Thirteen American Rabbis Visit Guatemala To Support Local Advocates for Human Rights

Rabbis from across the United States will serve as Global Justice Fellows of American Jewish World Service, a prestigious social justice program for leading rabbis

NEW YORK, NY – Thirteen American rabbis will visit Guatemala from January 14th to January 21st, 2018, as part of a cohort working to advance human rights for some of the most oppressed people in the developing world. Their visit is part of the Global Justice Fellowship of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish organization supporting local advocates for change in 19 developing countries across the world. The fellowship program empowers American Jewish leaders to advocate in support of international policies that advance the human rights and well-being of the world’s poorest and most oppressed communities.

In Guatemala, the rabbis, along with AJWS’s Global Ambassador, Ruth Messinger, will meet with leaders of local grassroots Guatemalan organizations fighting on the front lines of advancing human rights. Years after its decades-long civil war concluded, Guatemala continues to grapple with tensions over land, ethnicity and economic inequality. Indigenous communities make up a majority of the country, yet they have little power in government or in shaping decisions that affect their lives. They also face intense discrimination and poverty – especially indigenous women, who are doubly disadvantaged because of their ethnicity and gender, as well as suffering from a lack of adequate health care services. Guatemalan human rights activists and journalists who expose or speak about these injustices often face harassment, intimidation and violence by thugs or assassins hired by corporations, drug cartels or corrupt officials.

The fellows will meet advocates fighting for legal protections for local human rights activists at risk of violence, midwives providing maternal health support for indigenous women, and members of an independent journalism collective led by youth seeking to expose and prevent human rights abuses through a more open press. The rabbis will also meet with top leadership at the U.S. Embassy.

The fellows will learn firsthand from these human rights advocates about how they are working to improve life in Guatemala and how American Jews and others can support their efforts. AJWS selected 14 Jewish leaders from across the United States to participate in this prestigious program.

Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, said: “At a time when human rights in Guatemala are under attack, it is crucial that this influential group of Jewish leaders will visit the country, learn from local advocates and bring what they learn back to their communities and to the halls of the U.S. Congress. Together, these rabbis will issue a moral call to action to their communities and persuade decision-makers in the United States to bolster human rights and end poverty in Guatemala and the rest of the developing world.”

In addition to traveling to Guatemala, each rabbi in AJWS’s 2017-2018 Global Justice Fellowship engages in six months of human rights education and action, including trainings with AJWS staff in the United States. The fellows will also meet with and educate government officials in Washington, D.C. and will have the opportunity to learn about advocating for social change from AJWS Global Ambassador, Ruth Messinger. With American foreign aid and support for human rights at a crossroads, these fellows will play a key role in educating their peers, the public and elected officials about the importance of continued U.S. leadership on the global stage in bolstering human rights and ending poverty. The fellows are:


  • Rabbi Noah Farkas, Valley Beth Shalom
  • Rabbi Andrew Feig, Sinai Akiba


  • Rabbi David Weizman, Congregation Beth Shalom


  • Rabbi Laura J. Abrasley, Temple Shalom
  • Rabbi Lila Kagedan, Walnut Street Synagogue
  • Rabbi Joseph Meszler, Temple Sinai
  • Rabbi Julie Zupan, Union of Reform Judaism

New Jersey

  • Rabbi Adina Lewittes, Sha’ar Communities
  • Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, B’nai Keshet

New York

  • Rabbi Ilana Schachter, Temple Sha’aray Tefila
  • Rabbi Howard Stecker, Temple Israel of Great Neck
  • Rabbi Elie Weinstock, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun

North Carolina

  • Rabbi Justin Goldstein, Congregation Beth Israel


  • Rabbi Ariella Rosen, Adath Israel

Quotes from the 2017–2018 Global Justice Fellows:

Rabbi Laura J. Abrasley: “The Biblical prophet Isaiah taught that we must ‘learn to do good and seek out justice.’ In my work as a rabbi committed to pursuing justice at all levels, I am deeply guided by this important teaching from Jewish tradition. The words remind me that my good intentions must be met with equally good actions. I feel especially privileged to travel to Guatemala with AJWS as a Global Justice Fellow and learn first-hand from the human rights leaders working every day to put good intentions into real action. I look forward to bringing back that learning to Temple Shalom of Newton as we look to help support these important justice efforts.”

Rabbi Noah Farkas: “As a rabbi, I believe that my Jewish heritage enjoins each of us to reach out beyond ourselves and to help others. God is global, the prophet Isaiah once said. We, who are inheritors of the prophetic tradition must also be global. I feel especially privileged to put my teachings into action as a Global Justice Fellow and to learn from Guatemalan human rights leaders what the people in Los Angeles can do to support these efforts.”

Rabbi Andrew Feig: “As the school rabbi at Alice and Nahum Lainer School, I am deeply guided by my understanding of Jewish teachings and values to pursue justice for those who are oppressed and marginalized. I look forward to sharing the learning from my experience as a Global Justice Fellow and from our human rights partners in Guatemala with our community’s families.”

Rabbi Justin Goldstein: “The foundation of Judaism rests on the concept that all human beings are created in the divine image. Therefore, when a human being suffers we are, in essence, desecrating God. This inspires me to not only work for justice and dignity for people in my own community, but throughout the world. I am honored to have the opportunity to join American Jewish World Service as a Global Justice Fellow and to learn from human rights advocates and leaders in Guatemala and to explore what we in Asheville can do to support the rights of people in the Global South.”

Rabbi Adina Lewittes: “AJWS is giving me the opportunity to challenge the expansiveness of our sanctuary walls and to deepen the meaning of holy fellowship. Immersing myself in the story of Guatemalan human rights as a Global Justice Fellow will strengthen my mission to inspire and empower the Jewish people of Manhattan and Northern New Jersey to build communities of justice without walls and to embrace the responsibilities we share to heal the world of pain and suffering.”

Rabbi Joseph Meszler: “As a rabbi, Judaism teaches me about human rights, protecting the land, and covenanting with God and others to repair the world. What we do here affects people there, wherever “there” may be. Being a AJWS Global Justice Fellow allows me to put these teachings into action. Learning from Guatemalan human rights teachers and bringing that experience back to Sharon, MA is just one example of the work we can do to support these efforts.”

Rabbi Ariella Rosen: “Throughout my life, I’ve aspired to live by the teachings of Jewish tradition that call upon us to give voice to the voiceless, and to pursue justice for all who are oppressed. As a rabbi, I take seriously the responsibility of guiding others to similarly live by these teachings, and am grateful that as a Global Justice Fellow I am gaining the tools to transform teaching into action. I look forward to learning from human rights leaders in Guatemala, and to continuing the conversation here back in the Philadelphia area about what we can do to support their efforts.”

Rabbi Ilana Schachter: “In my rabbinate, I seek to listen to people’s stories, recognizing that everyone has a voice and story to share. As a Global Justice Fellow this year, I feel humbled to serve as a witness to the voices and stories of Guatemalan human rights leaders, and to learn how the American Jewish community can support their work.”

Rabbi Howard Stecker: “When we enable people to realize their basic human rights regardless of their gender, religion or background, we honor the Jewish and human imperative of acknowledging the divine spark in every human being. I’m excited to join this delegation of rabbis as we learn first-hand from Guatemalan human rights leaders. I look forward to sharing the insights I gain with the Great Neck community and to encouraging local support for these crucial efforts.”

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman: “Jewish tradition is laser-focused on justice for the poor and the vulnerable in the world. We are commanded again and again to follow God’s example and to love the stranger. This spiritual path requires us to acknowledge that the vulnerable in our world have a special proximity to God. To walk in God’s path is to listen to their stories, take action with shared purpose and tie our fates together. I am grateful that AJWS is giving me this opportunity to deeply embrace this Jewish spiritual path. I know that this trip will be just the beginning of my work with AJWS to support human rights in the global South.”

Rabbi Elie Weinstock: “God chose Abraham and his descendants due to their commitment to justice and law. Judaism values the pursuit of justice and fairness. At times, these values get lost in the hectic lives we live today. I feel especially privileged to be an AJWS Global Justice Fellow and to learn more about applying these values to helping humanity. I also hope to learn from Guatemalan human rights leaders what the people of Manhattan can do to support these efforts.”

Rabbi David Weizman: “The Jewish people has collectively embarked on recounting the journey from slavery to freedom in our reading of the Torah. In that recollection, our history of oppression also comes to mind. So one might ask, what exactly were we chosen for? We were chosen to have compassion on others, the Torah tells us, ‘For you were strangers in a foreign land.’ So it is, with great honor, that I have the opportunity to be a facilitator for our Tampa Bay community in the fulfillment of our obligation to help others help themselves, as Maimonides teaches us, to bring them from darkness to freedom’s light. As a Global Justice Fellow, I look forward to learning from Guatemalan human rights leaders what we can do to support these efforts.”

Rabbi Julie Zupan: “Judaism demands that we pursue justice for and with the oppressed. I feel especially privileged to put the teachings of my Jewish tradition into action as a Global Justice Fellow and to learn from Guatemalan human rights leaders what the people in Sharon and greater Boston can do to support these efforts.”


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About American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. AJWS promotes civil and political rights, advances sexual health and rights, defends land, water and climate justice and aids communities in the aftermath of disasters. We pursue lasting change by supporting grassroots and global human rights organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and by advocating for U.S. and international policies for justice and equality worldwide. Learn more at


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