310.843.9678.

Thank you, again, for your meaningful support of AJWS. I look forward to seeing you or hearing from you soon.


Emma Nesper Holm
Director, Southern California

Climate Justice

On May 4th, 30 AJWS supporters gathered at the home of AJWS Board Trustee Bill Resnick and Michael J. Stubbs for Voices from the Frontlines of the Climate Justice Movement—a panel discussion about the movement to confront climate change and exploitative development. Our panel of climate science and justice experts included Nikhil Aziz, AJWS’s Director of Natural Resource Rights and Climate Justice; Alex Hall, Ph.D., Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Director of the IoES Center for Climate Science at UCLA; and Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Southern California Program Director for Communities for a Better Environment. They shined a spotlight on this global crisis and shared stories of climate justice heroes—such as indigenous communities who achieved an historic ban on mining in El Salvador, women farmers in Uganda leading the fight for land rights, and communities in Southeast Los Angeles protesting oil pollution. This event demonstrated why addressing the root causes of these issues is so integral to our collective global response.

Global Justice Luncheon

On June 11th, nearly 150 AJWS supporters joined us in Palo Alto to honor AJWS supporter and Professor Emeritus Terry Winograd at the Stanford Faculty Club at our Global Justice Luncheon and Seminar. The luncheon featured keynote remarks by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and longtime AJWS grantee Leymah Gbowee and an award presentation by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Following the luncheon, a special seminar session, Investing in Women and Girls, featured a panel discussion focused on the impact of AJWS’s investment model in the developing world. Jackie Judd, special correspondent for PBS NewsHour, moderated the panel, which included Madhavi Kuckreja, women’s rights activist and trustee of AJWS grantee Sadbhavana Trust; Dena Kimball, Executive Director of The Kendeda Fund; John R. Taylor, Managing Partner of Wellspring Advisors, LLC; and Leymah Gbowee. View photos of the event on Facebook.

Books Beyond Borders

Join our next Books Beyond Borders gathering on August 7th to discuss Miss Burma—a captivating novel based on the true stories of the author’s mother and grandparents who survived Burma’s struggle for self-determination and freedom from the 1940s to 1960s. This powerful family portrait provides historical and cultural context to AJWS’s work to promote civil and political rights, particularly for ethnic minorities and women, and to protect the land and water rights of farmers and other marginalized communities. Anita Siegman and Marvin Krakow will host the group at their home in Brentwood.


East Africa Crisis Response

In the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, over 20 million people are at risk of starvation due to severe drought in a region already crippled by conflict. In keeping with AJWS’s longstanding commitment to disaster response and recovery, we’ve launched the East Africa Crisis Fund to support communities in Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan (which declared famine in February). In the next two weeks alone, 100,000 South Sudanese are at risk of dying from starvation and millions are suffering from acute malnutrition. Jewish tradition teaches that saving one life is equal to saving the world. Let’s take action together as a community and donate today.

Global Circle Scene

On June 23rd, Global Circle—AJWS’s community of philanthropic young professionals—will come together for a Summer Solstice Shabbat dinner hosted by Steering Committee member Josh Kahn. Over a home-cooked Kosher meal and wine, we will explore how Jewish values inspire AJWS’s support of land rights and food security in vulnerable communities throughout the world. For more information and to RSVP, contact Lila at lglick@ajws.org.

Earlier this spring, the Global Circle community gathered for Stories from the Field and a delicious dinner at AR Cucina. Global Circle Investor Jessica Stroik and AJWS Southern California Director Emma Nesper Holm shared stories from a recent study tour to Uganda, where they met with AJWS’s courageous grantees defending the rights of women, LGBT people and rural communities.

Journey to India

We invite supporters from Southern California to travel with AJWS President and CEO Robert Bank to Southern India on a Study Tour in February 2018.

Together with other AJWS supporters from around the country, we’ll travel from the 400-year-old walled “old city” of Hyderabad to the progressive metropolis of Bangalore—known as India’s “Silicon Valley.” We’ll meet courageous human rights activists supported by AJWS who are striving to overcome poverty and inequality by empowering India’s most vulnerable people—women, LGBT people, members of the lower castes, and indigenous communities.

We’ll encounter inspiring youth who are mobilizing their peers to tackle discrimination and child marriage; a collective of lawyers providing legal services for marginalized communities; and girls and young women who are resisting child marriage, stopping violence, pursuing education and reclaiming their right to exercise control over their own lives.

We will also visit sacred ancient temples, meander through bustling street markets, and dine on vibrant South Indian cuisine!

Sign up here or contact Neely Grobani at ngrobani@ajws.org.

AJWS in the News

  • The Trump Administration’s budget proposal would harm the most vulnerable people in the world by slashing crucial aid and development programs in the State Department and weakening institutions critical to upholding human rights. Read about AJWS’s opposition to the budget in an op-ed by Robert Bank in the JTA, as well as in stories in the Los Angeles Times and the Forward.
  • Robert Bank shared lessons from his childhood spent in a Jewish and Muslim neighborhood in Apartheid South Africa in a moving piece for the Forward.
  • AJWS published a statement denouncing President Trump’s irresponsible and short-sighted decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. AJWS is part of a faith-based advocacy coalition that includes The Union for Reform Judaism, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and 20 other religious groups that urged the Trump administration to adhere to the global climate agreement.

Your Voice Matters